Time to get your head straight on time

Karl Morris argues that our attitude to time past, present and future, defines us

Karl MorrisWhat I would like you to think about for me now, is something you did yesterday that made you either frustrated or upset. Just go there now in your mind’s eye.

Got it?

Good, go back there for a moment and relive that experience, the sights and sounds, the feelings attached to the experience. Sorry to do that as you were probably sat here reading this article feeling alright about things and now….well you feel a bit different.

OK, let’s leave that and I want you to think about something you are really looking forward to doing this weekend. I know that you may well be working in the pro shop but just humour me on this on! Just go out there now to something that makes you feel great about the prospect. Got that too?

Can you see what you will be doing? What will that look like? How will that feel to be doing something you REALLY want to do? Feeling a bit better I assume? Better than a few seconds ago?

And now as you sit here I want you to just notice the feeling of your body in contact with the chair. If you are standing, the feeling of your feet on the floor and as you do that I want you to notice the sensation of the rise and fall of your breath and as you do notice how it feels. How was that?

Welcome to the wonderful world of your ‘time zones’ and your unique human ability to do time travel in your mind. At the start of a wonderful book called ‘Stumbling on Happiness’ esteemed Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert poses the question ‘Human beings are the only creatures that….?’ With the answer being humans are the only creatures who THINK about the future and so by definition if we think about the future we also have the capability to think about the past.

In many ways this is the greatest strength we have as humans, the ability to look into the future and project potential outcomes and be able look to the past to learn key lessons. It is perhaps our greatest asset but for many it is also our deadliest enemy.

Philip Zimbardo the Stanford psychologist, as well as creating the Stanford prison experiment has also written extensively about what he calls ‘The Time Paradox’ and how our relationship with our time zones will determine an awful lot in terms of our happiness and effectiveness in the world. Success is NOT just about being ‘in the now’ as great a skill as that may be, it is not the answer to everything and we do need to be aware of our HABITUAL time zones and how we can take the steps to use these zones even more efficiently.

I am sure you know many people who are seemingly stuck in the past. They are glued to what used to be and can’t seem to take any pleasure from what is going on now in their current experience. Then we have the fantasists, the dreamers who are always in their head talking and dreaming of a bells and whistles future full of success and money.

The current crop of wide eyed celebrity wannabees seen on shows like the X Factor who daydream away their existence in the hope the finger of fame will point their way. Nothing wrong with a dream, I would highly recommend you do have one BUT you must be able to focus and do things today to contribute to your future. If you never leave the future in your mind, you never do what you need to do today to make it happen.

Others who are so zoned out on ‘chilling’ and ‘hanging out’ are completely in the hedonistic experience of the present moment but again as good as this can be it needs to be used and utilised appropriately with a healthy dose of future planning and preparation.

What are YOUR tendencies?

Where do you spend a good deal of your time in terms of your time zones?

Do you have a balance, or do you need to adjust and come out of your habitual default patterns?

One thing for certain I have noticed over the years with many clients is that we ALL tend to have certain zones we favour over others. To take the work of Zimbardo and paraphrase it slightly I have found there are SIX possible time zones and to be really functioning at our best we need to spend a good deal of our time in just THREE of them. This at first will be a conscious choice but in time become more of a consistent HABIT.

The Six Zones

Past Negative – we constantly spend time on the bad things that have happened. After a poor performance we beat ourselves up endlessly, looping over and over in our mind our perceived failures.

Past Positive – we tend to look back and smile at the good things, the good times. The pleasure and the purpose in what we have done.

Present Pleasure – we are just absorbed in what we are doing. We are ‘lost in action’ as we embrace what we are doing here and now just for the sake of the activity itself. We are at one with what we are doing.

Present Boredom – we are definitely here in the moment but we hate it and wish we were somewhere else. Time seems to drag along endlessly.

Future Positive – We have the ability to be energised by what we could possibly do in the future. We create a compelling vision of what could be.

Future Negative – the future seems to be an extension of a miserable past. We can’t seem to summon the mental resources to envisage a future full of hope.

Karl Morris2Clearly the ultimate mix would be a person who could create a consistent mindset with a healthy dose of future positive including a compelling vision to drive them on to future success with an ability to be consistently absorbed in the process of what they are doing now. Allied to the ability to USE the past efficiently, to learn from it, move on from it, but where necessary to be able to re-visit past glories, good memories and experience to enhance current experience.

Nobody is ever going to be perfect with this and of course there are times when it is appropriate to experience some of the negative aspects. The first step to gaining benefit from this concept is to simply become aware of your habitual patterns. Notice which time zone you tend to inhabit the most and then make the CHOICE of continuing to do that or making the decision to spend more time in a potentially more productive zone.