Accounting for Time

Our measuring of time is not by the clock, but by the attention that we give it. If we sit down and become immersed in a really good book, we lose track of time. An hour or two flies by, and yet, we feel time has stood still.

However, if we live with our televisions always on one of the news channels, we begin to see the chapters of each day divided up in 3-minute segments. It becomes exhausting because, in order to claim your attention, there must be an emotional hook. It is hard to have a long view of our lives when our attention and our emotions are being turned off and on throughout the day. It is difficult to know where we are at any moment.

To account for the time that our lives spend, we need to establish a long view. From this perspective, we can take our time, learn as we go along, and not lose ourselves in rapidly fluctuating emotions. We gain focus and commitment to fulfilling some purpose that we can only see as the end of the long view.


The Long View

I take a long view on most aspects of my life. I live more by my calendar than I do the clock that is on my phone. I no longer wear a watch.

Even in pressured moments to quickly move from one focus of attention to another, I still see my life from the long view perspective. Here are two examples.


Example One: The Road Trip

I’m presently on a 60-day road trip to promote my book, Circle of Impact: Taking Personal Initiative To Ignite Change. Along with book signing events, I am also researching questions that I have about the nature of community in America today. I’m talking with all kinds of people from town mayors to school children. I want to gain a long view of the world of communities today.

Fifteen days into my tour I have concluded that the way we approach questions today is not working. First, we tend to look for confirmation of all that we already know, even if it isn’t working for us. It follows the saying, “People don’t change until the pain of changing is less than the pain of staying the same.

Second, I am seeing how our framework for understanding ourselves and the nature of community is fragmented and broken.


Example Two: My Whole Life

I am presently seeing my life as a story with three chapters.

The first chapter of my life was from birth to 30 years of age. It was a time of education for life-long learning. Out of that experience, I came to have a clearer sense of what my life was to mean, which culminated in the beginning of a new chapter.

In a brief moment of time, my perception of how I was to spend my life change. I discovered that the focal point of my life was to be the theory and practice of leadership. I began to read books on leadership, take seminar courses on leadership, pursued an advanced degree in leadership, founded an endowed program in leadership for college students, and, ultimately, my own model of leadership, the Circle of Impact, began to form in my mind.

This period of my life was one of intense learning and experimentation. It was not a time where success was the result. Instead, it was a time of foundation building. This chapter culminated in the publication of my first book, Circle of Impact: Taking Personal Initiative To Ignite Change.

The first chapter of my life lasted for 30 years, the second for 35 years, and now, at the age that most people are beginning retirement, I begin my last chapter, a time of fulfillment and accomplishment.


The Importance of Questions 

A long view can’t be found without reflection. We need to be able to see into the future clearly. To do so, we must ask questions.

I have found that my Five Questions That Everyone Must Ask (available at which are based upon my Circle of Impact model are highly effective for this purpose.

The questions establish perspective. They can be asked in any situation. They can be asked in a moment’s time or


The Practice of Asking Questions

Ask these questions as frequently as you can.

Ask them in every situation that you encounter.

Ask them even in situations where you already feel you are clear about what is transpiring.

Ask them in critique of the past, in preparing for the present, and in projecting into the future.

Ask them in the critical situations and in the most mundane.

Ask them often so that you never have to think about them, they simply come to mind at every point of decision.


The Five Questions That Everyone Must Ask

1. What has changed? How am I in transition?

This is a perspective of time. You can ask this question about the past decade or at the end of a business meeting.

2. What is my impact?

This is a perspective of what has changed and its importance.

3. Who have I impacted?

This is a perspective of the people who have been impacted by you or your group.

4. What opportunities do I now have?

Change opens up opportunities. We must look for them because they are not always evident.

5. What problems have I created? What obstacles do I face?

Our motivation to solve problems and overcome obstacles comes from the recognition of the opportunities before us.


The Long View of Purpose

A long view gives us a perspective of purpose. Many people have an emotional sense of purpose which is fragile. They believe their lives matter but cannot say why. They care about people in a general way. But they can’t say precisely why they do.

If you have a feeling of purpose, though without a clear sense of ‘why’, then you will also not have a long view of what your life can mean.

Take this step.

Answer the Five Questions. Then, align your answers with the Circle of Impact, by making sure you can answer the following question. What difference can my purpose make if I live according to it the rest of my life?

Think in terms of what your legacy could be. I’m certain that if you start to think this way, your sense of accomplishment will grow. As a result, you’ll see your legacy grow as well.

By establishing A Long View for your life, you’ll be able to find peace and direction for your life. As a result, you’ll be a person of impact whose influence will matter long after your life is over.



Dr. Ed Brenegar is a Leader for Leaders working with individuals, their teams, organizations and communities who find themselves at a point of transition. Ed has developed an innovative leadership model called, Circle of Impact, that clarifies what the impact of their life or the work of their organization can be. From this perspective, impact is the change that makes a difference that matters. Ed. for over 30 years, has inspired and equiped people and organizations to practice this fresh understanding of leadership. All leadership begins with personal initiative to create impact that makes a difference that matters. Everyone within an organization or a community can, therefore, practice leadership initiative. In so doing, they turn what were once leadership-starved organizations into leader-rich cultures that make a difference that matters.

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