It’s Getting Dark

Daylight has a powerful effect on our circadian rhythms. We schedule our lives around the rising and setting of the sun. With the exception of hunting season, most of us probably don’t focus on the times for sunrise and sunset. It happens without our influence every single day.

We’ve all been in the position of having certain things to accomplish before it gets dark. Outside and in the woods, this is especially true. For a backpacker on the trail, sundown means that he should already have his campsite picked out and tent erected. If you’ve ever entered a new location after dark, you know what it’s like to wake up to a foreign environment. Your surroundings transform with the rising sun. It’s better to scout the location and get yourself squared away before it gets dark.

In SERE training, we teach our students to build their shelter and gather their firewood prior to sundown. Life gets substantially harder when the darkness creeps in.

One reliable way to estimate sundown involves a highly specialized piece of equipment…your hand. With an extended arm, your palm facing you and your fingers parallel to the ground, you can approximate the time left until sundown.Focus your eyes on your extended hand (squinting helps) and place the edge of your fingers in line with the edge of the sun. Each finger represents 15 minutes. The number of fingers that fill the gap between the bottom edge of the sun and the earth’s horizon multiplied by 15 will give you the amount of time left until the sun slips below the surface. Use two hands if necessary for distances greater than four fingers (1 hour). Keep in mind, you’ll have about 30 minutes of decent twilight after the sun is down to finalize anything needing to be completed before dark.

Knowing the amount of available daylight gives you the ability to set and accomplish priorities that are tremendously more difficult, if not impossible, after dark.

The Day’s Priorities

Daylight is a powerful metaphor for life where darkness represents death. Whether intentional or subconscious, there are things we want to see realized before the sun sets on our lives. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing how much time we have left, but we do know that we have things in our lives that take precedence. It could be your career, your possessions, your relationships, your position or status. It’s easy to get caught up in the present moment and lose track of what your true priorities are.

Often, a man’s priority is his job since many find their identity in their careers. When two guys meet for the first time, one of the lead questions is, “What do you do for a living?” Career identity is a slippery slope with respect to work-life balance. Men tell themselves, “I’m doing this for my family.” But in many cases, they’re doing it at the expense of their family.

Don’t get me wrong, the point here is not to pick apart your decisions. And I’m not talking about responsibility either. Men are constantly bombarded with the world’s agendas on what they should be doing as men. The challenge here is to focus on intentionality and relationship.

The “daylight” in our lives is a finite resource. It’s super important to take the time to rack and stack your priorities before the sun goes down on your life. One of the techniques I use to stay on top of this is lists. I have lists for almost everything, including my priorities. These are transcribed to my prayer list which is something that I go over every morning before I start my day. This technique keeps me focused on what’s important and I begin my day with that reference point.

The flip side of priorities is not getting target locked! Life is extremely dynamic so stay in tune with your environment and ask yourself what you need to focus on before the sun sets on your day.

  • Does my wife need my attention?
  • Do my kids need some quality time with Dad?
  • Are there friends or family that I need to touch base with?

Just the other morning, I was reading my devotional and my wife interrupted me, talking about something that was bothering her. At first, I started to get annoyed because she knew I was doing my devotional. Why was she interrupting me? Then, the irony hit me like a ton of bricks. The particular devotion that morning was about my wife’s needs and making a connection with her by listening to her concerns! Easy to miss the forest for the trees.

Time is one of the greatest gifts we can give to our families, to our friends and to ourselves. We can never be fully present if we are constantly reacting to pop-up targets and in a “helmet fire” state of emergency. Find your priorities and you’ll find a much more intentional version of yourself.