“He was always late on principle, his principle being that punctuality is the thief of time.” ~Oscar Wilde
Hi, my name is Monica Berg, and I am recovering from terminal tardiness. Ever since I can remember, I was always running about fifteen minutes late, maybe even 20. OUCH! For the first part of my adult life, I blamed my mother – at 18 this is normal for most, I suppose, but we seem to blame our parents for most things at that age. My compunction for being late lasted well into my adulthood.
My mother was always late, and by default, since we went wherever she did, we were late too. If we needed to be somewhere at 3pm, that was the time we left the house, and we would arrive 15-20 minutes late, depending on traffic. Although I felt badly about continuing on in this vein, which resulted in many arguments between my husband and me in our initial years of marriage, it finally ended after one particular late-arrival…
We had dinner plans with another couple, and we were late. Not the “usual” 15minutes late, we were embarrassingly late, so late in fact I’m not going to tell you, and consequently our friends had left the restaurant. I felt awful, and yet, I was quite able to justify our tardiness to myself. I was interviewing applicants for a position. I was leaving town the next day for 6 weeks, and I had to get it done. I needed to fill the position. See? Totally justified. And then it dawned on me. Why is my time any more important than someone else’s? That was the moment I saw the cold, ugly truth. As much as I didn’t want to acknowledge it, or recognize it, there it was glaring at me, and I had to face it. From that day forward, being late was no longer my reality, and to set myself up for success, my watch is always set 10 minutes early.
I believe we can all learn to be punctual the minute we consider the underlying reasons for being late in the first place. As Rav Berg always says, consciousness is everything. Can you define what it is that keeps you from being on time? What are you prioritizing over punctuality?
If you want to be on time, increase the relative importance of punctuality above your other values, or priorities. It’s that simple. When we can consider the person’s time, and the person we are meeting as valuable, perhaps even more so than our own, then it can be an easier goal to attain. It fits right into the ethos of Kabbalah, which is to “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you.” It’s the purpose of life, really, which sadly, we often forget about. As we behave towards others, so too will happen to us. Being late is not just about time; it shows disrespect toward the person you’re meeting.
If you simply fear not-having-enough-time, new research shows that if you feel you don’t have enough time in the day, you should start to spend more time on others. According to this study, doing so will make you feel like you have more time on your hands. It’s similar to the kabbalistic concept of giving, specifically volunteering. Volunteering is a wonderful way to refocus our attention on the needs of others; tremendous fulfillment can be found in sharing one’s time with others. In fact, sharing is one of the greatest tools for change that we teach in Kabbalah because it has such transformative powers.
I had to be honest with myself, because there was a reason I was running chronically late. In my moment of introspection, I realized that I really didn’t like being early either; I felt like it was a waste of time. I immediately took the air out of that realization, because it’s complete nonsense. I always have something to occupy my time; I always have emails to check or something to read in my purse. In the time I had to evaluate my time-issues, it struck me that we have less time than we think and need more time than we know. So I figured it’s best to make the most out of what we have, because “Time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” Marthe Troly-Curtin
THOUGHT INTO ACTION
Commit to being early to your engagements this week. Enjoy the “extra” time, go for a quick walk, have a look at a store window, make a quick phone call to someone to say you’re thinking of them. Catch up on something you missed, an email, or a text message.