Do Not Waste Your Life While Wasting Your Time

Our lives are too short to be careless.

James E. McGinley, PhD
2 min readJul 20, 2022


Clock on a wall.
Photo by Holafabiola on Pexels

I am not a book junkie, but I do love to read. I especially like books that whisper philosophy in our ears and help us see it in our everyday lives.

I am sometimes surprised, and sometimes not, to find many ideas that we might think are modern or contemporary have ancient cousins. It is always a bit of coincidence and serendipity when their paths cross.

It happened to me just today.

I was reading and thinking on the finitude of life. I came across this quote by Victor Hugo. Victor Hugo was a famous French novelist and writer in the 19th century. The quote did not have a source but it is reasonable that he said it. The quote was this:

As short as life is, we make it shorter by the careless waste of time. — Victor Hugo

It makes a good point. We only have so much time. Yet, our time expands when used well and collapses when not used well.

It also reminds us that we have to pay attention and participate in our own lives. If we are inattentive and careless, we are shortening our opportunities without even thinking about. It may come back later, or when we are near death, as a deep regret.

By coincidence, today I also happen to read On the Shortness of Life by Seneca the Younger.

You guessed it. Seneca said the same thing, only in 49 A.D., about eighteen centuries earlier. Seneca was a Roman stoic and the short essay was written for his father-in-law. Here is a quote:

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. — Seneca

Like Victor Hugo after him, Seneca is issuing us a warning. He is telling us that there is a difference between how long our lives are in years and how full it is in enjoyment and thoughtful contemplation. He warns us that, if we are not careful, we will look back in regret and lament a life of full of useless, misdirected, and unfulfilling action.

Fortunately, both warnings come with a solution. Instead of prioritizing the endless demands and trivialities of the world, we can prioritize our own experiences, awareness, growth, and happiness. We can capture time and use it in ways that will allow us to look back with satisfaction over a life well-spent.

James McGinley, PhD is a professor, author, certified life coach, and licensed counselor.Books/Blog FacebookInstagramYouTube, The Coping Expert, Twitter

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James E. McGinley, PhD

James McGinley, PhD is a professor, author, certified life coach, and licensed counselor.