"If you're 30% through your life, you're likely 90% through your best relationships." Such was the headline to an insightful article written by Tim Urban, who used a series of graphics to visually illustrate a 90-year human life span in various units of time and events.
What was most striking about the practice was the realization of just how simple it is to fit 90 years onto a single sheet of paper. At 34 years old, he mapped out his grave reality of having only 60 Superbowls, 20 Red Sox games (assuming he goes once every three years), and 15 US presidential elections left in his life to experience. When viewing life in that perspective, it's easy to see just how fast time flies by and how short one's time on Earth really is.
And while the palpable moral of the story is to not take anything for granted, another underlying (but equally crucial) lesson it teaches us is that our priorities really matter. He really drives this message home with his analysis of approximately how much time he has left with his parents:
I’ve been thinking about my parents, who are in their mid-60s. During my first 18 years, I spent some time with my parents during at least 90% of my days. But since heading off to college and then later moving out of Boston, I’ve probably seen them an average of only five times a year each, for an average of maybe two days each time. 10 days a year. About 3% of the days I spent with them each year of my childhood.
Being in their mid-60s, let’s continue to be super optimistic and say I’m one of the incredibly lucky people to have both parents alive into my 60s. That would give us about 30 more years of coexistence. If the ten days a year thing holds, that’s 300 days left to hang with mom and dad. Less time than I spent with them in any one of my 18 childhood years.
When you look at that reality, you realize that despite not being at the end of your life, you may very well be nearing the end of your time with some of the most important people in your life.
Making meaningful connections and prioritizing those who matter most is perhaps the best thing you can do with your time. And it's not just something you can afford to start thinking about when you're older - According to a study released by scientists from the University of Oxford in England and Aalto University in Finland, your social circle hits its peak at 25 years old. After that, it shrinks significantly, and for the most part, the people you managed to develop close relationships with before then become the group that you're stuck with for the rest of your life.
The study examined the behaviours of over 3 million cellphone users to see how frequent they contacted certain individuals, when they would reach out, and how engaged they were with their networks overall. They found that both men and women were actively social up until their mid-20s, and became rapidly less open to making new connections in the years to follow.
Women were also seen to lose friends more rapidly than men after 25. The average 25-year old woman contacts around 17.5 people per month, while the average man of the same age contacts around 19 people per month.
It seems that the general trend at 25 years old is to start deciding who is most important in your life, and shifting the majority of your focus to them. This makes one's life leading up to that age all the more crucial, because those will be the years that determine which individuals one will have as options for lifelong friends.