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Time Perspective

Updated on August 20, 2012

It was Stanford University psychology professor emeritus, Philip Zimbardo's book, The Time Paradox, which first introduced me to the concept of Time Perspective. If you can only ever read one more book in your life, I suggest it be The Time Paradox.

I started this hub because I want to share with the world what I learned via Zimbardo's book; my only regret is that I had not discovered it earlier! Of course, I also want to share with you what I personally have gained from this new-found understanding of time, and I want to share how understanding time perspective can help you in the following ways:

- you'll understand yourself better, enabling you to improve yourself

- you'll be able to plan for the future, enjoy today, and look fondly at the past

- you'll understand others better, strengthening relationships

- you'll discover so many explanations for so many previously unexplainable things

... and, I'm sure that you'll take away so much more.

The first thing is, you have to meet the three different types of people that make up all the people in the world. These are the Time Perspectives that encompass all the different ways that humans can possibly think about, view and feel time. They are:

Future Orientation

People who are future-oriented are always thinking about the future; they arrive early and leave early. They always have something on the go and are never satisfied to just sit back and relax.

Of course, all this means that they're highly successful in whatever they do; high grades in school, success in the workplace, an organized and straightforward life.

It may sound like a good idea to be completely future oriented, but it's never good to be all one thing. Future-oriented people are boring, not romantic, don't have many friends, unsympathetic and sometimes downright selfish...

Present Orientation

People who are present-oriented are always having a good time and relaxing; they arrive stylishly late and stay when everyone else is gone. They always have a lot of fun and people love to be around them.

The most interesting people you've ever met were probably present-oriented. Actors, singers, movie stars - all the successful ones are very present-oriented. They live for the moment, they feel the vibe, they love the now.

They are extremely romantic and extremely caring, which is why people love to be around them. But, there are drawbacks. Present-oriented people don't save for a rainy day or prepare for the future, which means they encounter hard times on a regular basis...

Past Orientation

People who are past-oriented see the past as The Golden Era, a time when things were better, a time when things were perfect. No matter what actually happened in the past, it was perfect.

Their focus today is on keeping things at least as good as they were yesterday. They don't take risks, for fear that their future will be worse than today (today tomorrow is yesterday). Therefore, they're very conservative in all their dealings and don't like change.

I won't be talking about the past orientation much - aside from explaining how we should all look at our individual pasts - because most of our behavior can described as future- or present-orientation.


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