I have recently explored how different people have different ways of filtering information based on their preferences. Similarly, people have a tendency to be oriented to certain time perceptions. In fact, there are several time categories that everyone falls into, according to Philip Zimbardo in his book The Time Paradox. Zimbaro illustrates how our perception of time can affect our physical and mental health, our ability to socialise, our ability to achieve and contribute and our capacity for happiness.
Wow, that’s a lot. Time is one of the most powerful influences on our thoughts, feelings, and actions, yet we are usually totally unaware of the effect of time in our lives. If you are wondering what your perception of time is you can complete his Time Perspective Inventory test, which measures the differences in a person’s time-orientation and their tendency to focus on different aspects of the time: past, present, and future. People fall into one of xx categories depending on their test results;
1. Past oriented – Past-negative
These people 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 have a tendency to ruminate and talk about past events in a negative light. These people tend to be more anxious, aggressive, less naturally positive and motivated and possibly more mentally unstable.
2. Past oriented – Past-positive
On the other hand, you have the positive reminiscers. these individuals tend to dwell on more positive events in the past, making them past oriented 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 – Present-fatalism
These are the fatalists among us. They believe that life happens to them and is controlled by forces greater than them. They believe that they have very little control over their life’s path and as such, are not as motivated to change their life circumstances if things aren’t working out. Like past negative people, these individuals are generally more anxious and aggressive, have lower levels of self-esteem and tend to be less motivated at work and exercise.
4. Present oriented – Present-hedonism
These people are the go-getters amongst us and tend to have an abundance of positive energy. “Live life to the max” is their motto. They avoid things that cause pain and seek out things that create pleasure and immediate self-gratification. 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 individuals 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 which drive their present actions. These people tend to have a low tendency towards depression and aggression, high levels of energy, better self-control and motivation and can be also be more impulsive.
Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle fall into this category. Transcendental-future starts when the body dies and continues to infinity. People who score high in this index spend time thinking about divine eternal life, achieving oneness with nature, reincarnation and the end of pain and suffering. Wise souls indeed.
The online test is about 55 questions long but at the end you are placed into one of these categories. It is just another useful tool for people to have up their sleeves to reflect on themselves and their natural tendencies. It will help shine a light on how they might try to fgo against this tendency and focus more on things through the perspective of other time orientations. For managers, having a good understanding of where you and the individuals in your team fall within the index provides a good framework to collectively and individually work towards improving your ratings to more positive perceptions.
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.