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Understanding Your Time Perspective

What can you learn from your time perspective?

Your own time perspective may not be on your radar at the moment. Until I read The Time Paradox by John Boyd and Philip Zimbardo it wasn’t on mine either. 

Why should you give a shit about your time perspective? 

Time, more than anything else, is what we as a collective crave. It is the one thing everyone is running out of and the one thing no one can buy more of. 

However It’s important to understand that time is different for us all. 

It can work for you or against you depending on how you leverage it. 

“Einstein himself is reported to have said: When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it’s longer than any hour. That’s relativity.”― Philip G. Zimbardo

Having a basic understanding of your time perspective and the way it impacts every decision you make will help you to be the best version of yourself.

This will impact how you feel in the present moment and we found it really helpful in understanding our relationships with others. 

What are the different time perspectives?

As you read the below, think how each perspective relates to you and other people in your life. 

There are six main time perspectives:

  1. Past positive-oriented

    1. People with this perspective often reminisce about “the good old days.” They keep souvenirs from past experiences, collect photos and trinkets. Often their closest relationships are with friends they’ve known since back in the day.
  2. Past negative-oriented

    1. People focus on the negative in the past. They live a life of pessimism as a result of previous negative events. When you call them out on their “glass half empty and full of shitty water anyway” attitude they will tell you they aren’t pessimistic, they are a realist, they have seen it all go to shit before so why wouldn’t it this time. They regret what could have been.
    2. “While no one can change events that occurred in the past, everyone can change attitudes and beliefs about them.”― Philip G. Zimbardo
  3. Present hedonistic-oriented

    1. Living in the moment they chain-smoke 60 cigarettes on a night out now and bosh drugs every weekend as if they have fast approaching best before dates. Their goals are short term drivers focused on where the next bit of debauchery is coming from. Commonly these people have addictive personalities and pursue the above to mask some of their own pain. 
  4.  Present fatalistic-oriented 

    1. These people feel that their fate is predetermined. They feel this was the hand they were dealt and there is nothing they can do to fix it. Think of the constant moaner in the job they hate that doesn’t take action as they feel there’s no point, there is nothing they can do to change (Insert limiting belief or excuse). These people have often suffered hardships earlier on in their life that has moulded them into this perspective.
  5. Future-oriented

    1. These people are always thinking ahead. They have been investing for retirement since they were 14. Often they become workaholics or become obsessed with health and fitness to aid their longevity. They have a juicy carrot dangled in front of their face and often make sacrifices in the present looking forward to the day the carrot finally swings into their reach. Often these people are the most likely to succeed, extremes of this can lead to people being unhappy in the present. Read our blog on Leveraging Gratitude for more insight on this.
  6. Transcendental-future-oriented 

    1. Often this is synonymous with religious people. They believe that life after death is more important than the life they are living. What they do now is for future promises in the afterlife. For example, the Vikings were happy to die in battle honourably due to what they believed awaited them in Valhalla (fuck fighting a Viking for that very reason). 

How can you use time perspectives to your advantage?

The above highlights the extremes of each perspective.

In reality, all of us have a real blend of the above even the most optimistic person will have their moments where they are present-fatalistic, they may be able to talk themselves out of it pretty quickly but sure enough, they will have that perspective some of the time. 

Hopefully, you can see how you (and others in your life) have a blend of the above and the exaggerated versions above highlights how extremes in any area could be damaging to you. 

Having a blend of the above and being able to call on the right time perspectives in any given moment will allow you to fully enjoy everything. You will be able to reminisce on the good old days while enjoying a glass or two of wine at the moment but with the foresight to not drink 10 being kind to your tomorrow self.

Having an understanding of your perspective of time will also help you make better decisions with your relationships and come from a place of empathy.

For example, if you are high on the future-oriented scale and you come across a carefree present hedonistic-oriented person you may be able to balance each other out nicely or you could come into trouble when you don’t see eye to eye on the future and your shared bank account gets pillaged when your other half buys the whole bar a shot of the finest tequila.  

With the right balance, we can let go of the unhelpful past and reframe negatives to be positive building blocks that make you the person you are today. 

We can learn to live in the present moment grateful for what has been and is yet to come. 

We can plan for the future but not to the detriment of the present and those that share today with us. 

To ground yourself in the present moment we recommend spending a day using time in a different way. Try out event-based time for a day. Think when you are on holiday, you don’t check your watch as much, your actions are based on events. The sun goes down, you head back from the beach, your belly rumbles… you eat.

This is part of the reason why you come back from a holiday feeling refreshed. You don’t spend your days as a slave to your calendar and what your wrist tells you. 

What’s the current time perspective? How do your current time perspectives affect you and your relationships?


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