The Time Paradox Book Summary

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Just as fish may be unaware of theexistence of the water in which they swim, most of us are unaware of theceaselessly flowing time in which we live.

How you spend today ultimately determines both your past and future.

A financial planner helps to determine your investment strategy based upon yourpersonal investment goals. If only there were such a person to call upon forinvesting time! Asking: What do you want out of life? How can you make yourtime matter? What is the right use of your time?

90% of the students that were late (told to rush across campus) didn’t stop tohelp a homeless person, even though they were being tested on compassion. Theywere in a future-oriented mindset.

Future-oriented people tend to be more successful professionally andacademically, to eat well, to exercise regularly, and to schedule preventativedoctor’s exams. But they are the least likely to help others in need.

Present-oriented people tend to be willing to help others, but appear lesswilling or able to help themselves. They’re more likely to engage in riskysexual behavior, to gamble, to use drugs and alcohol than future-orientedpeople are. They are also less likely to exercise, eat well, and engage inpreventative health such as flossing and getting regular exams. They are theleast likely to be successful.

Psychoanalysis stresses the importance of the past. Existential psychotherapystresses the importance of the present. Humanistic psychotherapy stresses theimportance of the future.

In a typical day, you make hundreds of decisions: What to wear, what to eat,what to do with your free time, with whom to associate, and whom to avoid. Onany given day, these decisions appear trivial, even inconsequential. Taken as awhole, they define who you were, who you are, and who you will become.

Death is the end of a lifetime. Denial of death is a denial that time will end.If you deny that time ends, you are likely to treat time much differently thanyou would if you felt time to be scarce and of limited duration. If you imagineyour life as infinite, you are unlikely to value time as more precious thangold and more likely to treat it as ordinary grains of sand on a beach.Ironically, denying death relieves anxiety and psychological stress, but it mayalso lead you to devalue life, so you may live less fully.

When faced with routine decisions, people conserve their thought cycles andrely instead on mental heuristics – simple, practical rules of thumb that welearn through trial and error. We save our judgement and decision-making skillsfor thinking about the novel, unpredictable, and dangerous forces in our lives:for predicting the future.

“No man who is correctly informed as to the past will be disposed to takea morose or desponding view of the present.” – Thomas Babington Macaulay

• Past-negative
• Past-positive
• Present-fatalistic
• Present-hedonistic
• Future
• Transcendental-future

Take the tests at http://www.thetimeparadox.com to find your type.

Another present-oriented time zone can be called the Holistic Present. Itinvolves training to live one’s life in the present moment and to include pastand future in an expanded state of focus on the present.

The Crypt of the Capuchin Monks: “What you are, they once were. What theyare, you will be.”

Live meaningfully and fully the lives we are living right now.

Robert Levine measured the pace of life in 36 American cities by recordingwalking speed, bank teller speed, talking speed, and the frequency that watchesare worn. Boston, NYC and other Northeast cities are the fastest cities inAmerica. Southern and Western are the slowest. Los Angeles is the slowest ofall. Cities with the fastest pace of life were the least helpful (GoodSamaritan research). Los Angeles was unique for being slowest and leasthelpful.


Your ability to cast your time consciously in a positive light is a goodindicator of psychological and emotional health.

You can reinterpret and rewrite your personal past, which can give you agreater sense of control over the future.

How we think and feel today influences how we remember yesterday. 

After being shown an ad talking about the wonders of Disneyland, includingshaking hands with Bugs Bunny, people were asked about their own memories ofvisiting Disneyland. 16 percent vividly remembered shaking hands with BugsBunny, even though there’s no Bugs Bunny at Disneyland. (His a Warner Brotherscharacter.)

It’s not the events of the past that most strongly influence our lives. Ourattitude toward events in the past matter more than the events themselves.

WHO WAS I? Answer 20 times (forcing into creativity)
I was _______________
I was _______________

List 3 significant events that have occurred in your life:
1. __________
2. __________
3. __________

What positive messages can be taken from these events?
1. __________
2. __________
3. __________

How can these lessons improve your future?
1. __________
2. __________
3. __________

Complete a Gratitude List each day for two weeks. At the end of each day, simplywrite a list of things for which you were grateful that day.

“To be able to enjoy one’s past is to live twice.” – Martial (1stcentury Roman poet)

If the people in a culture that uses the past to evaluate current situationsshare a past trauma, they are likely to want revenge.
To the extent that people share positive views of the past, they seek tomaintain the status quo culturally and politically.
In a global economy, nations that live in the past will be left behind.

Those with most involvement with their families are highly past-positive.


Our lives start with a natural focus on the present, but some people continueto focus on present biological stimulation into adulthood, responding only toevents happening in their immediate physical and social environment.

Some present information is needed to enjoy life. Too much present orientationcan rob life of happiness.

People in volatile economies do not invest. Political and economic instabilityalso causes instability within families and causes people to trust only whatthey can hold in their hands. The development of a future orientation requiresstability and consistency in the present.

Less educated people are more likely to live in the present. Societies thatoffer less opportunity for education are likely to have more citizens whosefocus is limited to the present.

When women’s educational level advances, their children and social class alsoadvance.

Ambition and a need for achievement drive a future orientation that focuses onwork, savings, and planning for a continually better life through one’sefforts.

Present-oriented top athletes or rock stars also worked hard for their money,but many also retained a present perspective that biases them toward addictivebehaviors.

Robert Levine fascinating book: A Geography of Time

Hedonistic people enjoy all things that yield pleasure and avoid things thatcause pain. Beyond passive enjoyment, hedonists actively seek pleasure. Theyarrange their choices in life around activities and relationships that arepleasurable, arousing, stimulating, exciting, and novel. They focus onimmediate gratification, self-stimulation, and short-term payoffs. Such peopleavoid people and situations that are tedious, that require high effort andmaintenance, or that are regularized or boring. They are playful and impulsiveat all ages, undertaking play and pleasant leisure activities for theirintrinsic worth and continuing them as long as they do not become boring.

On the negative side, they are likely to have undercontrolled egos, to preferinconsistency in their lives, to have weak impulse control, and to be lessconscientious and emotionally stable than others. On the positive side, theymake good friends, lovers, and party guests. They enjoy other people as asource of stimulation, as long as the others are not boring.

(Phil Z tripping:) The sensual sensations occurred only when his time sense wasexpanded.

The present perspective has both good and bad effects, though the goodgenerally offset the bad. Hedonists live active high-intensity lives, filledwith as much excitement, novelty, and spontaneity as possible. They engage indiverse activities, sports, and hobbies. They learn early to make friends andlovers easily and frequently, and are apt to fill their lives with people whomthey find stimulating and with possessions they can show off. If they haveenough money, they take great joy in living, appreciating nature, animals, andpeople around them. People like to be with them because, like children, theyhave an open-eyed readiness to connect and an intensity that comes from beingtotally in the moment. The demands of the to-do list never dilute theirhere-and-now. They generally do not make lists, and when they do, forget tocheck them.

Sensuality is central. They are always open to sensory input, taking time tosmell the proverbial roses and to touch.

Future-oriented folks can also become totally absorbed in their work: get intothe flow.
Characteristics of FLOW:
• Clear goals
• Concentrating and focusing
• Loss of self-consciousness
• Distorted sense of time
• Balance between ability level and challenge (not too easy or too hard)
• Personal control over the situation or activity
• The activity is intrinsically rewarding, so there’s an effortlessness ofaction

Flow is involvement in the process of whatever you are doing. When in flow, youare not focused on the product of the process in which you are engaged. When weare concerned about the product, we worry about how it will be judged, evaluated,accepted, and rejected.

Painting: Half the group was told they would be judged, half told to focus onprocess. Present hedonists painting in the process condition were mostcreative. Futures painting in the product condition produced paintings with themost technical merit.

Immediate large rewards that result in large delayed punishments and overallnet loss: has the effect like reverse binoculars, making the future small andremote, not allowing it to affect current decisions and actions.

Programs like DARE focus on aversive future consequences that work forfuture-oriented people but not for present-oriented: the target audience. Theyfocus on personal willpower, which fails to recognize powerful situational andsocial forces in the present behavioral context that influence Hedonists andFatalists more than they do others.

WHO AM I? Answer 20 times
I am _____
I am _____
When am I ____
When am I ____
Where am I ____
Where am I ____
How do I feel ______
How do I feel ______

What happens when many people in any society live in the present? They are alllate! They are never on time!


Ratomir Dujkovic brought to the present-oriented Ghana team a Balkan disciplinethat featured a highly focused future time perspective and insistence on discipline.Instilled discipline, toughness, goal-scoring and puntuality most important.High expectations of future success. When they combined their present-orientedcreativity with their newfound future desire to win, they came in eighth-finalsfor World Cup, only losing to Brazil (2006).

The mantra of a Future is “meet tomorrow’s deadline, complete all thenecessary work before tonight’s play”. Futures consider work a source ofspecial pleasure. Tomorrow’s anticipated gains and losses fuel today’s decisionsand actions.

Unlike their Hedonistic peers who live in their bodies, the Futures live intheir minds, envisioning other selves, scenarios, rewards, and successes.

The soccer team’s belief in its own strength and high level of performance:they believed that they could influence the future by working hard in thepresent.

When you want to achieve something and you believe that you can, you workharder.

Environment that creates Future-oriented people:
• living in a temperate zone
• living in a stable family
• being Protestant or Jewish
• becoming educated
• being a young or middle-aged adult
• having a job
• using technology regularly
• being successful
• having future-oriented role models
• recovering from childhood illness

Preparing for seasonal change involves planning, so people become used toanticipating worse weather in winter and summer. Living in a mildly tropicalclimate is being in paradise with an extended lease.

Early repeated failure breeds a sense of helplessness and makes you shun thatarea of performance where you failed.

Learning that a hero became successful through hard work, effort, practice, andself-denial in order to pursue a dream inspires emulation of that person.

MAZE: When challenged to solve puzzles as quickly as they could, the Presentsand Futures responded very differently. The Presents started immediately fromthe start, moving their pencils through the maze. The Futures did not move atall at first, looking for the goal, then working backwards to the starting point,checking out dead ends en route. The Futures always won.

People discontinue physical rehabilitation because it hurts more to do theregimen than to quit it. Futures endure the pain for the short term because ofthe long-term gain it provides.

Futures are competitive when negotiating deals or arguing.

Tragedy of the commons: the selfish prevail over the farsighted becauseshorter-term individual yields would be greater than the communal, longer-termgain. The common good is not a moral matter but a time-perspective matter.

WHO WILL I BE? Answer 15 times:
I will be _____
I will be _____

Concrete future goal: __________ Completed by: _____
Concrete future goal: __________ Completed by: _____

Mentally rehearse reaching goals. Focus on the outcome. Rehearse the individualsteps, step-by-step.


Because there is no possibility of contradictory evidence, belief in thetranscendental future may be especially resistant to change.

“In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the 7th generation,even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.” -Iroquois Indian saying.

We will win the war on terror not by destroying our enemy’s future but bynurturing it. The motivational power of the mundane future must be restored ifmundane future goals are to compete with transcendental-future goals. Only bybuilding a mundane future full of hope, optimism, respect, health, andprosperity can the motivational power of the transcendental future be balanced.

Doing so requires replacing past-negatives and present-fatalistic timeperspectives with past-positive and present-hedonistic ones. We have to respectpeople for their pasts and allow them to enjoy the present. Provide adequateresources and opportunities to those who lack them: food, shelter, money,education, employment, recreation, relaxation, and community celebration.Instill a sense of personal responsibility for seizing a desirable opportunity.Individual initiative must be encouraged and rewarded. Supplementing transcendental-futuretime perspectives with more practical future time perspectives. (Expectingpeople to change their transcendental-future beliefs is insulting andexacerbates conflict.) Offer hope, opportunity, and fulfillment in the futureon the way to the Promised Land. The development of a future time perspectiverequires stable political, economic, and family conditions. People must believethat their actions today will lead to predictable and desirable rewards in thefuture.


Circadian rhythm comes from Latin “circa” (around) “dies”(day) : means “about a day”.

Car accidents increase by 10% the day after clocks are set forward in thespring, and decrease by a smaller amount the day after clocks are set back inthe fall.

Dangerous events often restrict time perspective to the present. Under acutestress, refugees narrowed their view to a highly focused present.

Fear and excitement heighten our present awareness, sharpen our instincts, andhelp us survive.

Emotions deal with the present. Thinking prepares for the future.

Depressed people look not to the future but to the past to relieve theirdepression. They feel that rehashing and rehearsing the causes of theirsymptoms will somehow help to solve their problems. This quickly deterioratesinto a vicious downward spiral that exacerbates the severity and length ofdepression.

An obsessive focus on the past makes people less able to think about thefuture. Maintaining past-negative attitudes by thinking and talking about themrepeatedly is not a good strategy. Put the past to rest and build on it thevision of a better future.

Women on Dr. Phil’s show: had never consciously chosen to be fat, but then hadchosen what they ate from a purely present-oriented perspective, without regardfor consequences.


The ability to delay gratification at age 4 is twice as good a predictor oflater SAT scores as IQ.

Your chronological time – time passed since birth – is as relevant as yoursense of the time remaining until your death.

Anything that constrains our sense of an unlimited future shifts ourmotivations and priorities away from future goals and toward present emotionalsatisfaction. A limited future encourages us to make choices that enhance ourpositive emotional state rather than, for instance, to pursue an education orother future-oriented activity. Because older people anticipate a limitedfuture, they are more apt to do what feels good – from speaking their minds totravelling to making dramatic changes in their lives. The same may be said foranyone who is in a situation that portends an uncertain future or clearlydefined end, such as having a terminal disease or losing a job.

We regulate our emotions to try to maintain a sense of overall well-being. Whenyou imagine that you have a lot of time left, you use it to learn more aboutthe world, meet new people, and experience novelty. When a life’s time isshort, its goals become more short-term. Those who anticipate a long-termfuture say “more is better” and look to spend time with a lot ofdifferent people and new acquaintances. Those who anticipate a short future is”quality not quantity”, and they choose to spend quality time withfewer people.

Men who have not established a convoy of buddies (a reliable group of friends)by early adulthood may never do so, and may go through life with few or noclose friends.

Seek knowledge about yourself and your world. Look for help doing so from arange of experts and variety of acquaintances.

Learning to control impulses and make better choices is inextricably connectedwith being aware of one’s internal states and with managing feelings ratherthan acting them out. Emotions rather than reason tend to drive the behavior ofpeople who have poor impulse control. Impulsivity is the hallmark ofpresent-hedonistic adolescents, but many carry it over into adulthood.

Thrill wins over will.

We sometimes delude ourselves that we proceed in a rational manner and weighall of the pros and cons of various alternatives. But this is seldom the actualcase. Quite often “I decided in favor of X” is no more than “I liked X”. We buythe cars we like, choose the jobs and houses we find attractive, then justifythese choices by various reason.

If we always chose the consequences of our actions when we chose those actions,none of us would be fat, drink, smoke, or fail examinations by not studying.Future-oriented people believe that when you choose a behavior, you choose itsfuture consequences. But sometimes you do not choose a behavior. Sometimes abehavior chooses you based upon the environment in which you find yourself.

Queen Elizabeth said she’d “trade all my possessions for a moment oftime”. There were no takers.

Pasts are more interested in preserving money. Present Fatalists treat money asthough it doesn’t matter. Hedonists use their money to create fun andexcitement. Futures feel time and money denote possibilities for the future.


Couples with mismatched time perspectives will be prone to miscommunication andmisunderstanding.

How do you bridge the gap in the languages of time? You start with the present.The present is the bridge from the past to the future. The present is themeeting place for good as well as difficult times. When two people are arguing,they can be tempted to leave the bridge of the present and become lost in thefog of the past or imagined future, losing their connection.

By always looking through the present to the next goal, you likely do not fullyappreciate the present.

Buddhist student worked for years to see the master. Ascended to a mountaintopand waited for days. The master finally acknowledged the student by asking,”At the beginning of the trail that leads to this mountaintop, there is asign on one side of the trail. On which side is it?” Mindfulness mattersmore than abstract knowledge.

“Success is a peace of mind which is a direct result of self-satisfactionin knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable ofbecoming.” – John Wooden

Identify the things in your life that make you happy, and do more of them.
Identify the things in your life that make you unhappy, and do less of them.

By being mindful, you may be able to detect the influence of your environmentwith you want to be rid of it.


(Enron:) Greed dissolved future orientation and replaced it with a presentorientation that excluded the prospect of getting caught.

Great leaders are able to become completely engrossed in the present and toharness the passion they generate in the service of future goals. They have aunique ability to be fully in the moment and to make an audience feel that theyare the exclusive focus of their attention. Then they use the energy theygenerate by their present focus to create a compelling vision of the future.

The unexpected occurs when the future doesn’t turn out the way you thought itwould. The unexpected can signal unexpected success or unexpected failure. Bothhave their virtues.

When the unexpected chance event happens, it is more likely thatfuture-oriented people will understand what it means and how to capitalize onit, because they have already invested in education and have learned to focuson contingencies and causal thinking. They can quickly go from “aha”to “so that’s it!” because they are prepared to take the new and putit in familiar old molds or create new ones that fit better.

Future goals can help us avoid the urgent-new trap. Once we’ve determinedwhether we want fame, fortune, happiness, excitement, quiet, comfort, some, orall of the above, then we can decide how to best spend our time achieving them.

People are generally risk-averse in the domain of gains. This means that peopleavoid risk after having secured a sure gain.

Students: Ill-defined and unrealistic goals (brain surgeon, rock star, NBAsuperstar) were replaced with specific well-defined goals that they couldreasonably meet.

When a person does not have a concept of the future or believes there is nofuture for him, the future cannot be taken from him.


“To achieve great things, two things are needed: a plan, and not quiteenough time.” – Leonard Bernstein

The optimal time perspective profile is:
– high in past-positive
– moderately high in future
– moderately high in present-hedonistic
– low in past-negative
– low in present-fatalistic

Choose the time perspective most appropriate for each situation. Open your eyesto the full range of human experience. Depending on the demands of a situation,one time perspective must take precedence, while others may temporarily recede.When you have work to finish, the future time perspective comes to theforefront. When your work is done, and it’s time for pleasure, thepresent-hedonistic time perspective will surface. During the holidays, thepast-positive time perspective is most appropriate for preparing you to enjoyfamily customs.

Self actualizing person: Tie the past and the future to the present inmeaningful continuity. Not burdened by guilts, regrets, and resentments.Aspirations are tied meaningfully to present working goals. Faith in the futurewithout rigid or over-idealistic goals.


The Golden Rule of time: Use your time as you would like others to use theirs.

Past-oriented people:
1- They are generally more concerned with their past and seem to be able todistance themselves from the realities of the present or the future.
2- They usually tend to be traditional, religious, and conservative.
3- They have a stable sense of self.
4- They usually tend to be family- and group-oriented and are distrustful ofstrangers; thus they may have a tendency to be prejudiced.
5- They usually focus on their obligations and commitments whether personal orcollective (i.e. family, cultural, or tribal obligations).
6- Rituals and myths play important roles in their lives.
7- They may have guilt as a dominant feeling.
8- They usually try to maintain the status quo and thus may not be progressive.
9- They usually do not take risks and are not adventurous.
10- Within their group, they usually tend to be dependent and cooperativerather than competitive.

Present-oriented people:
1- They tend to focus on the present and their current sensations, feelings,and concerns while ignoring commitments made in the past or for the future;thus they are more concerned with “what is” than “what was”or “what may be”.
2- Their thinking is more concrete rather than abstract (i.e. one hundreddollar right now is much better than two hundred dollars in the future).
3- It is difficult for them to give up temptations or delay gratification andthus they are easily distracted from the performance of necessary current tasksand tend to be procrastinators.
4- They tend to concentrate on activities that bring pleasure and avoid pain.
5- Their knowledge or insight may not deter them from performing actions thatmay not be beneficial to them.
6- They are usually more sensation and novelty seekers, more aggressive, moredepressed, less conscientious, and less emotionally stable. They have lessconcern for future consequences, less ego and impulse control, and lesspreference for consistency. They also tend to lie.
7- Usually people who are poor or uneducated tend to be present-oriented sincethey usually tend to focus on emergent needs of the present.
8- Since they are not good in abstract thinking, are more concerned withimmediate gratification, and less concerned about the future, they usually tendto get low grades in school.
9- Because they are immediate pleasure seekers, they usually don’t pay goodattention to their health and can additionally abuse substances.
10- They are usually considered to be fun people to be around.

Future-oriented people:
1- They are more focused on their future than the present or the past; theirthoughts are concerned with the future consequences of their present actions;they logically analyze various outcomes that may result from their action.
2- They are goal-oriented and can delay gratification and endure an unpleasantsituation in order to achieve long-term goals. They pay attention toresponsibility, liability, efficiency, distant payoffs, and tend to optimizefuture outcomes. Thus they can work hard and avoid temptations, distractions,waste of time to accomplish a goal. They usually tend to rehearse variousfuture plans.
3- Since they are concerned about the future, they tend to save their money andresources.
4- They could be either cooperative or competitive depending on which actionresults in the best outcome.
5- They tend to be health-conscious in order to prevent future negative healthoutcomes.
6- They may be unable to enjoy fun activities due to the fear of wasting time.
7- They may have difficulty in intimate relationships since they thrive oncontrol, predictability, and consistency, factors that may interfere with thefreedom and spontaneity of relationships.
8- Although they usually have low anxiety levels, concern for the future mayincrease their anxiety. They usually tend to be workaholic, and have midlifecrises.
9- They tend to be more conscientious, less aggressive, less depressed, morereward-dependent, less sensation seeker, more studious, more creative, and useless addictive drugs and alcohol.
10- They tend to have more self-esteem, energy, openness, ego-control, andgrade-point average.

Time paradoxes:
Four main paradoxes are:
1- Time is one of the most powerful influences on our thoughts, feelings, andactions, yet we are usually totally unaware of the affect of time in our lives.
2- We can buy food, objects, space (i.e. land), but not time. Once we losetime, we lose it forever.
3- Each specific attitude toward time–or time perspective–is associated withnumerous benefits, yet in excess each is associated with even greater costs.
4- Individual attitudes toward time are learned through personal experience,yet collectively attitudes toward time influence national destinies.

Shout out to Derek sivers from sivers.org for doing this written summary

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