Perception of Time Blog 3: Why programs designed by futures don’t work

This is our third blog on time orientation. The idea for these three blogs came from the book: “The Time Paradox” by Zimbardo and Boyd. We want to give these authors credit for their insight into time perspectives. Their theories have helped us at Smart Work Ethics better explain why our programs work.
Many of you spend your valuable time and money providing programs to help our youth live better lives. You may be frustrated because these programs do not get the results you want. Our youth “sit thorough” the program and nothing changes. Why don’t they listen?
Many of our programs designed to help our youth move from the present time orientation of childhood to the more future orientation of adulthood are designed by futures. Only a future has the vision to think about the many ways we can help our youth have better lives. Only a future will have the ability to create a program and put that program into action.
There is one problem. Futures often forget that the youth are not motivated the same way that they are. Futures consider future consequences. Futures understand the value of planning ahead. Negative consequences help futures modify their behavior. Fear of future consequences is important to futures.  Goals help futures work for a better tomorrow.
A person living in the present is not moved by the same logic that motivates a future. A present might think: “If I am not being punished right now, I don’t need to worry about it.” This is why teenagers are so frustrating to adults. Teens think, feel and act like they will live forever. People who live in the present listen more to feelings and emotions and not thinking and logic.
People with a future orientation can hear information and act on it. People with a present orientation need more help to incorporate the information into their lives. They need to learn how to project themselves into the future but not just any future – a future worth living.
So, how do we help these present oriented youth?
First of all we have high expectations for them. We believe youth can succeed if given the right opportunity.
Second we give them specific techniques to help them consider the future. For example, we use a time management plan that considers different types of personalities so that each person can create their own time management plan. Most time management programs are designed by people who are good at time management and enjoy it. These programs work best for one of the four personality types (golds) and not as well for the other three types.
Finally, we ask our students to practice thinking about the future in a non threatening way. And we ask them to do this over and over and over again. Changing a time perspective takes time, patience and practice.
We want to thank Philip Zimbardo and John Boyd. If you enjoyed our blogs you will enjoy their book: “The Time Paradox.”

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