Time Perspective: how is it affecting you?

How do you usually make a decision? Do you consider experience with a similar situation in the past? Do you think of future consequences, or just focus on the present moment?

Your response can tell a lot about you and your particular time perspective.

Famous psychologist Philip Zimbardo discusses the Psychology of Time in his book The Time Paradox (co authored with John Boyd). Their extensive research revealed three main categories of time orientation that play an important role in the quality of your life, relationships and profession.

Time perspective can affect the way we feel, think and act in different situations, without even realizing it. It is a deeply rooted unconscious process, that is not always beneficial or healthy. The good news is that once we become aware of our time perspective, we can begin to change it. Unlike temperament, time perspective is not inborn, but something we develop throughout life. If we make a conscious attempt to change our individual attitude towards time, we can shift our time perspective to achieve balance.

Whenever we make a decision, we are basing it on some mental baseline. This mental baseline varies among people.


Some tend to recall events from their past: when has that happened before, what did I do, how did it work out, what did my parents/teachers told me about that? These are Past-oriented people. Typically, they are having a hard time letting go of the past. They cherish memories and memorabilia. They hold on to old pictures, diaries, grade-books, a first date movie ticket and so on. They are often family people and nationalists, who value their roots and history.


Others focus on the immediate situation and stimulation: I like this, I feel like it and I’m going for it; the time is now. These are Present-oriented people, who follow their impulses, live for the moment and don’t spend much time thinking about the past, or the future. They rarely plan ahead, rarely worry about the future and don’t obsess about the past.


Yet others think primarily of their long-term goals, plans and expectations before making a decision: what will the consequences be, is this going to help me achieve my goals? These are Future-oriented people. Typically, they are ambitious and like to plan ahead. Goals are very important to them and they can resist temptations and ignore distractions that get in their way to success.

Take the test

You can take the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory to find out more about your own time perspective and join me again when we discuss the specific Time Perspective Personality Types.

Image: Toni Verdu Carbo

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