Get You Thinking, Get You Acting

Why—Just Maybe—You Should Run That Red Light

Before we die, the average time that a U.S. individual spends waiting on a red light is three months.


I read this statistic somewhere when I was a kid. At first, it intrigued me. Then it scared me. But I got over it—I pushed it out of my thoughts, as I deduced that three months had to be an impossible quantity. That’s a quarter of a year of our lives, simply wasted. There’s no way that’s true. That’s clearly a dumb, fake fact.

First, let’s get back to our arithmetic days and do some Math to prove a point about these red lights. Remember those word problems in school where some first-name guy drives to work and we have to calculate some part of his daily commute? Well…here we go. Let’s follow Todd for a week. (In a non-stalker-ish kind of way.)

“Hi, Todd!”

Todd is a prime specimen. He goes to work or school and only hits 2 stop lights on the way there, waiting for about 90 seconds at each. Todd then returns home and sits at two different lights for the same amount of time. Soon the weekend comes, and Todd goes out—to Burger King, or a child’s ball game, or whatever Todd likes to do—hitting 4 more stop lights a day at 90 seconds each.

6 minutes at red lights per day. That’s already a decent chunk of time…but not too bad overall. Until we assume that he lives to 75 (again, undershooting the average lifespan), and multiply.

6 minutes x 365 days per year x 75 years old = 164,250 minutes = About 114 days.

How many days are in 3 months? About 91. That means that 6 minutes a day is still more than 3 months of your life at red lights.

Cringing yet? Doesn’t it make you mad at the world? Well, why stop now?

I’m going to shoot a few more maths at you, just to share my daily qualms. Consistently undershooting with an average lifespan of 75 years, and intentionally falling short on all of these estimates…

Putting on shoes – 1 minute per day = 19 days of your life twisting laces and tying knots.
Brushing your teeth – 3 minutes per day = Almost 2 months of your life on oral hygiene.
Picking clothes – 2 minutes per day = More than a month of your life choosing cloth.
Washing & unloading dishes – 30 minutes per week – Almost 3 months of your life cleaning porcelain.

You get the idea. Combine this with the fact that even someone who only sleeps 6 hours a day is already sleeping for a quarter of a year…the delicious pie chart of the time we have on this planet seems to have some sizable bites already taken out of it.

Knowing all of this should already redirect your priorities. It should teach you that time is precious and urge you to cleanse from the unnecessary.

But is that enough?

Most—most?—of us can’t go to school or work naked, meaning that we can’t just slash “getting dressed” off our daily routine. There are minimal tasks that need to be accomplished on a daily basis because we can’t yet teleport, and self-tying shoes have yet to be invented. How can we turn all of this around? We can’t possibly consider the sum of these trivial months wasted—that would be too sad. What lesson can we pull from this stupid post?

I’m glad you stuck with me.

Listen. You can trim all the unnecessary minutes out of your daily life, and stress out while doing so. You can work hard and play harder—like some manage to—but only a select category of individuals truly thrive on a full-time, full-throttle lifestyle. To me, that’s not an answer, especially because success isn’t always assured. Instead, I’ve implemented a different strategy. In my own life, no matter the situation, I try not to think of any time as wasted.

What do I mean, and can we all do this? The solution lies in the phrase, “Stop and smell the roses.” Don’t let the roses scare you. How can we live with this phrase in mind?

  • Breathe. And again, deep breaths. In. Out. In…There you go.
  • Live life in the middle lane. You can pass in the fast lane, but don’t sit in it. It’s not wrong to let other people pass you. Speed does not equal happiness. Remain always moving forward, but not so fast that your only goal is to reach your destination. Make your goal the current moment, in each moment.
  • Turn every task/chore into something that you’re able to enjoy. Read a good book in the waiting area of the doctor’s. Carpool with friends to the concert. Listen to a podcast while you’re doing dishes. At a red light, roll down the window and blast your favorite artist through your speakers so that you have an excuse to scream and sing at the top of your lungs. The family in the next lane over isn’t judging you—they could use the laugh.
  • Remember that you’re still alive. No matter how long your life is, at least you’re still living it. Even if you’re having a cruddy day, remember that it’s still a day that you experienced. This day happened, the world appreciates it, and the universe will take it in stride as it brings on tomorrow. Corny? Absolutely. But sometimes you just need to hear it.

This was going to be a short post, but I guess I was more passionate about the topic than I thought. What’s the conclusion here? I spend a lot of time thinking about time. But I’m glad that I could share these tidbits with you—it means, even more so, that my time writing this wasn’t wasted.

Go forth and read, my minions.

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