The Secret Power of Time

Reading maketh a full man, conference a ready man, and writing an exact man.
Sir Francis Bacon - English author, courtier, philosopher (1561 - 1626)

I recently watched this brilliant presentation about different perspectives on time, called The Secret Power of Time. In it, Phillip Zimbardo talks about his research about how different cultures perceive time.

One finding is that societies are defined by how they understand and see time. In countries that have a predominant Protestant population, people tend to be future oriented because of the belief that hard work has its rewards in heaven. They tend to make more money and save for the future. In Catholic countries, people tend to be past or present oriented, so they look back and live today, believing that their fate is predestined.

The most interesting finding for me is that in a poll of Americans, 60 percent of people said they are busier than ever. Busy in the pursuit of success - at the cost of time with family, friends, and even sleep. Asked what they would do with an eighth day every week, most said they would use it to become more successful - they would do one more day of work!

I'm staggered by the conclusions of this study, but I have to admit that I fall into those habits sometimes. I have to convince myself sometimes that it’s okay to sit on the couch and read a book. There are a million other things I could or “should” do, but that's what I want to do and it feels good. So I occasionally allow myself that "lazy" pleasure.

Not so long ago - okay, a hundred years or so ago, it was considered "improving" to read, just to add to your own knowledge. But it seems now that self-improvement isn't enough. Our society and the nagging voices in our heads say, “What are you producing? Who are you helping while you do that?”

Is simply "being" enough?

It makes me think about how we define success. In our culture, it's material success, money, the way things look, being at a certain level of wealth by a certain age, job titles, cars, homes, kids' educations, and on and on.

You can take back your power and allow yourself to define what success means to you. It might mean something different from what your parents defined or what your neighbors are doing. Your superpowers lie in living out your dreams and ambitions, whatever they are.

The ultimate power comes with answering the question: what does it mean to practice being you? You might need to sit on the couch for a day to figure it out…