Saturday, May 24, 2008

Time Thoughts - May 24

My friend Kelly has always been fascinated with the concept of time. I'm not particularly fascinated with the concept, but I do find that the idea of time is regularly on my mind - in particular not having enough of it. Being one who is always looking for a way to solve a problem or make things better, I've been thinking about ways to change the perception or concept of time - in essence to expand the good time and contract the not so good moments.

Understanding the psychology of loss
In my work I help investors and financial services professionals understand the psychology of money. One of the big psychological tenants there is the concept of loss avoidance. As humans we tend to be overly focused on avoiding loss, particularly when it comes to investing. That makes us do stupid things with our money, like holding on to bad investments because to sell them would mean a loss. Never mind that to hold on longer would mean a bigger loss. Similarly, we don't take tax write-offs we should because again we tend to focus on the loss, rather than the bigger picture of results.

I believe the same thing is true when it comes to time. Our focus is on not enough time or avoiding loss, when it should be focused on maximizing the end result. How can we make the most of time - how can we stretch out the good times and contract the bad or less meaningful time expenditures?

Let's start with stretching out the good times.
I use to work for an oil company and traveled all over the world. I loved experiencing the culture in each place that I went and I made it a point to buy some little artsy trinket that would remind me of the experience. I have those pieces scattered about my house and each time I see one, I immediately go back to the time and experience. It's a way of expanding good time - a trigger to revisit the place or experience.

Photographs work the same way. You revisit the time by looking at the photograph. Music also works this way. The summer of 1972 I worked a concession stand at a park. There was a juke box with about 6-8 songs that got played over and over and over. If I hear any of those songs today I am immediately transported back to that time period.

So one way we can expand time is through association. Add music or food or a visually memorable image. Take a picture, save a menu or buy a trinket - anything you can use to "save" the experience in your brain so that you can easily revisit it again.

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