The Time Paradox – Philip Zimbardo

The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life – by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd
Date Read: 6/3/17. Recommendation: 9/10.

Fascinating look at how the way we regard time influences the course of our lives. Zimbardo and Boyd discuss six distinct time perspectives and illustrate how they are a reflection of our personal attitudes, beliefs and values. Great insight into the future-oriented world we live in and what that means for those who are more present-oriented. Also offers an interesting examination of various religions and their effect on individual time perspectives and behaviors.

See my notes below or Amazon for details and reviews.


My Notes:

Nothing that any of us does in this life will allow us to accrue a moment's more time, and nothing will allow us to regain time misspent...Our scarcest resource, time, is actually much more valuable than money.

Only during the last few thousand years have people gained the luxury of discretionary time, and only during the last few hundred years have substantial segments of us enjoyed it–or endured it.

Remember that people are more likely to regret actions not taken than actions taken, regardless of outcome.

Your body–even if it is in mint condition–is designed for success in the past. It is an antique biological machine that evolved in response to a world that no longer exists.

The transition from event time to clock time profoundly changed society, especially economic relations.

Your time perspective reflects attitudes, beliefs, and values related to time.

I think that the events of childhood are overrated; in fact, I think past history in general is overrated. It has turned out to be difficult to find even small effects of childhood events on adult personality...There is no justification in these studies for blaming your adult depression, anxiety, bad marriage, drug use, sexual problems, unemployment, aggression against your children, alcoholism, or anger on what happened to you as a child.

Everyone is affected by the objective past but not completely determined by it. And it is not the events of the past that most strongly influence our lives. Your attitudes towards events in the past matter more than the events themselves.

You cannot change what happened in the past, but you can change your attitude toward what happened.

People who have positive attitudes about the past–whether or not these attitudes are based upon accurate memories–tend to be happier, healthier, and more successful than people who have negative attitudes toward the past.

If you are stuck in the past, you are less likely to take chances and risks, to make new friends, to try new foods, or to expose yourself to new music and art. You want the status quo and abhor change.

This is the paradox of time: Some present orientation is needed to enjoy life. Too much present orientation can rob life of happiness.

The development of a future orientation requires stability and consistency in the present, or people cannot make reasonable estimates of the future consequences of their actions.

All that is tangible and real in this world undeniably exists in the present.

Flow: a special state of mind in which there is total absorption for a period of time in a given activity. Main characteristics...
-Clear goals
-Concentrating and focusing
-Loss of the feeling of self-consciousness, merging of action and awareness
-Distorted sense of time
-Balance between ability level and challenge
-A sense of personal control over the situation or activity
-Intrinsically rewarding

What is wrong with all such programs (DARE) and their related advertising campaigns? They focus on aversive future consequences that work for future-oriented people but not for present-oriented–the target audience. They also focus on personal willpower, resolve, and character, which fails to recognize powerful situational and social forces in the present behavioral context that influence Hedonists.

Talent, intelligence, and ability are necessary for success, but they are not sufficient. Discipline, perseverance, and a sense of personal efficacy are also required.

Unlike their present-hedonistic peers who live in their bodies, the futures live in their minds, envisioning other selves, scenarios, rewards, and successes.

You become future-oriented by being born in the right place at the right time, where environmental conditions help transform little present-oriented babies into restrained, successful, future-oriented adults. These conditions include:
-Living in a temperate zone (requires planning/preparing for seasonal/weather change)
-Living in a stable family, society, nation
-Protestant or Jewish
-Future-oriented role models
-Recovering form childhood illness

Key predictors of children's financial success are their fathers' conscientiousness and their parents' future orientation.

We [authors] believe that the common good is not a moral matter but a time-perspective matter. Adopting a narrowly focused present orientation for immediate gain is not selfish; it is simply the way presents everywhere think.

There is not something unique about Muslim people that causes them to become suicide bombers. There is something about the situation in which some of them currently find themselves (of which beliefs about a heavenly future are a large part) that motivates them to become suicide bombers.

The Muslim profile is also extremely low on past-positive and present-hedonistic time perspectives. The Muslims in our sample tended not to bring positive elements from their past into the present, and they tend not to focus on pleasure. For Muslims, the focus is on the mundane and transcendental futures.

Seen from a transcendental-future perspective, a suicide bomber's act is not crazy, fanatical, hate-filled or hopeless, but an act committed by a religious person who may have had little hope for his future in this life but has abundant hope in the transcendental future.

Daylight savings time: car accidents increase by 10% the day after clocks are set forward in the spring, and decrease by a smaller amount the day after clocks are set back one hour in the fall.

The key to relieving depression lies not in untangling the Gordian knot of the past but in accepting and planning for the uncertain future.

In moderation, the present is a wonderful place to be, but in excess, it robs you of your ability to learn from the past and plan for the future.

Marshmallow test: Give single marshmallow to 4 year old, can eat now or wait a few minutes and get two. Children who were able to delay gratification (when later interviewed at 18) had developed a range of superior emotional and social competencies compared with the children who had eaten the treat immediately. They were better able to deal with adversity and stress, and they were more self-confident, diligent, and self-reliant. Intellectual ability markedly higher.

After adolescence, however, chronological age becomes a less reliable predictor of motivation, thought process, and emotional response.

Learning to control impulses and make better decisions is inextricably connected with being aware of one's internal states and with managing feelings rather than acting them out. Emotions rather than reason tend to drive the behavior of people who have poor impulse control.

Genetic happiness set point accounts for only about 50% of your overall happiness level. In addition, life circumstance–age, sex, ethnicity, nationality, marital status, physical health, income level–account for an additional 10% of your overall happiness. (leaves open possibility of increasing your level of happiness by 40%).

Our ability to reconstruct the past, to interpret the present, and to construct the future gives us the power to be happy. We must just take the time to use it.

As a society, we impose future-oriented punishments on present-oriented criminals...For presents, however, the threat of jail time is unlikely to matter. When a person does not have a concept of the future or believes there is no future for him, the future cannot be taken from him.

We live in a world created by futures for futures.