Have you ever had this happen to you? You are working on a really important project, and your computer totally locks up – as in stops working completely – right when you were almost done? On top of that, you didn’t save your work. Yes, colorful language did flow. The combination of dread, frustration, disbelief (dare I say, rage?) at an inanimate object was quite palpable. All of those skills that I had worked so hard to master – to have patience, to re-frame challenges, to use my obstacle obliteration protocol — all of them evaporated for a full 5 – 50 whole minutes! 😉 I had to finally back away from the computer. I had to breathe. I had to find humor in giving a tool so much power over me and over my peace of mind. But the stakes were high, and when the stakes are high, sometimes, setbacks carry a lot of power.
What are the stakes? In the next couple of weeks, I will step into coaching in a bigger way by launching my website. I will also release a report about time awareness and management entitled, The Time Audit Protocol. In it, I detail a proven system that will not only help you manage your time better, but will also help you to live a better quality of life. To me this is huge, because I have been playing in the margins for a while, and I believe that now is the time to step up.
My mission is to help and empower people, especially children, “step up” when they don’t think or feel they can do that for themselves. So when I have any sort of setback these days, like the computer problem, it hits me hard. This mission is a big deal to me. I want to give my best, and when something messes with that, like the friggin computer, I am challenged to … channel my frustration and fear in a positive way.
In that moment of equipment failure, it felt like I was in a tunnel. The more I went through different solutions, the more the tunnel opening narrowed, until I felt that the only way to get through was to squeeze each part of body into the sliver of light on the other side. It was like my face was jammed up against the wall, and as I inched forward, I could feel both sides of the wall pressing against me. Have you ever had that feeling? The more you tried, the more trapped you became, and the more stuck you felt?
I could feel that I was at some sort of threshold. Part of me was stuck in the past, and part of me was inching toward the future. My body, wedged firmly in the present, was no help because panic had gripped me. My mind started to race -how do I get out of here? What can I do? Why does this always happen to me? How did this mess happen? What is wrong with me, why didn’t I remember to save my work?
At some point, I realized that the blame and the questions were past scripts that were not going to fix my computer – ever – and that was when the shift happened. The reason I share this with you is to impress upon you two important observations: 1) If I hadn’t given in to my old ways of handling a setback, I would have solved this technical issue much faster and 2) When I asked a better type of question, I got a better answer. Instead of focusing on how I felt, or how disappointed I was, or who had caused this problem, I focused on what I could do about it. When my focus shifted, so did my choices.
So what does all of this have to do with time? The answer is that when I was confronted with a problem that triggered a past program – much like a computer program in my brain — I was held captive. It was safe, because I had run that sequence before. I also did feel a release when I let out my litany of verbal lobs at my computer, and relief when I blamed someone, even if it was myself. In a weird sort of way, when I blamed myself, I asked, “Well, if it is my fault, what can I do about it?”
I realized it was, in part, my time perspective – looking for an answer in the past that jammed me up. Phil Zombardo –you can find his work here was right. In his work, he illustrates how our relationship with time could effect how we respond to situations, and it can even affect our levels of happiness. If you are more of a visual learner, below is the RSA Animate Version of his time perspective research:
I came up with five tips that can help you get time on your side. But before I share those, I am wondering, “Where do you live?” Are you hanging out mostly in the past, present or future? Below is a brief summary of the perspectives.
Past Time Perspective – There are basically two versions: 1) Past-positive: You focus on the good old times. 2) Past-negative: You focus on disappointment and regret. This is very similar to a guard enforcing your rules. This perspective connects you to who you were back then, and it is a safe place to be. You have rules and you intend to follow them. Whenever a situation arises, you may ask, “How was it in the past?” or you may think, “This is exactly like when…” And then you act on that directive. At some level, we all do this, because we develop habits to automate our thinking. The good news is that we can replace a habit that doesn’t serve us with one that does. How? I will have a link at the bottom of this post if you want to learn how to do just that.
Present Time Perspective – There are two versions of this as well: 1) Present-hedonistic: Seek pleasure and avoid pain. This is it. This is all we have. 2) Present-fatalistic means my life is fated by conditions out of my control, so why do anything. This perspective can lead to pleasure seeking at the expense of future happiness and security. If there is no tomorrow, why plan for it? If there is no moment except this one, why work so hard, and why contribute to something larger than ourselves? This ‘you’ve got to get it while you can’ can lead to selfish actions that can harm you and others. But what Zombardo doesn’t mention about this perspective is that when we do not think about the past, or lay the groundwork for the future, we can experience the beauty and the magic of the present moment.
Future Time Perspective – The final two: 1) Future-practical – we learn to prepare. To work for a better tomorrow, and most of us hang here to a degree. 2) Future-Fatalistic – our life begins when our body dies. Trust that the universe or God has a plan for you, and follow the tenets of your religion, culture, group et al. In this perspective, if you follow the rules, happiness follows.
If I had remembered Zombardo’s model, I might have been better prepared for my computer fiasco, and saved a lot of time and discomfort when handling the problem. Bottom line when your choices change, so does the quality of your life.
If you want to get time firmly on your side, I came up with these five steps that will help get you there:
1.Ask yourself, “What is my time perspective, and does it support me? Are you in the past, present or future when confronted with a challenge? And is that perspective working?
2. If your time perspective doesn’t support you, you can change it. Check out Charles Duhigg’s Power of Habit. His flowchart on habit change can show you how. You can find it here: Flowchart on Habit Change
3. Find the sweet spot between the things that have worked in the past, and your planning and preparation for the future. If you need help with this, The Time Audit Protocol will answer that question. In the meantime, you can simply observe what is working for you right now, and what isn’t. Then act on that observation.
4. Ask better questions. Know your goal, outcome, the thing you want to get or the thing you want to get done, and find the best method to get there. For example, what are the key questions that shape your day?
5. When are you at your best? Morning, afternoon, or evening? Make key decisions during those times, and if you can delay fixing a problem till your best performance time, the faster you will solve it.
That’s it for now. I hope these five steps helped, and may time be ever on your side!
Until next time,