Can you tell what might be wrong with the following statements – take your time! When the time comes; if we do it quickly now there will be more time in the future; we need to save time; quick, time is running out; this is very timely; there was a time; let’s take time out!

Answer! They are every-day phrases that allude to an illusion that there is such a ‘thing’ as time. They seem to make time an object. When we objectify the concept of time we give ourselves the impression that it’s a commodity. But of course it isn’t. It cannot be captured in a test tube, imprisoned in a cage, stored in a jar or even saved for a rainy day. And yet we run our lives by these illusions. We even spend vast amounts of money attending ‘time management’ courses when, in truth, there is no ‘thing’ to manage! You have to laugh!

Over the past centuries most of the world’s leading philosophers have wrestled with time and attempted to fathom its mystery. Leibniz said, “Time is merely the order of events, not an entity in itself,” while Einstein came to a similar conclusion, when he said, “Time has no independent existence apart from the order of events by which we measure it”. In other words, “Time is what keeps one darned thing after another from becoming every darned thing at once”. It all points to the idea that time management is really ‘event management’. Time cannot be managed; it can only pass in the form of events. But events can be managed which means can be ‘controlled’, some more than others, and many, if not most, not at all! It is therefore our ability to discern the level of control we have over events that makes the difference to both our effectiveness and our happiness in life. Which brings us neatly to four other Rules of the Game – signposts towards a way of living more effectively and more contentedly.

5. Give up trying to control what you cannot control

It seems obvious, but we seem to find it hard to see how or why we spend a huge part of our lives attempting to control what we cannot control. We find it so challenging to let go of trying to fix others, fix the world and fix the universe. By continuing to believe we can control what we cannot control, and attempting to do so, we only maintain a collective insanity that sustains a fragmented and conflicted world. Our inevitable failure then gives us the perfect personal excuse to create a ‘victim’ consciousness. It is this consciousness that blinds us from seeing the beauty around us, even amongst the violent and the ugly. It is this mindset that prevents us from seeing the beauty within us, even in the midst of our own emotional disturbances. But it seems it is not easy to give up the habits of judging, condemning, sentencing and punishing others in our own minds whenever they don’t do what we think they ‘should’ do. We don’t see the connection between our stress and our attempt to do the impossible i.e. trying to control what we cannot control. It’s only when we realise and accept that it’s not ‘my’ job to police the universe that we are able to collapse the prison bars that we have built for no one but ourselves within our own consciousness.

6. In the ‘real’ world there is no such thing as winners and losers

We learn to believe so deeply in failure. And when you believe in something very deeply you will make it happen. And the more you make something happen the easier and more frequent it becomes. Oh dear! We have weaved such a tangled web of beliefs like, “Life is about winning and losing… there is a fine line between success and failure… you can only be happy when you are a winner…success is winning winning winning”. And so we put pressure on ourselves to be successful, to be a winner, like other ‘apparent’ winners. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if it was all nonsense? Well some say it is! They remind us that true success in life is not a personal acquisition or a public achievement but a private internal state that is known only by the ‘self’ as a happy heart, a lightness of spirit, a playful nature, an ability to connect with others in a consistently positive way regardless of what the other is feelings, saying or doing. In the ‘real’ world of our consciousness they say that the most significant characteristic of success is the ability to stay calm and focused in a crisis, stable and strong when all around are panicked and worried, and to be a source of high quality wisdom when others need a guiding light. They remind us that any form of success that is defined by the applause and recognition of others is just egos game, and egos game is an unhappy one. They challenge us to see that all forms of victory in the competitive games of life are hollow and empty, and ultimately misleading forms of success. The true mark of successful life is defined by the character that is built not competitions won or recognition gained. Somehow, deep down, we know the former is true but still we collude to affirm the latter.

7. The other person is never the problem

In ever story that comes out of Hollywood, in ever tale that comes from the novelist, in ever soap that appears of on our TVs and in almost every political news story, there is always a difficult, problem person, sometimes several. And so we learn to expect life to throw up difficult and problem people, and we forget that what you expect will eventually be what you will get! But in truth the other person is never the problem, it’s how you create them in your mind that is the problem. Hence the saying ‘your perception is your reality”. If the other is being negative occasionally or all the time you can chose to take it personally and suffer, or you can choose to generate compassion for their suffering. And if they are being physically violent as an expression of their negativity it makes sense to distance yourself from them and extend that compassion from afar. You may need to remind yourself you are not responsible for their emotions or their behavior. You may need to realise you cannot give them positive energy until you have stopped creating a negative perception and attitude towards them. You may even need to remember that anything along the spectrum from dislike to hatred towards them makes you a slave to them. Where? In your head. If you find someone difficult, look first at your own judgments of them, that’s where your pain is coming from. This is not a new insight but even though we know it intellectually, it seems it is still difficult to integrate into real life. So deep is the habitual creation of the ‘perception’ that says “They are a problem,” it requires daily practice to shift that perception until… they aren’t.

8. There are no conclusions…in ‘reality’

Have you ever noticed nothing real ever comes to an end? Images and scenes fade, journeys and relationships taper off, objects decay, processes peter out and so life appears to be full of endings. But it’s not. Not ‘life’ itself.  Only life itself is ‘real’ and in that reality there are no conclusions. Notice how the watcher of all these apparent endings is always watching and never stops watching and therefore never ends. You are life itself, you are the watcher, and you may have noticed ‘you’ never end! It’s only because we learn to identify with all those ‘things’ outside your self that you ‘believe’ that endings are real. But they aren’t. They are just extrapolations from the big picture, from the big movie called ‘Life Out There’. By ‘believing’ in endings you will notice your self always looking to the future and either fearing it (I don’t want this to end) or trying to hurry it (I want this to be over soon)And that’s what sucks up your energy and casts a cloud of ‘seriousness’ over your daily life.  Watch yourself when you look at your watch. It means you want to be somewhere else or think you should be somewhere else. You are trying to invoke an ending of the present moment. You can’t, it’s not possible. Give it up, relax and watch life start to flow.

Question: Which of the above invoked the greatest feelings of resistance? Acknowledging it’s not the words or the ideas that generate the resistance it’s what you do with them, why do you think you felt resistance, offence, indignance…if indeed you did? Maybe it’s just the language, which is direct again this week.

Reflection: Look into your resistance. What do you see, feel, think – write it down, play with it, as you reflect some more. What does it reveal within you?

Action: Reflect some more on each point each day this week and see where each one has relevance in your day-to-day interactions.

Written by our professor Mike George