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'I've wasted so much time in life' – How to move on and live again

So you’re sitting there thinking to yourself, “I have wasted so much time in my life”. Or maybe you’re looking back on the year thinking, “I have wasted so much time”. Or maybe you know you have a problem and constantly think “I waste so much time.” Or maybe you’re feeling like you’ve wasted loads of time in general.

Maybe you’re sitting there knowing that there is something you want to be doing with your time, or wish you did with your time, but you just haven’t done that or are not doing that. Maybe you have wasted a week, a month, a year, multiple years, or even decades. And now you’re stuck thinking about how much time you’ve wasted.

Maybe now you are stuck in this mindset, going over and over in your head about how much time you’ve wasted, and you’re panicking that you are running out of time or have no time left. Maybe this is a really bad situation and you can’t get out of thinking about the time you have wasted. And you are just looking for a way out.

Matt Hardy quote on learning from your mistakes - "People make mistakes,
and either you fall 
from your mistakes, 
or you learn from them."
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My Background in Wasting Time and Time Wasted Spent Thinking About It

If you are reading this post, I want you to know that I have been there. And by “have been there”, I really mean that I feel like this all the time. I often feel like I have wasted so much time in my life, or, indeed, that I have wasted my entire life and that there is no time for me to fix it. It’s an obsessive thought. It is so very hard to get out of this, I get it.

If you have read any of my other posts, you will know that I feel like I wasted years (read: over a decade) not going after what I really wanted in life. I always knew what I wanted to do with my life (to make movies), but never went after it strong enough with real gusto because of many reasons – fear (mostly), not feeling like it was a “real career”, feeling like I could never be good at it, and so on and so forth. Basically, a whole bunch of BS limiting beliefs.

What this lead to was me feeling worse and worse about myself and even more time spent not going after it, not pushing myself, not writing, not making films, not doing what I needed to do to get to where I wanted to get to. And what this lead to is more thoughts about how I have wasted so much time, that I have wasted my whole life, etc, which lead to even more time not doing that! Which lead to more negative thoughts. Etc. Etc. E-T-C! A cycle of negativity.

But, as you will read, this is not an ENDLESS cycle of negativity. This does not have to be tale of always feeling this way.

Mark Frauenfelder quote on learning from your mistakes - "I'm very good at making 
mistakes, so I realized 
that I should embrace 
mistakes and learn 
from them."
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Why You Feel Like You’ve Wasted Your Time

Let’s get to where this feeling starts. And it’s really simple. Hopefully this simplicity will help you to see that it is easy to break this cycle of negativity.

You feel like you have wasted time in your life because you haven’t spent your time doing things that really mean something to you – you haven’t done the things that you really want to do. I mean, do you feel like you have wasted time when you haven’t done things that don’t mean anything to you? Probably not, or, if so, I am sure that feeling doesn’t haunt you.

But you are haunted by feelings of not spending time on things that mean something to you. They haunt you because you know on the inside that not doing the things that mean something to you mean you are not being true to who you are. And when we are not true to who we really are, we will always live in a state of pain, regret, and a feeling of loss.

We need to stop this feeling of loss. And I know it’s hard, I know it’s oh so easy to stay in this mindset of negativity and focus on feeling like you have wasted time. But you have to stop focusing on it. You have to move on, because it is holding you back.

Jane Fonda quote on learning from your mistakes - "You don't learn from successes; 
you don't learn from awards; 
you don't learn from celebrity; 
you only learn from wounds 
and scars and mistakes 
and failures. 
And that's the truth."
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If you stay on this path, you will waste your whole life

The way to move on from this negative pattern mindset is very clear. It’s very, very simple. It’s simply to do the things that mean something to you when you have the opportunity to do them. Or, if you don’t have clear free time to do those things, to carve out time and then do those things. Fundamentally, the solution is to do the things that mean something to you.

The difficulty comes in the process of actually doing those things, because, ultimately, YOU are responsible for doing the process. And when you know you are responsible, it’s easy to hide from the stress and pressure and to simply stay put. If YOU have to do it, then you have to face up to the things that bother you: that you’ve wasted time, that you may not be good enough (right now), that you may fail, that you could be much further along right now.

Those things are very real, and those things suck to feel. But we have to feel them and we have to push through them. Because if we don’t, we will waste our whole lives.

Think about that for a second – if you do not start reacting to this feeling of wasting time with positive forward movement, then you will waste your whole life. Not just a bunch of time – days, months, years, decades – but your whole life. Sit on that. Really sit on that and think about it. Think about being in a rocking chair, old and reaching the end of your life on this Earth, looking back and realising you never did what you wanted to do because you kept telling yourself you had wasted so much time.

Isn’t that scary? And isn’t it pointless? Maybe you feel like you have wasted 10 years of your life not doing what you wanted to do with that time. Okay, that sucks. But what sucks more is wasting 11 years, 12 years, 20 years of your life because you sat there focusing on the time you wasted instead of how you can move forwards now. That is an even bigger waste. And that is a worse waste because you knew what you were doing, and you knew the solution.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic quote on learning from your mistakes - "I did many stupid things. 
I made many mistakes, 
but I learnt from everything. 
I still make mistakes; 
I still learn from them. 
Nobody is perfect."
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How to Stop Feeling Like You’ve Wasted So Much Time in Your Life

The great news is that you can move on from this. I know it is hard, but trust me, you can move on. You may feel like you can’t, but that is because you are focusing so much on the time you have wasted rather than the solution. If you focus on the solution, you will feel better. So what is that solution?

Everything is a Learning Process

The way to start moving forwards and to stop thinking this way is to know that everything is a learning process. Focus on what you have learnt by wasting time, rather than the time that has been wasted. You may be thinking, “what is there to learn in wasted time?” Or “I didn’t do anything with that time, so what could I have possibly learned?” Well, you’ve learned that you regret wasting time, you’ve learned that time wasted makes you feel bad, you’ve learned that you would have rather done something else with that time rather than what you did.

This feeling of regret over wasted time points you to what you should have done. Perhaps you are not in the position of feeling like you know what you want to do with your life, but this feeling like you have wasted time shows you that you are doing the wrong thing right now, and that you need to go out and figure out what you want to do instead. If you have a feeling about what you would rather have done with that wasted time, maybe that’s what you should be focusing on moving forwards.

And, sure, that may not feel like a huge lesson given the amount of time wasted. But it is something. And it is something you can hold on to as you move forward. Use it to inform you, use it to drive you to move forwards with whatever it is you do want to spend your time on.

Moby quote on learning from your mistakes - "You make mistakes 
and you learn from them."
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Steps to Move Forwards

You need to then use what you have learned through your wasted time by doing the following in order to move forwards:-

Accept it, take responsibility.

This is an absolutely key part of moving forwards. You have to realise that you are responsible for the time you wasted. Yes, that sucks. But if you take responsibility for it, then you also take responsibility for what you do with your time moving forwards. And that is powerful. If you are responsible for what you do with your time, then you are responsible for how you feel moving forwards. That gives you the ultimate power to feel good. It gives you the ultimate power to realise whatever it is you want to create, do, spend your time in. This is a good thing. It may be scary, it may feel hard. But it is a powerful, good thing. Take responsibility.

Know that you have to move on and know that ONLY YOU can change this. Know that it will take time. But it is pointless to waste more time.

It is too easy to stay in a negative mindset. In this instance, it is easy to stay there, wallowing in your negativity about how much time you have wasted. But know that you don’t want to stay there, and know that, given that you are responsible for how you spend your time, then you, and ONLY YOU, are responsible for making yourself feel better. And know that you HAVE to change it. You HAVE to change it, because you don’t want to keep suffering, and you REALLY don’t want to waste more time. It would be MUCH worse to waste time thinking about how you have wasted time.

Just choose to move forwards. Choose to help yourself, knowing that you can do what you want with your time, that you can create the life you want and that it doesn’t always have to feel like it has done.

Stop wasting time now.

Knowing all of this means nothing if you don’t take action on it. It is not enough to simply know this more positive way of looking at things, to believe it, to say it to yourself. You also have to act on it. You have to start spending your time doing the things you want to do with it.

If you spend too much time procrastinating, take control of that and spend your time on things you really want to do. If you are spending too much time on things that don’t move you forwards (maybe going out multiple nights per week, maybe in the wrong job, maybe exercising too much as a way to have a “good excuse” not to do what you know you should be doing, whatever), then adjust how you spend your time. Be decisive, take control, commit.

Adam Osborne quote on learning from your mistakes - "The most valuable thing 
you can make is a mistake - 
you can't learn anything 
from being perfect."
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“I’ve wasted so much time” – Conclusion

Let’s get real here – you may never get over the fact that you did waste time. You may always feel like you did waste a bunch of time. That’s the reality of it. I know I will always regret wasting the time I wasted. But that’s okay. We make mistakes. The point of this post is to help you to MOVE ON. Accept it, and MOVE ON.

You may not ever feel like you didn’t waste that time, but if you CHOOSE to move on, you will feel better about how you spend your time moving forwards. This is probably going to suck and it’s probably going to be hard. But it will get better. It will start to feel easier. You will start to feel better. And you will start to use your time better, and feel better about yourself.

Stop wasting time by thinking about the time you have wasted. Move forwards and use your time how you want to use it.

Further reading

If you are looking for some quick advice on dealing with regret, I encourage you to check out these best quotes on regret.

When we feel like we’ve wasted time in our lives, we also often then feel like we have failed, so check this post if you feel like a failure and want to fix it.

Check out these Top 10 Things That Waste Your Time for some ideas of things that you could cut out from your life completely or cut down on using or doing, to save time in your life.

If you know you have wasted time and want to move on, but you are thinking to yourself, “I don’t know what to do with my life“, then that post is for you.

Feeling like you've wasted so much time? Exactly how to move on and live again
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Disclaimer: Nothing on this website should be taken as medical or other professional advice. You should always seek the advice of a professional, qualified person.  

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