Would you like to stay in the dark and have time unconsciously control you, or would you like to understand time perspective and use it to your advantage? If you want to make it work for you, read on.
Everyone has memories from the past, experiences the present, and anticipates the future. But how we do this makes a critical difference in how well we do in life and how happy we are while living it. Time perspective theory assumes that behavior is influenced by how individuals link their behavior to their past, their present, and their future, and can predict everything from career success to overall general health and contentment in life.
Time perspective is an idea in psychology that studies how we divide experiences into different time frames. Time perspective is used without our awareness but greatly influences our choices.
Psychologist Philip Zimbardo came up with the idea of time perspective. Due to his research, he concluded that time perspective influences a lot of our judgments, choices we make, and actions we take. He also says that happiness and success are deeply set in the way that we relate to the past, present, and the future. He recommends we adjust these time perspectives to improve our lives.
Zimbardo suggests we can learn to shift our attention between the past, present, and future, and change our attitudes and perspectives in life’s situations. Depending on the differences in these three time perspectives, these can be further divided, depending on the person’s emotional focus: concentrating on the positive or on the negative side of things.
Learning how to switch time perspectives permits us to completely take part in everything we do. And since time perspective is essentially an unconscious way of viewing things, it does take a determined effort to do this.
Zimbardo created a test called the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory (ZTPI). This test can tell you more about your own time perspective. It has been used in many fields of analysis and applications, such as academic accomplishment, quality of life, risk-taking, drug dependency and use, mental well-being, sickness, relationships, burnout, post-traumatic stress disorders, clinical settings, and health communications. Having a passion for psychology and the fact that I enjoy taking personality tests, when I came across the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory test I needed to see what is was about.
Every individual can score low, moderate, or high in each category and it gives a total profile of your own time perspective.
Zimbardo identified 6 types of time perspective. These are:
1. Past-negative type – You tend to focus on negative experiences that still upset you. This may lead to feelings of bitterness and regret.
2. Past-positive type – You have a nostalgic view of the past, and usually are in very close contact with your family. You tend to have satisfying relationships, but your “better safe than sorry” approach can hold you back.
3. Present-hedonistic type – You are controlled by pleasure-seeking impulses, and go for feeling good now instead of being patient and having a larger gain later.
4. Present-fatalistic type – You don’t enjoy the present and feel trapped, feeling unable change your path. This sense of powerlessness can cause depression, frustration, and possible unhealthy risk-taking.
5. Future-focused type – You are highly ambitious, focus on goals, and big on creating ‘to do’ lists. You tend to struggle with a sense of urgency, causing stress in your life and to those around you, and possibly ruining close relationships and personal enjoyment.
6. Future-transcendental type – You tend to concentrate on a future that transcends life on our planet and live according to a plan, so that you can achieve what you desire in the afterlife.
All six types become active in our lives at some point, or another, each having some positive and some negative aspects. There are probably one or two that you score stronger in. When you start to see these in yourself, you can begin to gradually shift your attitude toward a more healthy time perspective.
The target is to discover a time perspective that realises your mental and psychological needs and values. For example, consider your regrets and think of a way to make them work for you, using unpleasant feelings to create a fire to propel yourself forward with motivation. Focus on keeping yourself busy with pleasurable activities instead of sitting around doing nothing.
Balance comes from positively processing what happened in your past, finding healthy techniques to enjoy the present, and making productive plans of enhancement for your future.
Take a look at this video of Phillip Zimbardo explaining Time Perspective and why it is important: