There is a Greek proverb that says:
A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.
As the proverb so eloquently suggests, it’s this type of time based philosophy that can make or break a society, as well as an individual’s or family’s personal finances. A failure of this type of forward thinking would, with a bit of imagination, then provide a suitable hypothesis of why many of us struggle with and/or argue about money, as well as, why once mighty global superpowers lost their stature as a dominant player on the geopolitical stage… our individual time perspective.
In the video below, Professor Philip Zimbardo, an award winning social psychologist well known for the “Stanford Prison Experiment” and many others, discusses how the variable of time and the subsets of the time variable (culture, religion, philosophy, geography, etc.) impacts how we humans struggle within our own minds and the world around us when it comes to our individual time perspective.
[RSS & Email subscribers may need to click to site for video]
After listening to the lecture (and very clever time lapse note taking), it’s a little difficult to believe that it’s that simple to identify why we argue and fight over money, or anything else for that matter, and many of our disagreements might be due to our perspective of time.
The idea that each of us prefers to dwell on yesterday, live for today (carpe diem!), or constantly sacrifice for a better tomorrow, can have such a profound influence on our behavior, is rather mind blowing, yet sounds like an ingeniously simple solution to many of everyday conflicts of interest.
If you didn’t catch the six different time perspective personality types, here is a very brief description:
As you have probably figured out already, if you are too focused upon one time perspective type more than the others, you can do quite a bit of harm, not to mention positively or negatively influence those around you.
In fact, you’ve probably heard phrases like “you can’t live solely for your career or you’ll be miserable” or “you can’t live in the past or you’ll never have a future” countless times in everyday conversation. Which would suggest we have some concept of healthy doses of time perspectives, and the consequences of existing solely in just one of the six types. However, I doubt that many of us have had the insight to put such an academic spin or an ability to classify time perspectives so easily as the way Professor Zimbardo describes in his lecture.
Knowing the type of person you are and knowing the type of events/goals you tend to focus upon, and now having the concept of time perspectives spelled out in such an obvious manner, which time perspective personality type are you?
One? Two? A diversified mix of all of the above?
If you have a better half, is he/she just like you and do you constantly see eye-to-eye on the subject of money? Or are you different time perspective types, and one of you has emerged as the dominant money manager and the other is simply along for the ride.
If you’re complete opposites, would you estimate that your differences of opinion are based upon, for example, one partner constantly looking ahead to the future while one is only concerned with living it up in the here and now? Doesn’t this sound vaguely like the tensions encountered between savers versus spenders?
As for me, I’m probably 50% Future Life Goal type (probably much more in my mid 20s) with a mix of Present Hedonist and Past Negative. I firmly believe that your mistakes make you who you are, but also, it’s necessary to have a sufficient set of goals to accomplish what you want in life while taking a few moments to enjoy what you’ve accomplished.
So perhaps our friend Ferris Bueller really did have it right…
Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while… you could miss it.
Definitely a good philosophy to follow.