Are you past, present or future orientated?

Have you ever been in the situation where you have to lead someone in your team who seems to have their mindset stuck in past? Perhaps you have moved offices and they keep referring to ‘the good old days’ in the old office. Perhaps you have restructured your team and have someone in it who keeps referring to the old structure as ‘The A Team’, making newer members feel bad. Perhaps they are often saying “We tried that before and it didn’t work”.. Alternatively, you may have managed people who are particularly impulsive and tend to take more risks than you do, and you find yourself holding them back somewhat. Where we are in our mind plays a big role in our ability to move forward.

In his book, The Time Paradox, Philip Zimbardo highlights that our perception of time can greatly affect our physical and mental health, our ability to socialise, our ability to achieve and contribute and our capacity for happiness. Zimbardo invented the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory test (which you can complete yourself her is you so desire: The 56-item test measures individual differences in time-orientation, or our tendency to focus on different aspects of the past, present, and future.

Having a good understanding of where you and the indivuals in your team fall within the index provides a good framework to collectively and indivually work towards improving your ratings to positive perceptions. Depending on your answers to a series of questions, you will be categorised into one of the following:

(Past oriented):

  1. Past-negative 
    People scoring high in this index tend to dwell on negative things, real and perceived, that have happened to them in the past and allow it to affect their present perspectives. They tend to say things like ‘I wished I’d said …’ or ‘If only I’d …’ These people tend to be more anxious, more aggressive, less mentally stable, less motivated and less likely to exercise.
  2. Past-positive 
    These inpiduals also tend to dwell on the past but in a much healthier, positive way. They are likely to be reminiscent of the ‘good old days’ and are generally less anxious, less aggressive, have good mental stability and self-control, have more energy and are more motivated than their past-negative colleagues.
  3. (Present oriented):
    The Present-fatalist believe that life is controlled by forces greater than them and they have little control over their life’s path. They think that nothing they can do can change their current situation. Luck and fate play a larger role than effort and forethought. Like past negative people, these inpiduals are generally less mentally stable, more aggressive, more anxious, have lower levels of self-esteem and tend to be less motivated at work and exercise.
  4. Present-hedonism
    The silent mantra of these inpiduals is “live each day as if it is your last”. They avoid things that cause pain and seek out things that create pleasure and immediate self-gratification as reflected in statements like ‘I try to live my life as fully as possible, one day at a time’. While the sentiments of these folk might seem great in a future-orientated corporate world, there are some drawbacks associated with scoring an unbalanced high score in this index. While they tend to be happier, with higher levels of energy and self-control, but they are also more prone to aggression, depression and emotional instability.
  5. (Future oriented):
    These inpiduals score high on statements such as “I complete projects on time by making steady progress,”. While present-orientated people can become easily distracted by things that give immediate gratification, future orientated people consider work and working towards goals a source of pleasure. Delayed gratification means a larger reward tomorrow. Future-orientated people find themselves thinking about what they have yet to do and their goals. These thoughts stimulate the activities and decisions of today. The western business world is a future orientated world. These inpuals tend to have a low tendency towards depression and aggression, high levels of energy, better self-control and motivation and can be more impulsive. 
  6. Transcendentalist
    The Transcendental-future starts when the body dies and continues to infinity. People who score high in this index spend time thinking about pine eternal life, achieving oneness with nature, reincarnation and the end of pain and suffering. There are both benefits and drawbacks to an unbalanced high score in the Transcendental index.

Work towards a better-balanced perspective

Depending on where you and your team fall on the ZPTI index, you might want to make some improvements to move towards a more positive ZPTI profile and perspectives. Here are some of my suggestions to increase the more desirable aspects of your ZPTI profile. You might have your own methods;

Increase your past-positive index:

  • Start a ‘gratitude journal’. At the end of each day think about 3 things that happened that you were grateful for.
  • Put up some photos of past happy times at home and in your office.
  • Think of someone who is important to you who is still alive. Write a 300-word testimonial about them and then read it out to them. This is a hugely powerful exercise and I highly recommend it to everyone. Why wait until someone dies to talk about all the happy memories you share and what you love about them when you can do it right now and bring yourself and a loved one great joy.
  • Organise and get involved in family traditions around birthdays, Christmas and other meaningful anniversaries and milestones.
  • Call an old friend or colleague out of the blue. If you run into an old colleague and have the time, go share a quick catch-up coffee with them or schedule one in.
  • Take a trip down memory lane. Visit your old school, listen to music you loved when you were younger, play a sport you haven’t played in years, eat something you once loved but haven’t had for a while.
  • Start a diary and re-read it occasionally.

Become more present orientated:

  • Book a last-minute holiday, weekend away or road-trip.
  • Practice meditation, yoga, or any other mindfulness practice that resonates with you.
  • Schedule in time to do whatever comes up on the day to increase your impulsiveness.
  • Buy a pet.
  • Get a massage or go to a day-spa.
  • Schedule in time for concerts, shows, theatre.
  • Learn something new.
  • Go out with some fun friends and let your hair down once in a while and maybe even ‘dance like no one is watching’.

Become more future-orientated:

  • Set some goals for tomorrow, next week, next year and chart your progress.
  • Practice mental rehearsal or visualisation.
  • Say no to alcohol and other temptations, especially on ‘school nights’.
  • Start using and sticking to a diary. Make commitments to do things for other people and then write those commitments into your diary.

Knowing where you and your team fall on the ZTPI index provides great insight into perceptions and allows you to implement strategies to work towards improving your ratings to positive perceptions. It takes around an hour to complete and I recommend it as a useful management and self-improvement exercise.

Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.

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