Well-being related to your time perspective

Your time may be the kind of glasses that you put on to look at the world around you. These glasses have three types of lenses: past, present and future. Are you a “here-and-now” person? Do you think that you’re stuck in the past sometimes? If you had the choice between work and leisure activities, would you usually choose work because your future depends on this choice?


Time perspective relates to whether we focus on our past, present or future when we make decisions and take actions. It has a strong influence on many aspects of our behavior, including educational attainment, health, sleep, romantic partner choice and many more.

Although time perspective can be affected by various contexts, such as inflation, going on holiday or daily stress, it may become a stable feature of your personality. Thus, people tend to have a dominant time perspective.

There are 5 main sub-types of time perspective: future, past-negative, past-positive, present-hedonistic and present- fatalistic.

Predominantly future-oriented people are focused on working for achieving goals and rewards, often at the expense of present enjoyment, delaying gratification and avoiding time-wasting temptations. Such persons tend to have healthier behaviors such as healthy eating, get medical check-ups on time. These people also tend to be more successful than others.

The present-hedonistic person seizes the day, seek pleasure in every activity, enjoys high-intensity activities, seeks thrills and new sensation sand loves adventures. Unfortunately, this behavior can have adverse consequences. People with this type of orientation are more prone to the risk of giving into temptations, leading to virtually all addictions (alcohol abuse, smoking, etc..), risky driving, accidents, injuries, academic or career failure.

On the other hand, present-fatalistic time perspective is associated with helplessness, hopelessness and a belief that outside forces control one’s life (e.g. spiritual or governmental forces).

The past time perspective is associated with focusing attention on family, tradition, personal experience continuity over time, history. This can be either positive or negative.

The past-positive person has a warm, pleasant, rather a sentimental and nostalgic perspective on one’s past and values maintaining relationships with family and friends.

The person with a history with negative meanings feels haunted by the past, focuses mainly on aversive and unpleasant personal experiences.

How does time perspective influence your well being?

Which one of the time perspective types do you think is most conducive for well-being? For obvious reasons, the present-fatalistic and past-negative orientations are out of discussion when talking about well being.Many scientists claim that orientation towards the future is fundamental to well-being and positive functioning. However, there are some drawbacks in terms of excessive orientation towards the future, and here we refer to the phenomenon of workaholism, neglecting friends and family, not allowing time for self-indulgence and lack of time for leisure activities. Many other famous scholars, such as Schopenhauer, Maslow argued that focusing on the here-and-now experiences represent aa prerequisite for well-being.

This orientation has, in turn, its own drawbacks such as neglecting the long-term consequences. Recent research found that, despite expectations, future-oriented perspective does not show an association with well-being, while the present hedonistic orientation indicates a very modest association with life satisfaction, although there is a better correlation with positive emotions (which is not too surprising if we consider that the present hedonistic orientation aims at maximizing the positive emotions).

Time perspective that turns out to determine well-being the best could be the past-positive orientation. People with such an orientation have the highest level of self-esteem and are happy about their past and present lives. However, even this perspective has its disadvantages, which include avoiding change and openness to new experiences and cultures and trying to apply old solutions to new problems.

Balanced time perspective

Each time perspective may have a personal value, but if this is excessive and exclude or minimize the others, then it can become dysfunctional. Thus, a balanced time perspective is highly recommended, within which components of the past, present and future come together and engage flexibly depending on the situation, needs and values. So when people with a balanced time perspective spend time with family or friends, they have the ability to be 100% present, and when they have a day off from work, they succeed in relaxing and enjoying the break. When they have work to do, these people address the situation from a future oriented perspective and become more productive. The ability of concentration, flexibility and change is an essential component of a balanced time perspective. Although it is not easy to achieve, this perspective provides a solution to providing a work-life balance and significantly contribute to well being associated with perceptions of life satisfaction, positive affect, subjective happiness, self-efficacy, optimism, self-actualization, purpose in life and time competence.



Ilona Boniwell, “Positive Psychology in a Nutshell. The Science of Happiness “

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