I was talking to someone recently and she made a comment about how her kids had such a different sense of time – that asking them to wait five minutes was really difficult, that the idea of something happening next week was a really long time, and that waiting for a future event that was a month or a year away was like an eternity.
We wondered: Is this because they have such a short time frame for reference? A year to a 9-year-old is 1/9th of her life. Or is it just because they are so in-the-present?
This conversation reminded me of the time after my husband died five years ago. The idea of living the rest of my life without him was too huge and too horrible to contemplate, so I focused on today. Right now. Putting one foot in front of the other. These 24 hours. One day at a time. I can do Now, I thought. And I did. I could think about tomorrow, but the coming weekend was a stretch. When my mother asked in the autumn if I was coming to Seattle for Christmas, I had to explain that I literally could not think that far in the future.
Did I become child-like for that period?
As I healed, I was conscious of times when I was able to schedule something for the weekend, plan a pot-luck a month in advance, think about a trip to Seattle for my newest nephew’s christening.
In his terrific essay, “What Startups Are Really Like,” Paul Graham (www.paulgraham.com) writes about what founders of startups reported that most surprised them about the process. In Surprise #2, “Startups Take Over Your Life,” one writes, “I think the thing that’s been most surprising to me is how one’s perspective on time shifts. Working on our startup, I remember time seeming to stretch out, so that a month was a huge interval.” Paul attributes this to the fast pace of life in a startup, “which makes it seem like time slows down.”
As we move faster, does time slow down? The theory of relativity tells us that the closer to the speed of light an object travels, the more time slows down for it so that an astronaut who returns to earth after a long trip at the speed of light will have aged more slowly than his twin brother who remained on Earth.
Does life seem fast-paced to children? Is that why time moves so slowly for them? Do we move more slowly as we age, so that it seems to pass more quickly?
Are entrepreneurs like children? Non-entrepreneurs might glibly say Yes, but I’m serious here. Is there a child-like quality that entrepreneurs share with children related to how they perceive life?
When people are faced with changes that they have to get used to, and there is newness, and the world shifts, how does this affect how they perceive time? Are they dropped back to a child-like state until they can grow into the change? Does consciously fostering a child-like sense of wonder make coping with change any easier?
These make for interesting considerations for those of us who are change agents – considerations about how those impacted by changes perceive time and about how they react. What do you think?
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