Happy Friday, Everyone!
Our Happy Friday posts will delve a bit deeper into our views on happiness, and how that influences our philosophies on the other two top priorities in our lives – money and kittens. Some of these posts might be quick reflections on something that brought us joy, while others might be an exploration or discussion of research we come across in the “science of happiness”. Click here for past Happy Friday posts.
I ran across a piece in the Wall Street Journal this week called A Different Therapy To Find Greater Happiness, in which Elizabeth Bernstein discusses a new type of cognitive therapy. That’s right – it’s talking about shrinking your way to greater happiness, but in a way that I found new and useful!
“The method, called Time Perspective Therapy, involves figuring out which of six different outlooks a person has:
- past-positive (you love the past);
- past-negative (you have regrets and bad things happened in your past—or things that you now exaggerate as bad);
- present hedonism (you enjoy the present and like to reward yourself);
- present fatalism (you feel that events are beyond your control, so why bother?);
- goal-oriented future (you plan ahead and weigh the costs and benefits of any decision);
- transcendental future (you live a good life because you believe the reward is a heaven after death).”
I think what intrigues me so much about these ideas is how simple and direct they seem compared to the potential outsized influence they might have on our own perceptions of happiness.
In fact, Phillip Zimbardo, psychologist and researcher at Stanford (and also author of The Time Paradox, which I’ve now requested from our awesome local library) has created two relatively quick and painless diagnostic exams for evaluating your time perspectives with respect to those six different time perspectives above (past-positive, past-negative…). They are:
Why the transcendental future outlook requires its own quiz, I’m not entirely sure. But either way it takes just a few minutes to take both.
Once you’ve taken your own “Time Perspective* Inventory”, you can stack your results against what Zimbardo describes as the objectively “best” time perspective profile. This ideal time perspective consists of “a blend of a high level of past-positive, a moderately high level of future orientation and a moderate level of selected present hedonism. In other words, you like your past, work for the future—but not so hard that you become a workaholic—and choose when to seek pleasure in the present.”
I’m hoping that in Zimbardo’s book he expands more about the ideal time perspective and the research and ideas behind modifying our own time perspectives. But while I wait for said book, I went ahead and took the diagnostic tests to see how my own time perspectives lined up.
The results were both unsurprising and surprising all at once.
Mrs PoP’s Time Perspective Results
The Past – I’m moderately past-negative and pretty neutral in terms of past-positivity. This, for me, is progress. Even while taking the test I could tell questions that I would have had stronger negative reactions to a few years ago were muted. I know I still need to work on this area, but am pleased to realize I have made progress.
The Present – I’m oddly kindof “meh?” when it comes to the present moment. In hindsight, perhaps this is in part influenced by the fact that I took this test at my work desk during my lunch hour, a “present” activity that I’m fairly ambivalent toward. Nonetheless, I’ll definitely be keeping this in mid as these two results were the most surprising (I am <= 1% of respondents in both present time perspectives.)
The Future – Here I’m off the charts when it comes to how happy planning for something in my concrete future makes me (and have precisely 0 plans for any sort of hereafter). Is this surprising? Hmmm… Perhaps only in how extreme I was on both ends of this scale (> 99% of respondents for concrete future, and < 1% for transcendental future).
Mr PoP’s Time Perspective Results & His Comments
Stuff like this is always interesting to me, but I always question the results. The guy on the website is clearly trying to sell his book (not that there is anything wrong with that!), but if you take this at face value I should be more hedonic in the present, and also have more spiritual believe to maximize my happiness. I could crank up the hedonism a bit, but how would I go about improving my faith in an afterlife? Even if it would make me happier, I don’t see myself going to church anytime soon…
I think what appeals to me so much about this concept is that our time perspectives are not set in stone. I know mine have changed and I hope that I can continue to make active changes to them (though I doubt that’s an easy process) in order to keep increasing my happiness.
So take the tests yourself! What are your time perspectives? Do they match up with your perception of yourself? Anyone out there with the “ideal” time perspective for happiness?
* If you’re now sick of seeing the words “time perspective”, I apologize. I tried replacing most of them with “TP”, but felt like I was writing about toilet paper!