Life is Only 700,000 Hours Long

by Natalia Tapia Moreno, United World College Maastricht
11th February, 2020

I was scrolling through my dashboard, trying to ignore for a moment my responsibilities when I ran into one of those quirky yet intriguing articles that discussed things about self-knowledge and the role we play on other’s lives. Everything that I read was interesting, but it was towards the end of it that I came across a truly shocking fact that started bouncing in my thoughts and hasn’t left me alone since then. You’ve read it in the title: life is only 700,000 hours long.
I am aware that it’s quite risky to enclose human life in rounded numbers because, of course, there are a lot of factors that aren’t taken into consideration when creating such statistics; there are many things that we could never be able to predict. Nevertheless, it can be gripping to analyze life in numbers and allow them to explain human nature with a particular scope.
For those of you who are wondering what do I mean when I talk about looking at life through digits, I should probably start by saying that 700,000 hours is the rounded equivalent to approximately 80 years of life. Although that might sound like a good long life, that number is, in a nutshell, the amount of time that we have to do our daily activities. Seven hundred thousand hours could be something hard to picture, that’s where making associations can help in the construction of a realistic idea.

If we added up the amount of time we spend doing our daily activities in a non-stop way, we would see that we sleep for a total of twenty-six years, and the time before falling asleep adds up to thirty-three years. An average human works for thirteen years and two months. In total, we spend eleven years and four months staring at a screen on social media or watching television. During all our life, we eat for four years and a half. The majority of people will be on holidays for three years and a month. We exercise for an average of one year and four months. We spend one year and a month being romantic. We socialize for an approximate of one year, and we go through primary and secondary school in less than a year. We queue for two hundred thirty-five days, laugh for one hundred fifteen days, and on top of that, we spend time with our family or do things like commuting, cleaning, and shopping.

After considering all those things, we are left with an approximate of eight years and two months, which is the closest we can get to the actual time we have for ourselves in our whole life. Out of eighty years of life, we only have a silly amount of eight years to compress everything else we are interested in life. If we round the numbers, in order to live the life you always wanted to, and keep ticking goals off your aspiration list, you must fit all the amazing things that life has to offer in the remaining 70,000 hours. Staggering, isn’t it?
I don’t know about you, but after I read those numbers (meanwhile when I was procrastinating), it felt like a wake-up call. More often than I would like to admit, I find myself wondering what am I doing with my life, or how I ended up living the way I do. I know I am getting a little ToK here, but I think those are valid questions to ask yourself during any stage of life. In fact, it is extremely worthy to take some time to meditate where are you investing your time and why are you doing it.

The UWC life seems to be constantly pushing people to their limits, ensuring sustainability by filling out every space on our agenda. There is always somewhere to go, and don’t even get me started with the endless to-do lists. I know well enough that most of the time we are pushed to choose between the classic “sleep, study or social life”. Living like that can be physically and mentally exhausting, that’s why it is imperative to search for a greater purpose for doing those things. To prevent our activities from becoming a burden, we need to question what we are doing, what we need to do, and what we want to do.
For the first and second questions, the answers tend to be pretty straightforward since it comes with the routine and daily duties. However, if we look at the third question, we might need to stop and double think about it. It can get tricky because sometimes it looks like we can’t match our responsibilities with the things that we would like to do, or it can be that we are clueless about what we would like our life to become.
When we lack balance and we are constantly justifying ourselves with senseless excuses to postpone what we want to do, our problem might be mostly related to things like fear of trying and failing. It may be your inner self being tough and searching for validation. Maybe you are too chained to a routine to jump into something new, or you simply don’t put an extra effort to organize your schedule.

It might be the case in which you aren’t sure about what you want to do. Then think about the activities that make you happier, your hopes for the future, and about that one thing that lights up your face. Your life purpose might rely upon those things, it will just take some time to figure it out. Deep in our core, we all know what we want to do with our lives.
As wasted as it might sound, you need to realize that you only live once, and that is the reason why you have to make sure that every moment builds up to what you want to achieve. It is your responsibility to make sure that days don’t fly away as if they don’t matter. You are the one who must risk a little more, give up some comforts, and take action to do the things you love yet never get the courage to do. After all, you only have one-tenth of your life to invest in them.


Statistics source: