5 main time perspectives

At the heart of every decision we make are the largely unconscious decisions that spring from our subjective psychological sense of time - our time perspective. This arises from the daily flow of our personal experiences, which we automatically view through the lens of our own time perspective. And depending on which lens we wear, our actions - and our expectations of them and reasons for taking or not taking them - will be very different.

1.       Past positive people focus on the “good old days.” They may keep scrapbooks, collect photos, and look forward to celebrating traditional holidays.

2.       Past negative people focus on all the things that went wrong in the past: “it doesn’t matter what I do, my life will never change.”

3.       Present hedonistic people live in the moment – seeking pleasure, novelty, and sensation, and avoiding pain.

4.       Present fatalistic people feel that decisions are moot because predetermined fate plays the guiding role in life: “What will be, will be.”

5.       Future-oriented people plan for the future and trust that their decision will work out.


*biased toward the past

Good and bad things happen to everyone, but not everyone sees the world in the same way or gives equal weight to experiences. Put simply, some of us naturally see the world through rose-colored glasses (past positive), whereas other see the world through a darker lens (past negative). We have found that people who primarily focus on the past value the old more than the new; the familiar over the novel; and the cautions, conservative approach over the daring, more liberal or risky one.


*biased toward the present

People who live in the present are far less—or not at all—influenced by either past experiences or future considerations. They focus only on the immediate present—what’s happening now. They make decisions based on the inner forces and outer pressures in their immediate stimulus situation: internal hormonal signals, feelings, smells, sounds, the attractive qualities of the object of desire, and what others are urging them to do. Remember the old parental question, ‘‘If all of your friends were jumping off a bridge, would you do that too?’’ For people with a bias toward the present, the answer is likely to be ‘‘Yes.”


*biased toward the future

No one is born thinking about how to plan for the future. A number of conditions—including living in a temperate zone (where it’s necessary to anticipate seasonal change), living in a stable family or society, being Protestant or Jewish, and becoming educated—can create future oriented people. In general, future-oriented people do very well. They are less aggressive, are less depressed, have more energy, take care of their health, have good impulse control, and have more self-esteem. But those stuck in the past, locked into negative memories, may have lost the ability to even conceive of a hopeful future and must journey toward this time perspective to create balance.



Note: The information presented above is an  edited excerpt from The Time Cure, Wiley 2012.