According to World Bank, the average life expectancy of Americans in 2009 was 78 years old.

Given that Americans generally begin working at around 18 and retire at 65, working an average of 40 hours a week during that time, most people in the US spend 14% of their lives working — that’s almost 11 years!

Now let’s factor in some other life percentages: 33% sleep, 12% school, 1.3% using the bathroom, and sometimes up to 16% watching TV! All totaled the average American, then, only has about 25% of her life to do the things she is passionate about (although you can increase that figure to somewhere around 35% if you cut out TV).

What’s the point of all these facts and figures?

Just a simple reminder that life is short and time is precious.  We all want to be successful, but sometimes the cost of success is greater than the benefit, especially when it comes to work.

The American work-ethic is much more intense than probably anywhere else on the planet.  The terms “workaholic” and “married to my job” probably originated in America, and it’s no surprise why.  We take our work seriously.

But what are we doing with the rest of our time?

Granted, there are those perversely driven and otherwise demented individuals who work 70+ hours in a week and stop only long enough to breathe, eat, and sleep.  But the majority of us want a break, and wouldn’t work past 5pm no matter what the pay.

The irony is that the people who work 70 hours a week are probably happier and feel more fulfilled at the end of the day than people who put in the average 40 hours and then go home, turn on the TV and veg out.  And let’s be honest, after a day’s work, that’s exactly what most of us do — turn into vegetables.

It’s all too easy to fall into a routine that doesn’t search for enrichment as a working adult.  But you don’t want to one day turn 65 and realize that you never chased those passions of yours because you were too busy working.

How can we better use our free time?

The answer to that question will be different for everyone, but here are a few suggestions:

Start a Business

It might sound scary, but there is little in life more satisfying than owning and operating a business, even if it’s only a business on the side, that directly pertains to your passions.  Love to make pottery? Invest in a wheel and sell your bowls and vases on Etsy.  Have a knack for editing? Start networking and offering your services to businesses or local magazines.  The point is, don’t let your talents go to waste.

Learn an Instrument

It isn’t easy to learn to play an instrument, but it is greatly rewarding no matter how old you are.

Of course, some instruments are more expensive than others (pianos can sell upwards of $50,000 depending on the scale), but there are less expensive alternatives to almost any instrument (keyboards, for example) and you can teach yourself from books that are also inexpensive.

Take Cooking Classes

This can be especially fun if you do it with your husband or wife.  Food is an everyday joy that we often take for granted, but it is very easy to rediscover.

Even buying a new cookbook and trying new recipes often sparks conversation and is a great way to spend the evening with loved ones — certainly much better than lazing around on the couch and watching the same TV shows over and over.

And if cooking doesn’t appeal to you, try to think of something that does: dancing, art, woodworking, jewelry making — there’s a class for just about anything if you look.

Whatever you do, give yourself permission to be a little demented like those hounds who work 70+ hour weeks.  Fill your life with the things and people that matter, and don’t be distracted by the irrelevant.  Life is short, time is precious, and work, while important, isn’t everything.  Enrich and balance your life!

About the Author:  Lauren Bailey regularly writes for accredited online colleges. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: blauren99

Image courtesy of Or Hiltch.