The Time Paradox explores how our attitudes to time affect behaviour and consequent lifestyle. It suggests ways that readers can make changes they desire or need.
Change Life Chances by Using the New Psychology
The Time Paradox is based on Zimbardo and Boyd’s work on the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory (ZTPI). It is structured as two very different books under one cover.
Part 1: The New Science of Time
The first section first explores the science of time orientations and categorises the perception of time and describes them based on the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory.
The Time Paradox goes on to explore how a bias towards each of the ZTPI categories affects an individual’s behaviour and consequent life choices and lifestyle. It also explains that a person’s time perception is a learned behaviour and shows how that can feed on and result in disadvantage or other negative behaviours such as criminality, drug or alcohol abuse and even what many perceive as terrorism. However Zimbardo and Boyd do not shirk from considering other unhealthy behaviour in otherwise successful people.
In considering the more negative behaviours the author’s show why so many government and other initiatives fail to change behaviour or win hearts and minds. They tend to fail because they are designed and delivered by people with a future time bias to people who live in the present or have negative baggage from the past. The authors argue that if the campaigns were designed to understand and change the recipient’s time perception as well as behaviour the initiatives would have more chance of success.
Part 2: Making Time Work for You
The second section is more typical of a popular self help book and uses the ideas from Part 1 to describe the sort of changes that individuals with different behaviours cam make to achieve a healthier and more balanced lifestyle. The Time Paradox shows how time perspective can be changed to something more appropriate to different stages of life.
A stronger future time focus may be needed to build a career but may get in the way of enjoying a relaxed and satisfying retirement. Retirement needs a more present hedonistic perspective. The authors show how an individual can use an understanding of their time perspective bias to put their lifestyles on a more balanced basis.
Valuable Ideas but Not Always Appropriately Presented
There are two very different books in The Time Paradox. The second part romps along and is an easy and enjoyable read in the mould of a good personal development book. It is well written which makes it breezy without being trivial.
The first section is very different. It is denser and more complex as it explains the science. It has much more of the feel of an academic or clinical text book. However it also tries to bring in the readers personal time profile and involve them as part of their personal development. This approach does not really work and tends to confuse the intent of the section. The ideas are important and well explained but the writing can be hard going at times.
Consequently there is a danger that a reader who has bought The Time Paradox on the basis of the sub-title: Using the new Psychology to your advantage may be discouraged in the opening chapters as it is not obviously a personal development guide. They may never get to Part 2 which is where the sub-title is delivered.
The styles are so different it feels as though the two parts were written and edited by different people.
Important Ideas on How Time is Perceived and its Effect on Behaviour
The Time Paradox is an important book with valuable insights for both individual development and for decision making. Government agencies can learn a great deal about why their initiatives do not work – it should be sent to all government ministers, policy advisers and civil servants tasked with delivering cultural change.
For individuals The Time Paradox is a useful slant on personal attitudes to time and how it affects lifestyle both work and leisure. Understanding one’s time orientation can play into a richer, more enjoyable, lifestyle. it can also be used as a framework for planning life’s transitions such as from work into retirement.
Philip Zimbardo is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Stanford University. He is widely published author of best selling books including The Lucifer Effect
John Boyd has PhD in psychology from Stanford University and worked with Professor Zimbardo on the construction of the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory described in this book. He was the first to identify the transcendental-future time perspective.
The Time Paradox, Using the new Psychology of Time to your advantage (2008, ISBN:978-1-8460-4155-6) by Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd is published in paperback by Rider Books at £8.99.
First appeared on Suite101