What your time perspective says about you

by Sep 2, 2015Fabulous Mind Tools0 comments

Ever thought about where you mentally spend the most time?

Not so long ago, I came across research by Philip Zimbardo that gave me a ‘eureka’ moment and helped me to understand myself and those around me much better.

Do you mentally live in the past, present or future?

Zimbardo suggests that our ‘time perspective’ affects decisions we make in life such as choice of life partner, who we spend time with, the career we choose, our religious beliefs, our leisure pursuits, how we raise our children (or if we even choose to have them), where we holiday and so much more. Below are Zimbardo’s 5 categories of time orientation. Have a read through them and see if you can identify where you spend most of your time (we don’t just stay in one of the orientations, but we do have a preference.)

1. The Past-negative time perspective

Reflects a generally unhappy, aversive view of the past. Negative attitudes toward the past can be due to traumatic events, or the negative memory of benign events (Zimbardo, 2002). Viewing the world through this ‘filter’ will influence the quality of future experiences.

2. Past-positive time perspective

Reflects a warm, sentimental attitude toward the past (Katakana, 1999). People who show this preference have fond memories of the past and usually like to stick to tradition. They fondly remember ‘the good old days’ and may be reluctant to embrace new thinking as they prefer to stick with ‘what works’.

3. Present hedonistic time perspective

Associated with pleasure seeking, excitement and impulsiveness and lack of consideration for future consequences- may include reckless behaviour, drinking, drug taking, unsafe sex. People here tend to prefer instant gratification- (like me- I can’t resist chocolate- I don’t think of the consequences at the time!!!) These people are risk takers.

4. Present fatalistic time perspective

Reflecting an attitude of hopelessness, helplessness and fatalism, these people have a more external locus of control (feeling that they are not in control of their life). These people believe that some people are ‘just lucky’ and that life is controlled by forces outside of their control. Like the present hedonistic, these people too may be risk takers as they have a more ‘devil may care’ attitude.

5. Future time perspective

Planning for and achieving future goals. These people are likely to be achievers, who delay gratification for future rewards. They are characterised by punctuality, resisting of temptation when there is work to be done, and they like to plan. They may often miss opportunities to live in the ‘here and now’ as they are so focused on future rewards.

So which one are you?

Do you see how other people in your life fit into one of these orientations? Each one has its own characteristics and no single time perspective is better than another. Consider the impact of 2 different time perspectives coming across each other- it can cause a conflict of values.

Imagine a case at work where a ‘future’ oriented person wants to put some new practices in place, but they face opposition from a past-positive person.

Think about other areas of your life where there is conflict, or harmony- is it due to time perspective influences?

Your exercise for the week:

1. Consider which of these perspectives you think is most ‘you’. To aid this process you can also take the time perspective survey from The Time Paradox.

2. How does your (primary) time perspective positively influence your life?

3. How does it hold you back?

4. How would incorporating another perspective give you a more balanced view?

5. Think of how you can use this information to create a better understanding of yourself and those around you.

Have fun and learn lots… I am off for more chocolate now! Can’t delay that gratification any longer….

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