Time: Living in the past, the present and the future
In a famous experiment, researchers at Stanford University studied 4 year olds to find out which ones were able to delay gratification for a future reward. They presented the children with a marshmallow, and told them that if they were to wait for a few minutes, they would get another one if they hadn’t eaten the one they already had.
The study showed there were some children who were able to wait, and others who ate the marshmallow straight away. Researchers then revisited the children 14 years later and found that those who were able to delay their gratification to get another marshmallow scored much higher in the SAT results and were overall better students.
This showed a clear divide between present focused and future focused people. The realization that your time perspective has an influence on your life can be a great source of power and control in your life.
This article will focus on the different characteristics that are displayed by Past, Present, and Future oriented people.
Past Oriented People
People who use their past experiences as the main resource to making decisions come in two categories.
Past Positive and Past Negative
Past Positive people as you may have guessed focus on the moments in their past that resulted in positive and happy experiences and they focus on replicating them.
Past Negative people focus on the events that caused them hurt and negative consequences, and their main aim is to avoid these situations happening again.
Present Oriented People
These people also come in two different groups:
Present Hedonists and Present Fatalists.
Present Hedonists focus on the joys of life, having fun in the moment and enjoying their surroundings, without much or any consideration for the future or thoughts of the past.
Present Fatalists believe that the future is predetermined and they have a strong belief in fate.
Future Oriented People
Future oriented people come in two different categories:
Future Life Goal Oriented and Future Transcendental Oriented.
Future Life Goal people focus on achieving their goals and living their dreams. They are primarily focused on building their future and they make sacrifices in the present to do so.
Future Transcendental Oriented people believe that life begins after death. They are similar to present fatalists in thinking that any action taken is irrelevant.
The skill is to be able to realize the different ways of looking at life and to create a fluid ability which allows you to shift your perspectives.
These people make sacrifices such as:
- Family, friend and fun time
- Physical health
What is the ideal Time Perspective?
Research has shown that the happiest people are those who have a great balance of the following time perspectives:
- The people who fall into this category are more grounded, connected to their identity and their families.
Future Life Goal Oriented
- The people in this category are more motivated in achieving their goals and are not hindered by past experiences or too much fear and anxiety about what might be in the future.
- Present hedonists use the present as a source of fun. They have the energy to explore people, places, the self and sensuality. These all bring more enjoyment into your life and work hand in hand with the other time perspectives to create the optimal mix.
Many of life’s problems can be solved by understanding your time perspective and that of others. When you gain a better understanding of the way you perceive time that has passed, time that has not yet come, and the present moment, you gain a better understanding of yourself and others around you.
Below is an incredible TED Talk on this subject