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On The Perception Of Time

and why we often lose the sense of urgency being older

Don't wait, design and act today!

Yesterday, I had a very interesting conversation with two friends who are also parents and doctors. Don't worry, this is a short one, to make you think about something else than building a project or running a business 😀.

There’s this theory that we perceive time (and other things) based on the amount of “it” we have experienced. That's how we basically perceive scarcity and uniqueness.

When focused on time - it means that to kids, a year may feel like an extremely long period of time because it constitutes a big part of their overall experience with life. 

On contrary for adults, a year may feel like a month that just passed by, because they’ve already experienced many of these, hence the current year is just a small fraction of their overall life experience. And that diminishes the perceived length of time.

Now you are thinking - that means I feel I have less time, so everything is more urgent and not less! I agree, at first, this may look counterintuitive to my initial claim of losing agency when being older. But it’s not.

I’m sure you see it everywhere: kids want to do everything now! If not right now, then today! That sense of urgency comes from the fact that, for them, having to wait for a week or let alone a month feels like the eternity. And nobody wants to wait for eternity. You better do it now. 

Meanwhile, look at us adults; for us, when you say next week or next month, it basically feels like pretty soon. Hence, we don’t rush into doing things now, and we don’t feel we are going to miss something. Do you have that feeling?

I’m intentionally ignoring all other biases and bad habits that we, adults, have; sayings like - at least you can look forward to it, it’s wise to wait, you have to wait for the good thing, etc., and very unhealthy assumptions that things (like your health, the world order, opportunity for connection…) will be the same tomorrow, next week or next month - are helping to excuse the postponement of things.

Anyway, I feel like I'm pretty action focused (better done today then tomorrow - is my usual saying) but when we discussed this "time perception" topic, I caught myself thinking: "this is a great reminder for evaluating urgency in your plans".

I'd be curious to know what do you think about this? Just hit me up on Farcaster or X!

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