Christian Long

Philip Zimbardo: A Healthy Take on Time

In TED Talks on April 25, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Reflection by DERON M.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Philip Zimbardo: A Healthy Take on Time

How do you look at time? Do you live in the past? Do you live in the present? Or maybe constantly plan for the future? Or possibly some random combination of the three?

Zambardo states that there are six time perspectives that influence every decision we make.

There are two outlooks on the past: positive and negative. The same goes for the present. There is present hedonism which focuses on the joys of life and past fatalism that revolves around the negative aspects that are affecting you at the moment. The last two categories of time perspective are future goal-oriented and transcendental (the focus on life after death).

So what does all of this mean? What is the ideal combination of time perspectives to lead a happy and productive life?

According to Philip Zambardo, you need to have a combination of past positive, present hedonism, and future goal-oriented. Of course, as with any good thing, too much can be very harmful. If you focus on the past, positive or negative, you forget to live in the present. The same goes for the future. If all you do is plan for the future and never live in the present, that “future” will never come. If you live in the present all the time, you forget to relish the past or plan for the future.

The tough part is juggling all of these time perspectives at once. Just from my personal experiences in high school, juggling the past, present, and future can be very, very difficult. You want to savor the successes you’ve had in past years, enjoy “the best four years of your life”, and have the constant pressure of getting into college. The problem is that very few people actually can juggle all three positive time perspectives. There are kids who still live off the glory of little league baseball, those who go out and party every other night, and those who have done nothing but study for four hours a night since kindergarten.

All of this is without even taking into consideration the other three negative time perspectives. Add too much of one of the three positives with even just a little of a negative and you can get a very bad combination.

To put it bluntly: You just won’t ever be happy.

Juggling time outlooks on top of everyday life can be very stressful. Trust me; it’s not easy to stay positive and upbeat all the time. There will be bad days and days where you feel like a present fatalist or past negative person. Sometimes there will be entire weeks when you feel like that. Just smile and think about the positives in the past, present, and future and everything will be just fine.

Zambardo also brought up great uses for the proper time perspective. Curbing high school dropout rates, curing war veterans Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), finding ways to get through to suicidal terrorists, and solving the issues of physical rehabilitation dropouts are all major problems that Zambardo believes can be solved through having the proper time perspective. Of course, these are all best case scenarios for using positive time perspective. The real effectiveness has yet to be determined. But to even think that problems that are currently plaguing the world can be solved just by altering a person’s outlook on time in their lives is a really interesting concept.

Time perspective is a simple concept, yet it is so hard to fully grasp. The root of all of the positive time perspectives is to just smile and look positively upon your life. If you can do that, it will be easier to handle potential problems and avoid becoming a present fatalist or past negative person. You will be happier and be able to enjoy life that much more. Stay smiling and stay positive!

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