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Dec 2, 2019

Welcome to episode 14.  I asked you to choose this week’s topic and you chose Zimbardo’s Time Perspectives, so today I’m going to share with you how understanding and playing with your time perspective preferences can help you - and the children you work with - flourish.

The psychologist Philip Zimbardo is largely known for the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment, but don’t hold that against him; his work on time perspectives is fascinating and far less controversial!

Take a moment to think about which one of the following five perspectives might be your preferred one.  You may wish to think about what your preference would be when you’re on holiday - we all tend to learn to adapt and use different perspectives in various situations, for example at work.

Past Positive: You enjoy taking a trip down memory lane and as you relive past positive emotions, you feel happier.  Careful of the ‘rose-tinted glasses’ effect though, a tendency to always hark back to ‘the good old days’ may paint the present in a negative light.

Past Negative: You have a tendency to go over past negative events in your mind, leading you to feel regretful or angry and affecting your mood and emotions in the here and now.  This perspective can, however, help you view the present more positively.

Present Hedonistic: You live for the moment, you like to have fun, you may often act on impulse and enjoy living dangerously. This may result in difficulties in meeting deadlines as there are always more fun things to do!

Present Fatalistic: You tend not to feel in control of what happens to you and may struggle to take action and move forward with projects and ideas, as you feel that whatever you do is not likely to have an impact on the outcome.

Future: You have a tendency to spend much of your time daydreaming or planning for the future.  Lists are your friend.  You are likely to be well-organised and good at meeting deadlines.

You can take a quick online test on Zimbardo’s website to find out your preferred perspective(s) and read more about each one.

Understanding your preferences can help you make sense of your own behaviour and reactions to situations, and can have a huge impact on how you interact with others.  For example, my most prominent preference is ‘present hedonistic’, and one of its manifestations is that any money I have burns a hole in my pocket!  Luckily I’m married to someone whose ‘future’ perspective is much more prominent, so we balance each other out, but until I understood about these perspectives, this was often a cause of frustration and anger in my relationship with my mum, who also displays a strong ‘future’ preference when it comes to money!

When we’re on family holidays, walking and exploring new places, my husband likes to march ahead to our destination, whereas I like to stop and enjoy the present, taking lots of pictures (allowing me to later indulge my other strong time perspective preference - the ‘past positive’).  This regular tussle between us has now become an on-going family joke!

How can you use this knowledge about time perspective preferences to help you and your pupils flourish?

If you or one of your pupils have a ‘present fatalistic’ preference, you could practice the ‘past positive’ perspective by spending time thinking about past achievements and successes, and the part you / the pupil played in them. 

A student who struggles to get homework done or revise for exams because of an over-tendency to enjoy the ‘present hedonistic’ perspective may benefit from an introduction to list-making, setting short-term, simple and achievable goals to start with, visualising future outcomes and the steps required to get there, perhaps even doing a ‘Best Possible Self’ activity, as described in episode 12.

I wrote about time perspectives in a little more detail in a blog post for an assignment at the start of my Master’s degree, so if you’d like to find out more, head over there and have a read. 

Let me know how you use what you’ve learnt today and, as always, until we speak again, For Flourishing’s Sake, have a great week!