Updated: May 11, 2019
I heard a yogi deliver a message on New Years Day, which has truly stuck with me. He insisted that ‘time is relative’ and we need only to adjust our brains around that concept to liberate ourselves from the stressors of life.
“Really?!” l thought. Surely that’s only science fiction. Time couldn’t be relative because we live in a linear world and share linear experiences. Business leaders, governments, and employers all subscribe to linear time!
But this was a yogi after-all, so his intentions must be altruistic, right? And if time is relative, life would be so much easier... So I took on the challenge of trying to wrap my brain around this intriguing idea.
Collective agreement, in this case around linear time, doesn’t make it fact. There used to be a collective agreement that the world was flat! So why can’t we bend the ‘boundaries’ of time?
Once I accepted that possibility, I was soon pondering what it would look like if the structures of reality itself could fluctuate...
Well for starters, throw deadlines out the window! What's the point of measuring your life by a tool that is in itself a limitation? Let’s break that down: How can you possibly achieve your goals by throwing out deadlines? What does it mean, why does it matter, how do you do it?
It took me a full year to grapple with these questions. For someone who takes commitment, deadlines, and timelines very serious, the 'time-is-relative' concept has been hard to actualize. And honestly, my work ethic has served me well for the most part (ask anyone who came through the international theater festival I managed during my 7-year tenure).
But that is also why I have found it life-shatteringly difficult to process the times it hasn’t served me. What’s the value of work ethic during the misfortunate times? Those times when I was betrayed, judged on a misunderstanding, or worst of all, failed due to discrimination or some other stupid circumstance completely out of my control.
And really, that’s the point: it’s ALL out of my control. Especially when others, less married to commitment, deadlines, and timelines will shoot up the entrepreneurial ladder quicker than you can blink. How many douchebags do you know who have found success? People lie, cheat, and exploit their way to the top all the time: e.g. William Randolph Hearst, Bernie Madoff, Jeffrey Skilling, and Trump.
The value of work ethic is a personal achievement, not for the measurement of others. If it doesn’t fulfill your purpose, your vision, and/or your own definition of well being with compassion, let it go.
Will the world stop if that deadline is missed? There might be consequences, but only you can define the value of those consequences in your life. Besides, life might not turn out how you planned even if you make that deadline! Just ask the Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and even the Millennials. (See my last blog The Future is Unstable so Live in the Moment.)
And somewhere amidst all that is a path to following our dreams. So what’s the easiest way to accomplish all this without all the stress and worry? Take away the deadlines and timelines attached to your biggest aspirations.
I know, I know, we’re all going to die so the clock really is ticking… But that is linear thinking! And it puts a giant wrench into your Sustainability Cycle by curtailing creativity.
Living outside of the linear is incredibly liberating because it’s living inside the moment. And the moment changes, moment to moment! To quote the Merlin principle taught to emerging business leaders:
Leaders who use the Merlin Factor, identifying themselves with a particular visionary future, must likewise act on behalf of that future in the circumstances of the present.
A recent trend in the workplace supports an alternative approach to employee time-management. MetLife’s Douglas Choo says in the 14th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study:
"We're hearing more and more from HR managers about the importance of work-life balance among the workforce. But it's much more like a work-life blend."
And if trends in the marketplace aren’t convincing, look no further than science! Studies, specifically in physics, are increasingly revealing that correlations between time and space demonstrate relativity. Theoretical physicist Brian Greene explains "I might not be moving through space, but I am [always] moving through time." You can even learn in Under 3 Minutes how time is not absolute.
Add to this, String Theory, which has given gateway to the possibility of up to 10 dimensions in our universe. We're familiar with the 3-dimensional, but this theory suggests another 7 dimensions might include alternative realities of time:
Beyond these three lie the seven dimensions which are not immediately apparent to us, but which can still be perceived as having a direct effect on the universe and reality as we know it. Scientists believe that the fourth dimension is time, which governs the properties of all known matter at any given point.
This is only the beginning in proving that the same theories that govern our universe, also dictate our realities. If these are proven it will become common knowledge that time is malleable. Which means time can adapt…to you and your authentic journey.
What a liberating (and scary) concept! That we can indeed build, in essence, create, our own reality….that’s a lot of power. How does one comprehend that, especially with the complexities artists face around fear of success? The offer is bigger to digest than the words imply. And it requires alignment with your authentic self.
In PARTICLE FEVER, a theorist explains “In exploration there needs to be the set of people who have no rules, and they are going into the frontier.” This is the mindset driving artists as well! Creativity and the Arts are essential to evolution, as I discussed in Exploring the Exploited Artist and Mathew Heggem demonstrates in The Arts: A Strategy for Economic Growth.
I still appreciate deadlines and timelines, I’ve just had a healthy separation from them -- a no-fault divorce. I use them as a flexible guide, not a concrete structure that will shatter if compromised. But measurements of time will always adapt and evolve with me – they are only benchmarks.
If everything in life is getting in the way of your goals, maybe it’s time to change your tactics, sans judgement. Abolish that fixed, linear thinking! Instead, free yourself to define your own authentic progress. That’s #sustainability!
So it turns out...the yogi was right. Understanding time as relative is complete and utter freedom. Freedom: that beautiful little word that holds so much personal meaning. For me, freedom now means living inside the moment, where time is relative.
Emileena is writing a book on artist development called ANOTHER WAY, the Dao of Artist Development. If you are an artist looking for development, consider Emileena's E-Velop program.
Original Artwork by Dave Law, freelance visual artist and illustrator. www.davelawart.com.