empty boxes and opportunity
If you’ve not come across him before, I’m not entirely sure how to describe him, but he runs a website called waitbutwhy.com in which he talks about behaviour and life in general. He has also delivered a truly excellent TEDTalk on procrastination. You’ll be able to relate to it even if you’re not a procrastinator – I don’t believe that there is a single person out there that hasn’t visited the so-called Dark Playground at least once.
I’d love to talk to you more about procrastination another time, but for today, I want to tell you about an image that he uses towards the end of his talk. I don’t want to spoil it for you, and it’s worth a watch regardless because he is just so entertaining, but towards the end of his presentation, he shows you the following image:
It’s just a whole load of cubes in a row.
But this image represents a 90-year long life in weeks.
This is it, people.
I didn’t like it to start with.
I found it rather overwhelming. Short. And I was rather struck by the reminder that I was approaching the halfway spot of these boxes already (if I get to live to 90 years old). I found myself thinking: What have I done so far? Was it what I expected? Better, worse, different? I can’t get those boxes back, and what on earth am I doing with the boxes ahead of me? What if I don’t have many more boxes left?
Another, more helpful and less nihilistic way to look at the boxes, is the way that Tim encourages you to. That life is actually incredibly forgiving. He puts it like this:
“We tend to feel locked into whatever life we’re living, but this pallet of empty boxes can be absolutely whatever we want it to be. Everyone you know, everyone you admire, every hero in history—they did it all with that same grid of empty boxes.
The boxes can also be a reminder that life is forgiving. No matter what happens each week, you get a new fresh box to work with the next week.”
Your life is forgiving. You get a fresh box every week.
In fact, you get a fresh box every single day (thank goodness).
You are not locked in. Your life is not set. Those fresh, empty boxes are right there, available to you to make a difference, pursue purpose, to grow, change, develop, enjoy. It doesn’t matter whether you are reading this at 18, or 81. We all have fresh boxes in front of us, to fill with meaning and fulfilment.
P.S. You can read Tim Urban’s full (and slightly scary article on this topic here)