The Time Paradox

the-time-paradox

The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life

by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd

This book is about time perspective.  The authors say that time-balanced people are “more successful in work and career and happier in relationships with family and friends… [and] live more fully in the here and now. Such a person is able to tie the past and the future to the present in meaningful continuity.”

The authors identify multiple dimensions of time perspective:

  • Past-negative
  • Past-positive
  • Present-fatalistic
  • Present-hedonistic
  • Future

“Future orientation is a prerequisite for membership in the middle class. Ambition and need for achievement drive a future orientation that focuses on work, savings, and planning for a continually better life through one’s efforts…  Less educated people are more likely to live in the present…  If you suffer recurrent depression, you may have a past-negative time perspective … Your negative past focus makes you vulnerable to depressive rumination cycles.”

You can take a free online test to determine your score on each dimension.  The authors believe the optimal time perspective profile is:

  • High in past-positive time perspective
  • Moderately high in future time perspective
  • Moderately high in present-hedonistic time perspective
  • Low in past-negative time perspective
  • Low in present-fatalistic time perspective

So what is the paradox? On page xiv, the authors explain: “The first time paradox arises from our assertion that time perspective is one of the most powerful influences on our decisions, yet we are typically unaware of its role. The second paradox is that some of these specific time perspective categories have many good features, but when one category is too heavily favored, its negatives will undercut its virtues.”  I’m not sure that either of those things is self-contradictory, which is the definition of paradox.

I have to confess, after reading the first 100 pages I began to lose interest and skip around.  The book is 368 pages. I think the authors could have made their point more succinctly. Maybe they lost track of time.

Order from Amazon

Zimbardo, Philip G., and John Boyd. The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life. New York: Free Press, 2009. Buy from Amazon.com

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