Who’s Your Daddy? Father Time.

As another year draws to a close, I am painfully aware of the rapid passing of time. Didn’t we just put up the Christmas tree yesterday, not weeks ago? And didn’t I just take my kids to the first day of school? Kindergarten, not high school.

The end of the year is always a little bit of an emotional struggle for me. I love the build up to Christmas. The anticipation of seeing my children’s faces when we’ve chosen the perfect gift. The Christmas cookies we painstakingly decorate. And the colorful, twinkling lights – my most favorite of all. Then, it’s over. All the TV stations run their year-end retrospectives and remind us all the famous people we’ve lost this year, and we remember our own personal losses and sadness. My hubby, always the clear thinker, points out that if every day were Christmas, the day wouldn’t be so special (there’s even a Nickelodeon Fairly Odd Parents episode about that). And he’s right. But it still doesn’t help with the inevitable doldrums that sink in this week.

I’ll admit it. I’m a time junkie. I always wear a watch. Even on weekends. I have some kind of time piece in nearly every room of the house. I get ancy when the mouthwash bottle blocks the clock in my bathroom so I can’t see if I’m running on time for work. I collect clocks — mostly cool, vintage clocks — but still, that should have been a red flag for me a long time ago.  The first thing I do when I wake up is look at the clock — especially if I wake up in the middle of the night. I want to know how much time I have left before I have to get up. The worst thing is waking up just minutes before my alarm is set to go off; then I spend time trying to quickly force myself back to sleep knowing that it probably won’t happen.

I set the clock in my car three minutes fast to make sure I arrive on time. Sure, I realize the clock is set ahead of time, but somehow it just makes me feel better knowing I’m early. (I can hear you: there are pills for that sort of thing…) Why do I need to always know what time it is?  I hate being late. To me, it shows disrespect for the people who have scheduled an event and others in attendance. I did some consulting in the Bahamas several years ago, and it drove me crazy that the local business people were always late to meetings — at least by a half hour. “Island time.” The cultural perception of time was just different in the Caribbean.

Time Perception Study

Philip Zimbardo, a psychologist and professor at Stanford University, conducted a study on how people perceive time and how their perceptions affected their happiness and success. He concluded that people tend to fall within a spectrum of six profiles:

  1. Past – Positively Focused (viewing the past in a positive light)
  2. Past – Negatively Focused (the opposite of #1)
  3. Present – Hedonism (a focus on the here and now with a preference for instant gratification)
  4. Present – Fatalism (a belief that one’s destiny has already been determined)
  5. Future – Goal Oriented (importance is placed on future success)
  6. Future – Transcendental (a belief in life after death giving less meaning to life prior to death)

You can take this survey to find out where you fall within the various time perception categories. (I scored above average on Past-Positively Focused and Future-Goal Oriented.) The six profiles, found in varying degrees in everyone, influence our decision-making and can impact our ultimate happiness. There are advantages and disadvantages to perceiving time in certain ways. For example, a Future-Goal Oriented outlook can provide the drive to succeed, but it can also make you a workaholic, sacrificing quality of present life in hope of achieving a bright future. Moderation in all things.

As I get older, time moves faster. There have been studies that show that as people age, they perceive time as moving faster to them than to their younger counterparts. I believe it. As a child, I thought adulthood would never get here. Now I want to put the brakes on time and keep my children young, innocent and nearby as long as possible. So as we count down to the end of 2010, and I attempt to shake off the holiday blues, I’m trying to enjoy every minute of my children’s holiday vacation, and cherish these moments together.

Happy New Year! May it be a year of good health and happiness, and may we appreciate each day as it slowly (I hope) unfolds.

One Comment

  1. Barbara says:

    Without even taking the survey I would bet I am this: Present – Hedonism (a focus on the here and now with a preference for instant gratification).

    Yet — I am like you with time — HATE being late or waiting. Set my clocks ahead as well- although I will admit that lately I am not as good as I used to be. Maybe it’s that hedonism — I hope not! Happy New Year, Donna — I hope it brings you all good things and that I will see you often 🙂

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