I am on the train from Schaffhausen to Zurich. It is 7 am and I am on my way to Arth-Goldau to hike the mountain Wildspitz. If you have been following me on Instagram you will have been able to observe my new hobby, weekend hiking. I have always wanted to be a hiker and spend more time in nature. I have always enjoyed being out in nature (I think most people do enjoy nature deep down, it feels like it must be something ingrained in us). My girlfriend and I semi-regularly hike in the Gothenburg area, but back home we don't have any large mountains it is mostly hills. Hiking here in Switzerland has been a different experience and one I have enjoyed.
I had a great time on my hike on Saturday. I was fortunate to get great weather, the sun was out and it was warm. The hike up was steep, probably one of the steeper slopes I have ever climbed, it made for a good workout for the legs. Once I got above 1100 m or so, there started to be snow on the ground. This made for some slippery trails as the snow would melt whenever someone stepped on it. The water from the melted snow would then create this mud-snow blend which was terribly slippery.
It was a challenging hike and at some points, I questioned whether it was a bit dumb to do such a long hike by myself. But for most of it, I walked up the mountain with the biggest smile. I found myself tiring out my cheek muscles from smiling so much. I was getting sore in my muscles used for laughing. Being out in nature, with the sun shining, and putting in some physical work is like a recipe for happiness. Getting out and moving is always great advice for when something weighs you down I believe.
I try to disconnect a bit when I hike. Letting the sounds of nature around me create almost a meditative environment for my walks. Don’t get me wrong at points during the hike I was definitely listening to podcasts. I listened to a great interview with Derek Sivers on the Tim Ferriss Podcast. For a lot of the hike, it was just me, nature, and my thoughts though. Allowing yourself some time for deep thoughts and reflections like that can be extremely rewarding. I find myself having great ideas, remembering strange but interesting things from my past and just taking in my surroundings in a more deliberate way. If any of you have suggestions for good hikes I should add to my list of hikes, let me know I am all ears!
Do Things on Your Bucket List Sooner Rather Than Later
As I said earlier hiking is something I have been thinking about doing more of for a long time. All I can say now is that I wish I had started doing more of it earlier. But don't let that discourage you it is like the saying goes: "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now". So if you have something you want to do, do it now. Simple as that!
I think most of us can use a little bit more sense of urgency. We all have around 4000 weeks in life. At first, that sounds like a lot. At least I thought so, but then I started doing the math. Today I have lived 1282 weeks. That leaves me with 2718 weeks. Already that is a huge chunk that is gone. And if we are talking about hiking in Switzerland maybe I will only live in Switzerland for a short while. Say that I come back here for another 2 years to work after my internship is done that is 104 weeks and I have 14 weeks left on my internship. After that maybe I come back for a week every 3 years, which would result in another 17 weeks. That leaves me with 135 weeks and 135 weekends in Switzerland for the rest of my life. Assuming I come back and work here for two full years. If I don't move back here that leaves me with 31 weeks in Switzerland for the rest of my life.
This was a sobering insight for me. Once I realized that I no longer felt like spending any of my weekends in Switzerland not going on adventures. I have already booked my next adventure. I am going to Milano on Friday and then I will visit Piedmont with friends Simon and Gabriel on Saturday.
This type of exercise is applicable to many things in life. It is easy to forget sometimes how rare certain things are. The point of this exercise is not to get upset and sad. The idea is to make sure we are enjoying the moments when we are in them and try to avoid being distracted. This is especially important in today's world where we are always connected to our phones and devices I believe. So next time you are having dinner with your loved ones maybe put away the phone and try to cherish the moment and ask a thoughtful question or two.
I learned about the concept of our lives in weeks from the Wait But Why blog, one of my favorite places on the internet for great articles. Tim Urban, maybe most famous for his Ted Talk on procrastination that I have linked below, has a way of writing that clicks with me. He has a great article series on Elon Musk and Tesla that I recommend reading too if you are fascinated by Elon, Tesla, and SpaceX.
In his article about how we can count our lives in weeks Tim shares what the average American's life looks like. The image can be seen below. I don't know why but for me that illustration really hit home for me just how short life can be. I have had this in my mind for a while, but recently I have begun thinking maybe I should get a physical one as a reminder. An additional insight from this calendar is just how big a part of life we work. It is important to find something you like, we won't go into that now but you can find some of my views on how to find a career path here.
The Shortness of Life
Thinking about life and its shortness is nothing new. Humans have been thinking about this for millennia. To highlight this I wanted to share a quote I recently came across by Seneca about the shortness of life.
It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested. - Seneca in a letter to Paulinus that I found on Farnam Street
It can seem like life is short to us, but often this is because we are not living with intent or purpose. This quote highlights the importance of living a life of intent where we take time to appreciate the people in our lives and the memories we create together and don't just let life pass us by. Of course, life will feel short if we let it happen to us passively and are not actively engaging in life. Watching meaningless videos on social media, working jobs we dislike and not spending time with our loved ones will make life feel like it flashes by. It sounds so simple, yet it can be hard.
I think we can all benefit from a more deliberate approach to our lives. List out the things you want to do in your life and then create systems that allow you to do those things. Say you want to read more books, what are the habits that will allow you to do more reading? Some examples could be:
- Setting a goal to read 1 page before bed
- Leaving the book on your pillow so it is ready when you go to bed
- Picking books you like and quitting books you don't
- Ensure you have good books at home
With a system in place, it will become a lot easier to do the things you want to do. Try to create more purpose and meaning in your life and I believe you will feel happier and more fulfilled. Your meaning does not have to be anything like mine of course. We are all unique and what makes our lives meaningful will differ. I believe we all have things that we enjoy and that fill us with meaning and I think we should encourage people to do more of what feels meaningful.
Reflect a little on what the things in your life are that you are postponing or not actively doing that would give your life more meaning. I think it is an important exercise for us all to do. I try to reflect on it both in my journaling and in my daily thoughts when I am hiking or on my morning walk to work. Reach out to someone you know, but have not talked to in a while and ask them how they are*. Then take note of how that small action will make you feel better. Try to find the little things that make us treasure life in all its beauty!
Reflect on how you spend your time. Are your actions aligning with your goals? Do you actively think about what you do in a day or are you going through the motions and not being deliberate with your actions? This is not to say that there is anything wrong with entertainment and spending time on social media. But I think it is important that we ensure that these are active choices and that we are not just mindlessly scrolling. With that said I enjoy binging a Netflix series as much as the next person, but I try to balance that with also calling my grandfather more often. Both things give me enjoyment and maybe the Netflix show is even more enjoyable than the phone call, but the call is more meaningful to me.
I hope you find something valuable in this text. If I can leave you with one thing it would be to reach out to a friend or an acquaintance you have not talked to in a while. Our world is more connected than ever, yet loneliness is more prevalent than ever. I am sure you will make someone's day by reaching out!
*I am trying to do more of this. I always get very happy when people reach out to me and feel seen. That is a feeling I would love to share with others. Recently I read this article about staying in touch with people by Derek Sivers, which has inspired me to try and become better at reaching out to others systematically.