I recently watched Dr. Philip Zimbardo‘s (for more info, visit his Wikipedia page) video on TED.com about time perspective. According to Dr. Zimbardo, the academic definition of “time perspective” is:
the study of how individuals divide the flow of human experiences into time frames or time zones automatically and non-consciously.
There are 3 main categories of time perspective: past (decisions made based on past experiences), present (decisions are made to satisfy need/want now), future (cost-benefit analysis to make decisions today in anticipation of future benefits).
To illustrate the concept, Dr. Zimbardo used a famous study, where the experimenter told a 4-year old that he/she can have the marshemoellow in front on him/her now, or if he/she waited for 5-10 minutes, he/she would have two. 2/3 of the children opted to eat the marshemoellow now, while 1/3 decided to wait.
The 2/3 would be defined as “present time perspective”, because they decided to satisfy their wants/needs now. The 1/3 who waites are defined as “future time perspective”, because they decided to “delay gratification” for future “success”.
How can “time perspective” help you succeed?
The key to success is to exhibit a balance between past, present, and future time perspectives. Ideally, we would rely on positive past experiences, the energy and opportunities of the present, and tomorrow’s goals to help make the decision that propel us toward success.
It is crucial to understand your time perspective, because, as the definition above states, it will non-consciously affect the decisions you make today. In your next thinking time, take a few minutes to evaluate how your time perspectives affect your decisions.
Even if your profile of time perspective does not favor success, consciously, you can train yourself to make decisions based on a time perspective that will help you reach your future goals.