The next best thing to controlling time…

Professor Brian Keating
5 min readMay 20, 2024

I recently received a message from my cousin, and it hit hard. She’s about ten years younger than me but in a similar state — caring for both young children and parents simultaneously.

“Shifra,” as I’ll call her, is struggling with the passage of time and its unchanging pace, feeling especially pressured in her 40s. She worries about not fully absorbing her parents’ wisdom before it’s too late and feels rushed to cherish her children before they grow up and leave. There’s a tension here: there’s only one Shifra! While love is not a pie — meaning giving love isn’t a conserved quantity like money or energy, time is conserved. A minute with her kids is a minute she can’t spend with her mom.

Motherhood and marriage have been enlightening and fulfilling, though challenging, giving her a clear identity as a mother and wife. However, she feels her individual identity as Shifra is unclear and misunderstood, expressing an urgent desire to explore this aspect of herself.

I feel her pain.

It’s bittersweet. The relentless march of time feels like it’s out of our control, especially as our kids grow up exponentially quickly as we hit those milestone decades. But the different character of the relationships with your kids in different seasons of your life and theirs is also magical. Here’s the deal: we can’t stop time (yet!), but we can control how we engage with it and the people around us.

1. Spiritual Connection
Regular attendance at temple or church services can offer a profound sense of community and continuity. It’s not just about faith but about taking a moment to pause and reflect regularly with your family and friends. Even for you atheists, there are secular gatherings called ‘Sunday Assemblies” in many cities around the world. Click here to find one near you.

2. Family Rituals
Create new family traditions. Whether it’s a weekly dinner, a game night, or a Sunday hike, these rituals become the fabric of our memories. They give you and your loved ones something to look forward to and create shared experiences that time can’t take away. Avoid time with screens. Enjoy meals together, even with tiny babies around.

3. Personal Reflection
Start journaling. Write down your thoughts, fears, and dreams. This practice can be incredibly revealing and help you clarify who “Shifra” is outside of her roles as a mother and wife.

4. Deep Conversations
Set aside time for meaningful conversations with your parents. These moments are invaluable. Ask them about their lives and consider recording them as a podcast — don’t get any ideas about superseding me, however, lol. This deepens your connection and preserves his wisdom for the future. I did this with my very much-alive mom a few years ago and Jim Simons in 2020. Now that he’s gone, I treasure it, as do his kids.

5. Mindfulness Practices
Incorporate mindfulness into your daily routine. This could be through meditation, mindful eating, or simply taking a moment to breathe and be present. These practices can help slow down your perception of time and make each moment count.

6. One-on-one Time
Spend individual time with your kids. Take them out separately and engage in activities they love. These one-on-one moments can create strong bonds and cherished memories.

7. Health and Well-being
Don’t neglect your physical health. Regular exercise, good nutrition, and sufficient sleep are crucial. When you feel good physically, it’s easier to handle the emotional complexities of life.

8. One more tip I live by:
When your kid extends their hand, take it. This is true literally with their tiny, precious little hands but also metaphorically, true too — if they hint [called a ‘bid’ by psychologists], no matter how subtle, that they want to engage with you, take the hint and engage!

This week hit me hard. Life’s brevity is a powerful reminder to seize the moment, to embrace the wisdom available to us, The clock may be relentless, but the potential for growth, connection, and discovery lies within its steady beat.


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Professor Brian Keating

Chancellor’s Distinguished Professor at UC San Diego. Host of The INTO THE IMPOSSIBLE Podcast Authored: Losing the Nobel Prize & Think like a Nobel Prize Winner