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The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Can Change Your Life Paperback – 7 Jul 2009

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Product details

  • Paperback: 378 pages
  • Publisher: Free Press (7 July 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416541993
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416541998
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 3 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 761,646 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Now in paperback, this breakthrough book on the new psychological science of time by one of the most influential living psychologists-the New York Times bestselling author of The Lucifer Effect-and his research partner launched on the front page of USA TODAY "Lifestyle" with a Time Survey and on CBS Morning Show. This is the first paradox of time: Your attitudes toward time have a profound impact on your life and world, yet you seldom recognize it. Our goal is to help you reclaim yesterday, enjoy today, and master tomorrow with new ways of seeing and working with your past, present, and future. Just as Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences permanently altered our understanding of intelligence and Malcolm Gladwell's Blink gave us an appreciation for the adaptive unconscious, Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd's new book changes the way we think about and experience time. It will give you new insights into how family conflicts can be resolved by ways to enhance your sexuality and sensuality, and mindsets for becoming more successful in business and happier in your life. Based on the latest psychological research, The Time Paradox is both a "big think" guide for living in the twenty-first century and one of those rare self-help books that really does have the power to improve lives.

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Rod Matthews on 13 Jun. 2013
Format: Paperback
Positive and negative perceptions of the past, the present and the future will play a significant role in every important decision that you make ... and until you read a book like this the effect is most likely unconscious. Again this book is based in solid scientific research and yet is also very readable. I particularly like the section that outlines suggestions for shifting your own perception of time.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 84 reviews
169 of 177 people found the following review helpful
Somewhat Dull, But Still Useful 19 Dec. 2008
By Irfan A. Alvi - Published on
Format: Hardcover
On the positive side, getting a handle on one's time perspectives isn't easy, but is vital to living well, and this is one of the few books which focuses on that topic. From that standpoint, I certainly benefitted from reading the book, and I suspect that I'll be ruminating about these ideas for quite some time (no pun intended).

To get a sense of your own current time perspectives, I highly recommend doing the online surveys found at [...] this is quicker and easier than completing the surveys by hand in the book.

But I can give this book only 3 stars because of some rather significant negatives:

- At 319 pages, the book is much too long for the content it offers. At most, it should be half that length. Ironically, the book asks for too much of the reader's time!

- The writing style is somewhat dull. It seems that the writers have wound up in a no man's land between good academic writing and good self-help writing. The result is neither academic rigor and density, nor self-help practical directness, but instead dull text which lacks both.

- Mostly significantly and surprisingly, the authors fail to adequately justify their proposed optimal time-perspective profile, and they fail to adequately provide detailed advice for how one can move towards the optimal profile. They even fail to adequately spell out the pitfalls of a suboptimal profile. For these reasons, the book is actually fairly shallow, despite the apparent academic qualifications of the authors and their long history of involvement with this subject.

Because this book at least introduces an important topic, I can hesitatingly recommend it. If you decide to read it, I suggest reading Part One at your normal pace, and then maybe skim through Part Two more quickly. This book might also work well in abridged audio format, since that would help cut out much of the fluff.
184 of 196 people found the following review helpful
"Our ability to reconstruct the past, to interpret the present, and to construct the future gives us the power to be happy" 9 Mar. 2009
By Alexander N. - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The authors, Drs. Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd have done a superb job in describing how people's time perspective can influence their behavior. The writing is clear and is accompanied by relevant research and many stories, descriptions, and histories. Dr. Zimbardo is Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Stanford University and Dr. Boyd is a former student of Dr. Zimbardo, now working as research manager at Google.

People can have 3 "time perspectives"; they can be past-oriented, present oriented, or future-oriented. Based on their time orientation people behave differently. This conclusion is based on research done during the last few decades by various research scientists including Drs. Zimbardo and Boyd and is helpful because by understanding how people orient to time, we can partially predict their behavior. Thus people's time orientation can complement other models of personality development.

In order to figure out their time perspective, one can take two tests that have been developed by Dr. Zimbardo called the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory (ZTPI) and the Transcendental-future Time Perspective Inventory (TFTPI). These tests are available at [...].

Obviously, we have a limited time on earth; so it is advantageous to make the best use of it. By gaining an insight into what type of time perspective we have, it is hoped that we become more efficient users of our time.

People who have different time perspective behave differently and we can make general statements about their thoughts, feelings, and behavior:

Past-oriented people:
1- They are generally more concerned with their past and seem to be able to distance 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 of strangers; thus they may have a tendency to be prejudiced.
5- They usually focus on their obligations and commitments whether personal or collective (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 cooperative rather 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 hundred dollar 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 and thus they are easily distracted from the performance of necessary current tasks and 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 that may not be beneficial to them.
6- They are usually more sensation and novelty seekers, more aggressive, more depressed, less conscientious, and less emotionally stable. They have less concern for future consequences, less ego and impulse control, and less preference for consistency. They also tend to lie.
7- Usually people who are poor or uneducated tend to be present-oriented since they usually tend to focus on emergent needs of the present.
8- Since they are not good in abstract thinking, are more concerned with immediate gratification, and less concerned about the future, they usually tend to get low grades in school.
9- Because they are immediate pleasure seekers, they usually don't pay good attention 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; their thoughts 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 unpleasant situation in order to achieve long-term goals. They pay attention to responsibility, liability, efficiency, distant payoffs, and tend to optimize future outcomes. Thus they can work hard and avoid temptations, distractions, waste of time to accomplish a goal. They usually tend to rehearse various future plans.
3- Since they are concerned about the future, they tend to save their money and resources.
4- They could be either cooperative or competitive depending on which action results in the best outcome.
5- They tend to be health-conscious in order to prevent future negative health outcomes.
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 on control, predictability, and consistency, factors that may interfere with the freedom and spontaneity of relationships.
8- Although they usually have low anxiety levels, concern for the future may increase their anxiety. They usually tend to be workaholic, and have midlife crises.
9- They tend to be more conscientious, less aggressive, less depressed, more reward-dependent, less sensation seeker, more studious, more creative, and use less addictive drugs and alcohol.
10- They tend to have more self-esteem, energy, openness, ego-control, and grade-point average.

Time paradoxes:
Four main paradoxes are:
1- Time is one of the most powerful influences on our thoughts, feelings, and actions, 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 lose time, we lose it forever.
3- Each specific attitude toward time--or time perspective--is associated with numerous 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.

Time perspective subcategories:
The past and the present time perspectives each have two subcategories and the future perspective has one category as follows:
1- Past time perspective:
A. Past negative perspective
B. Past positive perspective
2- Present time perspective:
A. Present fatalistic perspective
B. Present hedonistic perspective
3- Future time perspective

Additionally, there is another category called transcendental future perspective.

Description of time-perspective subcategories:
1- Past-negative people: They have had sad, painful, or traumatic past experiences.
2- Past-positive people: They have had happy, pleasant, and enjoyable past experiences.
3- Present-fatalistic people: They believe that fate, not them, is in charge of their life. They live more passive lives since they don't believe in their personal power.
4- Present-hedonistic people: They like to enjoy life. They are impulsive, spontaneous, and risk-takers. They tend to lose themselves in the excitement of the moment and have passionate relationships.
5- Future-oriented people: See above.
6- Transcendental future people: They believe that their lives do not end at the end of their biological life. They are usually religious, have good impulse control, and are not aggressive. They think about future consequences based on the assumption that there is an afterlife.

Balance in time perspectives:
As the third time paradox states above, each time perspective has both beneficial and detrimental outcomes if they are practiced to an excess. Thus it is believed that having only one of the three time perspectives is not healthy and a balanced time perspective is more favorable. The authors suggest that for North American population, the combination of the following time perspective is ideal:
1- Low past negativism
2- High past positivism
3- Low present fatalism
4- High present hedonism
5- High futurism
6- Medium transcendental futurism

Things one can do to achieve a balance time perspective:
The good thing is that people with imbalanced time perspectives can reach a balance by changing their attitudes and behavior. For example, although people who have a negative past can not change their past, they can practice reframing their past by changing their attitude toward what happened. And people who want to become more future oriented can write down their goals, chart their progress, make to-do lists, and work toward long-term rewards. Many other suggestions are mentioned in the book to reach a balanced time perspective. Obviously changing one's time perspective requires much effort because one has to change deeply ingrained beliefs and habits. However, research shows that such a change is achievable and people who achieve it have happier lives. "Our ability to reconstruct the past, to interpret the present, and to construct the future gives us the power to be happy" (p. 257).
50 of 56 people found the following review helpful
time paradox 7 Sept. 2008
By M. E. Mccaffrey - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I doubt this book will change your life, but it is an interesting read all the same.

The authors discuss the way in which we find ourselves obsessed with time. Interestingly, they point out that 3 of the most common nouns in the English language involve time (namely time, year, and day.....among the other common nouns are person, way, thing, man, world, life, and hand).

Zimbardo and Boyd also discuss the way in which our time orientation guides our choices and overall orientation. He divides people into 7 time-related categories that basically boil down to those who are (1) past oriented (2) present oriented or (3) future oriented. Zimbardo offers up an anecdote involving pre-school aged children, and demonstrates how, even at a young age, our time orientation can guide our behavior. Basically the children are offered either (1) one treat now or (2) two treats later if they practice delayed gratification. When they were interviewed years later, the psychologists discovered that "the third of children who were able to control their impulses at age four scored 210 points higher on verbal and math SAT scores than the impulse-driven four year olds....The ability to delay gratification at age four is twice as good a predictor of later SAT score as IQ. Poor impulse control is also a better predictor of juvenile delinquency than IQ" (p. 216).

Overall, it was a good read. Somewhat pedantic at times but generally engaging.

Zimbardo's other book, The Lucifer Effect, is outstanding. Skip the first few chapters and go straight to his account of the Stanford Prison Experiment. It's the type of book that grabs your attention and really leaves you thinking.
49 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Frustratingly Biased and Distorted Book 16 Mar. 2010
By Mediaman - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a poorly-written book about psychology memories that has little to do with the "time" element mentioned in the title. Instead of focusing on better using time, it's a book that promotes a psychological agenda while condemning those that don't match the author's subjective interpretations. It is filled with distortions and New Age biases that the authors fail to acknowledge, while making a couple of great points along the way. If only they would stop preaching their biased gospel, such as their claim that heart disease and cancer "stem from unhealthy time perspectives."

It's hard to know where to start, there is so much wrong with this book. The writers have created a "test" that supposedly is a "yardstick" about a person's attitude toward time. This test is so narrow-minded and lop-sided that while you are taking it you are completely aware of how your answer will be misinterpreted (take it online at the time paradox site). They then categorize and stereotype you based on the test results, but do almost no interpretation of those results. So you are stuck finding out that you have "present-hedonistic time perspective" but know virtually nothing about what that means except for a couple of paragraphs that label you "hedonistic Hedley" or "negative Ned." The results are not only worthless, but they will raise anxiety in people wondering why they don't measure up to the "ideal" scale that the authors have set online.

Of course the book's author Philip Zimbardo, who created this Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory, scored a perfect score on his own test for have past positive memories! So we must conclude that the test is actually geared toward his own past biases and how he interprets things as being positive or negative. Anyone who doesn't score as highly as he did has something wrong about how they interpret their past. What this false memory stuff has to do with time is hard to say because they do such a poor job explaining it.

Then they include other really subjective studies without questioning the results. In one major study from 1977 (yes, most of the studies quoted are old and outdated--it seems like this was a manuscript written decades ago but only published in 2008), seminary students getting ready to present a speech on the Good Samaritan were either told to rush over because they were late or were told they had a lot of time to make it--then along the way there was a planted person coughing and in need of help. When most of those who were late didn't stop to help, the authors of this book interpret it as meaning that their attitude toward time proves they are "less helpful," while those who moseyed on over slowly were "more helpful." But it proves no such thing! These late students were keeping a group of people waiting and, as students, were worried about those waiting and their own grade--so they chose to prioritize the needs to those waiting and their own needs over the single stranger coughing. That doesn't prove they are less helpful--just that they have a strong sense of priorities in that specific circumstance. And those that helped the stranger had virtually nothing else to do--so who knows how they would respond if under stress?

One of the major flaws in the book is the lack of current data or stories--most everything is steeped in the past, yet life has changed so much in the Internet age that the authors fail to address how use of digital media change a person's orientation toward time. (There are only six pages that mention the Internet in the entire 319 pages.)

The authors then include a study of the most "helpful" cities (again dated, from 1997) based on the "pace" of the city--namely a faster-paced city is interpreted as less helpful. But that was measured by "returning a pen that someone dropped," "giving change for a quarter" and "donating to the United Way." Seriously? That's how they measure helpfulness? Donating to the United Way says little about a person's helpfulness (many choose to not give because United Way deducts administrative costs and the giving person can actually do better by donating the money directly to the non-profit group) and it says absolutely nothing about time.

The authors (who live in California) then support the claim that Los Angeles is "slowest of all" by writing in a footnote, "Possible explanations include the geographic proximity to Mexico and the large immigrant population in Los Angeles." Did they really write such a biased and unmeasured stereotype? The entire book is filled with this type of bigoted interpretation, such as their claim that the U.S. has a pattern of disregarding the clock that's called CPT, which stands for "colored people's time." They state this a unashamed fact instead of pointing out the offensiveness of the phrase.

So the book ends up being a mish-mash of bad research with biased interpretations from know-it-all psychologist authors. They toss in Freud, raise questions about religion (really pushing Buddhism as the perfect time management religion), spend a large amount of time giving retirement advice (which makes no sense in the context of the rest of the book) and even interpret fairy tales! It's a complete mess written by two Ph.D.s who lack cohesive writing--they just like to hear themselves talk. There are a few valid and interesting points that you can find by wading through all of this, but it's like sitting through a really bad college lecture that never seems to end.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Time to pass up this book 8 April 2009
By M. Schadt - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I was disappointed in this book and I should have taken a longer perusal at the bookstore but my lunch hour had expired. With each chapter I thought the authors would move on from the 'self-help' genre and into a deeper, maybe even scientific, investigation of our concept of time. But no, we had more uninteresting examples of their theory and especially boring biographical material and then the ZTPI. By the end when they started giving investment advice and then retirement advice I realized the authors had no real purpose to write or publish this book. It offers nothing new except the ZTPI, which is only useful if you have no clue about yourself or need those Psychology Today-styled pop-psychology self-revealing surveys. If you still want to buy this book you can have mine for 1/2 price, hardbound, clean. I gave it two stars because buying the book without due diligence was my fault.
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