Wasting time – an expert’s view

Photography: Tibor Végh, Hungary

Photography: Tibor Végh, Hungary


How do you waste your time; how do you squander what surely is that most precious asset and which itself comprises all that ever is, and ever was, your life? Maybe you gawp mindlessly at the TV, prevaricate over what needs to be done, fixate upon the inconsequential, or seek perfection in what is never perfectible. What’s your preferred choice?

Or maybe you don’t waste time at all. Maybe your life is so driven and full of purpose that you dare not waste a minute of it. So you fill it with your productivity and goal-seeking, with reaching attainment and a sense of betterment. Days pass with what seems an increasing rapidity; the horizon of life foreshortens in your mind; you’re thirsting for time.

I spent the early part of my adulthood transitioning from a seemingly innate ability to waste time effortlessly, to doing so with a lot of effort. My student days amounted to a masterclass in wilful underachievement and insouciance. I could have written the book on it had I not then inclined to passing my time in a netherworld of do-nothing-ness.

Slowly, and a little reluctantly at first, I learned how to waste my time through piling effort into everything I did. I went into business and worked long hours in London’s West End – Soho, the then grimy part – six days a week, ten hours a day. I made money as the business grew, but was still just wasting time in never approaching my life’s purpose.

So there came a point when I needed to take stock of this time wasting. I was pretty darned good at it, though always sensed the profligate life was misdirected. I came to realise my squandering simply served no meaningful purpose at all; and it slowly became evident that behind each purposeless day was an undeniable pull towards contentedness.

And this was my life’s purpose; it was to find that contentedness. If you think deeply about it, you’ll realise that this too is your purpose. It’s true to say that however you’re wasting your time, or however furiously you’re employing your time, the fundamental motivation is to know this sense of contentedness. Peel away the layers and you come to just this.

We fixate upon our means of feeling secure, of feeling loved, of feeling respected, of feeling knowledgeable, of feeling better than, of feeling worthy, of feeling wiser, of feeling acknowledged . . . there’s no need to continue; it’s a very long list. And yet all of these means fixate upon layers of experience that themselves can never produce contentedness.

And contentedness is the fundament of what it is that we want from life; it is, to that extent, the very purpose of our lives. If we look at our aspirations, and at the way we structure and pursue our life, we find the primary catalyst and motivation is contentedness. As we don’t know how to approach it directly, we get side-tracked in a host of fixations.

In a very real sense we’re wasting time. It’s not that our relationships, our careers or our learning are futile. These pursuits have purpose and meaning, and at times can be emotionally fulfilling. Yet they never of themselves create contentedness in any profoundly felt sense of the term. Contentedness has a passivity beyond all pursuit or endeavour.

This all begs a question of course: how do we live in accordance with our needs and obligations without wasting time? This is also to ask what practical measures we may take so as to keep in sight our most deep-seated objective – the actualised emotional and psychological state of contentedness. So how can we use our time so as to fulfil this purpose?

A key requisite is to remain contemplatively aware of our intentions; and in particular, to explore the emotional causes of those intentions. In this way, we penetrate the superficiality of desire and becoming, so side-stepping the superfluous and vain. We’re now free to approach our life’s purpose; we cease squandering time and follow a path to contentedness.

Such a path necessitates this monitoring of our intentional stance – what emotional attitude underpins my current state of being? We’re almost always taking some stance or other, though mostly are unaware of it. Usually, there’s an aspect of desire, aversion, or of an inclining towards becoming which is rooted in self-identity – an attempt to morph the self.

This monitoring of our intentional stance is a highly practical measure that unravels the ‘how’, ‘when’ and ‘why’ of our time wasting. It takes no effort, and can be applied during, or prior to, both mundane and critical events. Starting with the little things, we ingrain the awareness as a habit; as it becomes second nature we apply it to the bigger picture too.

We’re not automatons; nor are we slaves to old ways. In exploration we find a way out, so spending our time in fulfilment rather than seeking it. Examining life, we discover that behind all we ever sought was to rest contentedly in it. Life isn’t a becoming; there’s no arrival in seeking, and no enduring fulfilment in what’s sought. So why waste time in this way?


26 thoughts on “Wasting time – an expert’s view

  1. Hariod, you raise a very good point when you wrote “I made money as the business grew, but was still just wasting time in never approaching my life’s purpose.”

    I’ve recently come to this realization after working the last four years in a sales role, even though I knew walking in the door that that was neither my passion nor my purpose. I should have started looking for a position more in line with my ambitions as soon as I walked in that door, but instead I became complacent with the good money that was rolling in.

    Thank you for sharing your perspective and highlighting that there are many different ways that a person wastes time. Purpose and fulfillment are two of my primary aims at this point in my life. I’ll have to add contentedness.

    I appreciate that you gave some suggestions on how to find both purpose and contentedness. This is really what I was looking for. Your style of writing is beautiful, organized and takes me on a journey. I really enjoyed reading!

    Peace & Blessings – Vegter.

    • Come in New Jersey, it’s so gratifying for me to see a comment such as yours. Not because of the kind words alone (though thank you nonetheless!), but because it’s my conviction that so many of us are not examining our motivations and purpose in life. It’s clear enough that you are not amongst the many, and so have my deep respect.

      This failure to examine life is of course what suits perfectly those who control the agenda of any docile, consumer populace; that’s to say, the owners, and their servants the politicians. Is it not perhaps time to mould an agenda that places personal fulfilment and the subjective life ahead of whatever empty gratifications we may be sold?

      I see you have a charming smile Vegter; and yet I sense this could be deceptive. After all, does your name not translate as ‘hostile combatant’ or something similar? In presuming that your fight is against the forces of complacency that I’ve just now referenced, then you remain a man of peace and are certainly most welcome here.

      With gratitude and respect, Hariod.

  2. As you may know, (or not), I often don’t read every word of anything but ‘vibe’ it. And you hit the nail on its little vibrational head. We waste our lives because society is geared that way. To learn to value oneself takes a lifetime and relapses are constantly happening. But what a gift to know that spiritual principles work and they are waiting for us to use them . . .

    • I’m honoured to have a woman of your experience visit my humble project Vicki; and thank you so much for commenting. I wasn’t at all sure if this post might mean anything to anyone, and in indeed thought that some might take offence at its content. I have a tendency to understate matters at times, feeling there’s far too much hyperbole in this field already; so am gratified to know that I haven’t completely missed the mark.

      With gratitude and great respect, Hariod.

  3. A lovely and thoughtful post, Hariod. I love the way you point out that neither the one pole of avoiding a purposeful life, through so-called “time wasting”, nor the other pole of engaging a driven life, through non-stop pursuit of goals, can in and of themselves provide contentedness.

    I have vascillated between these poles myself in search of what lies between and around them. I think eventually when we realize we can suffer even following our greatest achievements, or even while enjoying time that is so free as to be burdenless, we discover this contentedness is something we can have anywhere, any time, whether working or playing or doing nothing at all, so long as we recognize it is the backdrop of all that is.

    Purpose (for me), can seem nebulous at this moment, when nothing that we do is seen to matter in the sense of creating achievement and perceived meaning; but then I think and realize how simple it is. Contentedness is the purpose. There is nowhere to go, yet there is so much beauty to be shared. So much contentedness to be present for . . . So many friends all around . . .


    • Dear Michael, what an honour it is for myself and any readers, that you should make your presence known here. So firstly, thank you so much for that, and for your kind words of support; I am truly appreciative of both.

      You say ‘ . . . we discover this contentedness is something we can have anywhere, any time, whether working or playing or doing nothing at all, so long as we recognize it is the backdrop of all that is.’

      Here, you demonstrate your deep insight into what it is that I am writing about, perhaps in my own, at times, circumlocutory manner, and have gone straight to the heart of the matter.

      With gratitude and great respect, Hariod.

  4. Hariod – I definitely felt compelled to honour the exchanges we have had by diving into your rich world of thinking. Feeling content to know your work in more detail.



    • Thank you so much Jeannie for commenting generously and for giving a little of your time to exploring my modest new project here. As you’ve already discovered, I can sometimes be a little oblique and contrarian, though I do my best to be unambiguous in this place at least.

      Here’s to ice creams, fish and the odd bicycle or two.

      Hariod. ❤

  5. As per usual, I am introduced to a new way of thinking through your post. Lately I find, due to physical ills, I ‘waste’ more time. But I have given up several desires and some I realize are impossible so have thrown those ideas away. After reading what you wrote a few times, I find perhaps this is the start of something good.

    • Thank you Ellen, once again, for providing feedback to me. It’s really the highest compliment that you might read and re-read anything I might write; and for this I am truly humbled. I hope that you may occasionally visit here and that perhaps we will have the opportunity to learn more about how each others lives are unwrapping in presence.

      Hariod. ❤

    • Thanks Ellen. I take care over creating a visual complement to the text, and it’s good to hear that someone with a trained eye appreciates my choices. Many thanks!

      Hariod. ❤

  6. Oh, I deeply appreciate the art work and I definitely am following you so will visit regularly to read your educational and intellectually challenging posts. They are well worth the effort. xx Ellen.

  7. When I was a boy, I used to doodle on paper and build oddball contraptions with ‘Tinkertoys’. Mom would often tell me to stop wasting my time indoors and instead go outside and play. I’d go outside, but usually only to please mom. What she thought was a waste of time was actually enjoyable and formative for me. What I thought was a waste of time turned out to be an exercise in patience.

    I think that the major way people can actually throw away and waste time is by getting drunk or stoned into oblivion. The question of time wasting is too subjective to accurately define.

    • I entirely agree that others have little or no capacity to evaluate what constitutes a waste of time for ourselves. Usually, such judgements issue from a narrow perspective as to notions of meaning, purpose, personal values, and so forth. Having said that, then just as you acceded to your mother’s suggestion, we can on rare occasions learn and derive meaning as a result of input from others as to how we might more gainfully employ our time.

      As the purpose of this website is to discuss human well-being in regard to psychological and emotional aspects, then all articles are best read through that prism of intent, so to speak. Paragraph 8 in the above article delineates the terrain that we’re covering reasonably concisely:

      ‘And contentedness is the fundament of what it is that we want from life; it is, to that extent, the very purpose of our lives. If we look at our aspirations, and at the way we structure and pursue our life, we find the primary catalyst and motivation is contentedness. As we don’t know how to approach it directly, we get side-tracked in a host of fixations.’

      So, what I am calling ‘time wasting’ is the pursuit of fixations which are but indirect means of approaching what it is that we actually seek. You say ‘The question of time wasting is too subjective to accurately define.’ I would agree, though if you will permit it, would flesh it out a little: The question of our own time wasting is often too subjective for others to accurately define.

      So my own position, for what it’s worth, is that by leading a contemplative and reflective life, we come to see a clearer path towards contentedness – the condition which I believe we all, at a sub-conscious level, aspire to. This means we come to see what conduces to it and is therefore worth spending time with, and we see through the fixations that never quite hit the mark, or provide only fleeting gratifications.

      Please feel free to come back at me if there is anything that you disagree with; I am always open to learning from others whose opinions I come to respect through their expressing of their own understandings.

      With gratitude for your thoughtful input, and for reading this article.


  8. Contemplative living calls for a counter cultural way of being in many ways dear Hariod, although it is the only way of being if we hope to find the right balance in life I feel. We can often waste time and get lost in pursuit of momentary happiness. As I was reflected, the thought that I swing between conscious and unconscious time wasting came to the mind. Learning slowly to check in with myself so see if I am misaligned and headed the wrong way. Thanks for another moment of reflection.

    • Yes indeed Precious Rhymes, I agree with you that true contemplative living, by which I mean an enveloping acculturation and not just the adoption of an occasional activity, is indeed counter cultural. It is very much to go against the grain of what is considered a normative behavioural approach to life. It is to lead ‘the examined life’, to coin an ancient phrase. Our Western culture and global capitalist systems have distanced us from our innermost needs and callings I feel; accordingly, the emotional void is expanding, people are largely discontent.

      Artists such as yourself are excepted from these observations, such that many creative individuals feel somewhat alienated from the prevailing cultural paradigm – perhaps this is your own experience too. The artist who refers to their endeavours as ‘work’ is quietly sneered at by the masses; and similarly, the contemplative who eschews their neighbour’s values is regarded as an oddity, someone who fails to appreciate the value of garnering social and professional status, or relentless material acquisition. In the end, hopefully, art and the good life will prevail.

      With much gratitude and respect.


  9. “I learned how to waste my time through piling effort into everything I did” – There are deep truths in your writing Hariod. I shall rest, hiding in one of your large pockets away from all the hustle and bustle I think. *crawls into one of them and gets comfortable*.

    – Sonmi and the Cloud within the pocket.

    • What a delightful and comforting thought for me Sonmi, to know that you are so comfortably there in our shared presence. We can waste time together in whatever manner takes your fancy; I daresay your choice would be close to mine. One thing I used to love doing as a child was lying on my back in a field and watching the clouds. In particular, I liked getting lost observing those formations that can appear almost as if they are distant land masses – the blue sky becomes the ocean, and the clouds the islands protruding from it. I would focus on these formations for long periods until it became as if I was sat upon a cloud myself looking down at this beautiful world.

      – Hariod and Sonmi together in the pocket.

  10. Hello,

    As I am also in the process of self-discovery, and it really feels good see that at one point everyone was in the same boat as me. Perhaps it’s time I also added contentedness to my goal. How would you differentiate contentedness and happiness? On a side note, I am glad to receive the opportunity to see some artwork – a very unique choice.

    Thanks for sharing very thought-provoking questions and comments. 🙂

    • Hello Shadia, thankyou very much for your interest and for kindly offering a reflection: I appreciate both greatly. Thankyou also for your perceptive and searching question, which I in part addressed some while ago in the following short essay: http://wp.me/P4wkZJ-4I

      My once-monthly offerings here are less dry and prosaic than the one I link to, and if you are interested, then rather than look at my ‘pages’, perhaps look instead at my ‘posts’ to get a better flavour for the site and how I approach things, this being the latest offering: http://wp.me/p4wkZJ-e1

      If you feel that my writing may be of interest and align with your own, then I very much look forward to having some future exchanges with you, and please, never feel inhibited in disagreeing with me Shadia, as I always seek to learn from my interactions with readers here.

      With very best wishes, Hariod.

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