Time or Money? Lessons Learned from Sleeping with a Stranger

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I just got back from a ten week journey through India. It started out as a two week sightseeing trip with the family, but my mother country had different plans for me.

It was day two, and we had just gotten back from viewing the sights of Delhi – an ancient fort, a modern bazaar, a few beautiful temples. We were all exhausted, so we went straight to bed.

But a few hours later, I woke for a midnight dalliance. I was driven by a compulsion.

I just had to go to the freaking bathroom.

It was a romance that grew only stronger with time – what was supposed to be just a once-off encounter became an unbreakable habit. It started with food poisoning, but turned into something more – cough, cold, sore throat, and finally, fever.

In between I also managed to visit the Taj Mahal, ride an elephant, and a bunch of other fun touristy stuff. Which was all nice, but not the reason I decided to say back an extra two months.

No, it wasn’t because I was trying to lose weight, although food poisoning can do wonders for the waistline. It was because I had encountered a philosophy of life which bewildered me, and because I’d spent half of my time sightseeing and the other half sick, I’d had little time left over for the real cultural experience – mingling with the locals.

It was my first trip to India since I was a baby – my parents left in their twenties, and for 22 years didn’t go back. Now as an adult, I understand why my parents kept me away for so long, and why they tried to convince me not to extend my trip – just like I try to escape the materialism of my culture, my parents tried to escape the ‘laziness’ of theirs.

But I had been intrigued, so I stayed an extra two months.

The Guest is God

How would you respond if a friend asked to sleep on your bed for a week? How about if that friend said there was also going to be a +1 joining – a total stranger?

When I was miserable and sick and coughing all over the place, a total stranger, a friend of a friend, let me stay in her home and sleep on her bed. Her mother fed me, her friend drove me, she entertained me, and all three suggested I come back to visit again – which I did, two months later.

The kindness was mind-boggling. In America, a situation that like would be inconceivable. Attractive, 23 year old females don’t usually let sick, unknown men sleep on their bed for a week.

Not only did she have a boyfriend, he welcomed me himself and took me drinking. When I asked how they could be so kind, they gave me a simple response – “The Guest is God.”

But a few months later, I would learn that this kindness had less to do with religion, and more with the psychology of time.

Amit Bhaiyya, Play With Me!

After my family left and the sightseeing ended, I went to the state of Gujarat, to spend a few weeks with my grandparents. They’re getting old, so I figured I should spend some time with them before I no longer had that opportunity.

Amit in India

If you’re not familiar with my appearance, I’m the guy with grandma on his lap. Besides her and my grandfather, I’m not related to anyone else in the picture – they’re just a few of the locals. Not by chance, those locals turned out to be the friendliest neighbors I’d had in my entire life.

One of them, a college student, drove me around the city on his motorcycle whenever I wanted to go somewhere, even if he was busy with work. When I needed a translator, he was there, free of charge.

As school ended, kids would gradually fill the grounds outside. Their parents joined after they got back from work. The kids would play – everyone else would chat, often until late in the evening.

It’s not like they didn’t have other things to do – they all had computers and TVs.

They simply preferred the company of others.

A few times a week, one of the little ones would come up to my room and say, “Amit Bhaiyya, mara sathe rum.” In English, “Amit brother, play with me.”

It didn’t matter if I was working or in the middle of something. They came up, expected me to drop what I was doing, and join them. Sometimes, they themselves were skipping out on school. A few rupees to the teacher and an A grade could be guaranteed.

At first it was annoying, “I’ve got stuff to do, leave me alone!” But with time, I started listening. At first, I’d tell them to wait an hour, until I finished whatever I was doing. Then it became a half-hour. Eventually, I became just like them – mid-sentence, I’d close my laptop, put on my sandals, and go get sweaty. I know, not the most productive way of getting work done.

But it wasn’t just me or those kids – when I was staying with that stranger, she took a day off from work to show me around. Shops often closed after lunch so that workers could take a nap. Unplanned worker absenteeism is almost twice as high in India than the world as a whole – at some companies, 20% of the workforce at a time regularly calls in sick.1

Conscientiousness Is King

How to understand that kind behavior?

Most psychologists believe there are five fundamental components to personality, along which every person can be classified and understood.

Big 5 Personality Traits

Using this model, those work skipping Indians would be considered low on conscientiousness and high on agreeableness. How well does that classification hold up to reality?

Those low in conscientiousness:

  • are worse employees, being more likely to call in sick and perform lower quality work.2,3
  • are worse students, being more likely to procrastinate and get a lower GPA.4,5
  • are worse citizens, being more likely to commit crime and live off of others.3,6

So… some of that is true, but some of it not. Indians don’t have anything approaching a puritan work ethic, but they’re no slobs either.

Those high in agreeableness:

  • are more likely to trust others.13
  • are more likely to help others.13
  • are more likely to cooperate rather than compete.14

Again, some true, but some not. Take a drive around any of Indian’s major cities, and you’ll learn just how ‘agreeable’ people can be. And by that, I mean that traffic signals get ignored, there are no lanes, cars don’t signal, and I once had to carry my grandmother across a street for fear over her safety.

The five factor model just doesn’t fit. We Americans have decided that the yardstick along which to judge other countries is economic power and growth – money. Using that yardstick, conscientiousness is king – America is best.

But conscientiousness and work-ethic isn’t the defining difference between America and India. It’s the choice of yardstick.

Time or Money?

That Indian stranger made her choice clear – she spent time with me rather than get paid to work.

We’ve made our choice clear as well – compared to the 1980s, we’re spending more time with work, and less on family, friends, church going, recreation, and hobbies.7,8

Europeans sit somewhere in between, they don’t skip work when they feel like it, but compared to the 1980s, most European citizens have significantly more leisure time. Germans, for example, spend 200 fewer hours per year working.8

But the German economy has also been growing half as fast. Not because they’re lazy, but because with each passing year, they trade a little less of their time for money, spending, rather than investing.

What Balance is Best?

From the perspective of well-being, each extreme is stupid – workaholics and full-time hedonists are alike in their unhappiness. But, there are more than two dimensions. The dichotomy isn’t as clear as enjoy the present vs. work for the future.

According to the new psychology of time, there are six dimensions:

Time Perspective, Past Present Future

Present focus is our natural state – that’s how babies are born. What happens next is the result of culture and environment.

In cultures which value heritage and tradition, past perspective develops. That perspective can move towards the positive (remembering the past as a series of good events), or the negative (remembering the past as a series of regrets and victimizations).

In environments where uncertainty is prevalent, opportunity is slim, and investing for the future more a gamble than calculated choice, present focus develops. That perspective can move towards fatalism (“I can’t control my life; there’s no point trying”), or hedonism (“let’s enjoy!”).

In cultures which value hard work, and in environments where investing for the future pays off, future focus develops. That perspective can move towards goal oriented (working hard to create prosperity for the future), or transcendence (working hard to ensure a place in heaven).

Each person contains a mix of these perspectives, with some stronger than others. The problem is that most cultures tend toward the extremes – the average Indian is high on past and present; the average American on future.9

What Combination Is Best?

I won’t say that each perspective has something to offer in moderation – there are no benefits associated with past-negative and present-fatalism:

  • Present-fatalism is correlated with unsafe sex, drug use, low self-esteem, and pessimism.9
  • Past-negative is highly correlated with depression.10

But with the rest? All correlated with happiness, life satisfaction, vigor, chances of developing positive relationships, self-esteem, and more.10,11,12

According to Philip Zimbardo, the guy who wrote the Time Paradox and came up with and tested these ideas, the ideal time combination is high on past-positive and medium-high on future-goal oriented and present-hedonism.

There’s a growing recognition in the west that time is meant to be enjoyed, just as much as it’s meant to be invested. It’s why millions of Americans are learning meditation – the value of being present is slowly being appreciated. But the past-positive? It’s been ignored, although psychologists do their part by encouraging patients to re-frame their past in a positive light.

When one of my ex-girlfriends once game me a photo-album as a birthday present, I was bewildered – what am I supposed to do with it? Can I consume it for pleasure? Does it help me achieve my goals?

I’d forgotten how to reminiscence.

With that in mind, I suppose I should haven’t been too surprised with my results from taking the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory. I scored in the:

  • 99.9 percentile for future-goal oriented. That is, I’m more goal oriented than 999 out of 1,000 people.
  • .5 percentile for present-hedonism. That is, I’m less hedonistic than 199 out of 200 people.
  • 5th percentile for present-fatalist. That is, I think (within reason) that I can do anything.
  • .2 percentile for past-positive. That is, I reminisce positively about my past exactly never.

Basically, I’m unbalanced as fuck. Half of which owes to my genes and upbringing, the other half to my fight with fibromyalgia, which I’ll give a full accounting of next month. But I’m glad I took the test, and I’m glad I went to India.

Despite the number of positive changes I’ve implemented in my life since founding Happier Human (like gratitude) apparently, I’m still obsessed with the future. That’s got to change.

If you’re not sure where your time-perspective lands, take the quiz yourself. It’ll help to shine light on aspects of your personality you’ve taken for granted and ignored.

To learn more about time perspective, watch this video. With already 3,000,000 views, you can be sure it’s entertaining.

References

1. Rampant Workplace Absenteeism Hurting India’s Economy. International Business Times.
*I’ll admit a newspaper article isn’t the best of sources. I could be wrong, although everything I heard anecdotally suggests otherwise.

2. J. F. Salgado (February 1997). “The five factor model of personality and job performance in the European community”. Journal of Applied Psychology 82 (1): 30–43. doi:10.1037/0021-9010.82.1.30.PMID 9119797.

3. Roberts, B.W.; Jackson, J.J.; Fayard, J.V.; Edmonds, G. & Meints, J (2009). “Chapter 25. Conscientiousness”. In Mark R. Leary, & Rick H. Hoyle. Handbook of Individual Differences in Social Behavior. New York/London: The Guildford Press. pp. 257–273. ISBN 978-1-59385-647-2.

4. Dewitt, S.; Schouwenburg, H. C. (2002). “Procrastination, temptations, and incentives: The struggle between the present and the future in procrastinators and the punctual”. European Journal of Personality 16 (6): 469–489.

5. Duckworth, A. L. & Seligman, M. E. P. (2005). Self-discipline outdoes IQ predicting academic performance in adolescents. Psychological Science, 16, 939-944Ozer, D. J.; Benet-Martínez, V. (2006). “Personality and the prediction of consequential outcomes”. Annual Review of Psychology 57: 401–421.

6. “Psychological Predictors of Long Life: An 80-year study discovers traits that help people to live longer.”. Psychology Today. June 5, 2012.

7. Myers, D. G. (2001). The American paradox: Spiritual hunger in an age of plenty. Yale University Press.

8. OECD Employment and Labour Market Statistics

9. The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time, by Philip Zimbardo.

10. Zimbardo, P. G., & Boyd, J. N. (1999). Putting time in perspective: A valid, reliable individual-differences metric. Journal of personality and social psychology, 77(6), 1271.

11. Drake, L., Duncan, E., Sutherland, F., Abernethy, C., & Henry, C. (2008). Time perspective and correlates of wellbeing. Time & Society, 17(1), 47-61.

12. Boniwell, I., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2004). Balancing time perspective in pursuit of optimal functioning Ch 10. Positive psychology in practice. London’Wiley.

13. Costa, P. T., McCrae, R. R., & Dye, D. A. (1991). Facet scales for agreeableness and conscientiousness: a revision of tshe NEO personality inventory. Personality and Individual Differences, 12(9), 887-898.

14. Jensen‐Campbell, L. A., & Graziano, W. G. (2001). Agreeableness as a moderator of interpersonal conflict. Journal of personality, 69(2), 323-362.

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{ 27 comments… read them below or add one }

Josh

Wow, quite a post! I started comparing where I live (Japan) with your experience of India and my experience of America, but couldn’t come to a conclusion about Japan. I know us Americans are insanely focuse on the future, on dreaming, on pie-in-the-sky ideas and being inventors and explorers as well as deserters of bad circumstances, including the past. Our films and tv shows are often about leaving somewhere behind and “starting over” so the negative past view makes sense, I think. I can’t figure out Japan, for as long as I’ve been here. I know there is an almost romanticized fatalism here, the term “shoganai” being an often used phrase in terms of difficulties, whereas Americans tend to believe “there is always a way.”

Anyway, but as I was reading about how you had never developed the skill of positive reminiscence, I remembered how I used to be much more nostalgic, how I used to enjoy reminiscing when I had more time. Now I hardly get a moment alone and find I barely ever reminisce, so thanks for helping me bring that to light. I really want to make time for that in life.

Reply

Josh

I forgot to add that in Japanese, “shoganai” means “there’s no way,” or colloquially “there’s nothing you can do,” with the logical end of that sentence meaning “so stop fighting it / stop struggling / just accept it.”

I don’t want to say whether this is a good thing or not, though, as if to imply that the Japanese have some greater zen wisdom to teach us all.

Sometimes when you believe “there’s always a way,” you end up finding a way. On the other hand if there truly isn’t a “way,” you’ll expel a lot of energy fighting it, believing there’s a way.

Reply

Amit Amin

I watched enough anime as a kid to know what shoganai means, but for the sake of other readers, thanks for clarifying!

It’s tough to find the right balance. With my fibyomyalgia, if i’d given up, I never would have made the progress I did. But with some other things in my life, not only did I spend a lot of energy fighting – the resistance itself was painful and entrapping. How do you know when to use which approach? (that’s a rhetorical question, unless you happen to know of an answer!)

Reply

Amit Amin

Thank you, and back at you – what a comment! That’s an interesting analysis. It’s understandable you had difficulty coming to a conclusion about Japan – they’re less pure than India, so to speak – that is, their native culture has had more time to mix with western ideas (but please correct me if that’s wrong). And they’re also all over the place – fatalistic, but also future-goal oriented. Those two don’t usually go together.

“Our films and tv shows are often about leaving somewhere behind and “starting over” so the negative past view makes sense, I think.” I’d never even thought that. But you’re right – our media actively encourages us to re-frame our past in a negative light, to encourage progress and all that good stuff.

After reading your comment, I thought about it some more, and I think my situation more closely tracks yours – it’s just been so long since I’ve reminisced that I’ve essentially lost the skill.

Reply

Bazza

Interesting article, Amit. Thanks. Your description of your holiday “romance” is simply hilarious :)

Reply

Amit Amin

There was no romance involved, I promise!

Reply

Izzy

Yo, what’s up Amit :).

Okay – so first off, my favorite thing about reading your content is that I always learn some new psychology stuff. Seriously man! It’s like a college lesson :).

This is a rather timely post for me – right now is hanami (cherry blossom viewing) season in Japan. These are just flat out beautiful buds that come out for about 10 days and then are gone for the remainder of the year. It is incredible to choose 1 tree and watch it go from completely bland to amazingly beautiful. Then back to within a few days, it is completely gone – as if it never happened.

I tend to be very goal oriented as well. My danger is that I get so focused that I don’t appreciate (as you discuss). I can go, go and go! But I won’t feel anything. This isn’t my norm, but it’s a potential danger for me.

I now have included in my goals to have time each day to walk outside, listen to classical music, and read great literature. The most amazing thing I am starting to learn is that by doing this, I am learning to appreciate the little things. Food tastes better, I enjoy conversations more, I even enjoy writing more. It’s a strange thing to feel like I’m speeding up my life by slowing down.

Keep on writing epic sh–!

Reply

Amit Amin

Hey Izzy!

Comparing my blog to college… I hope you enjoyed your classes ;) But that’s what I go for – useful, idea-dense information packed in a hopefully interesting format.

Is this post somehow speaking to the Japanese soul? So far, only folks in Japan (besides me) have commented on this post. Josh talked about shoganai, you about hanami (which your description makes me want to see).

Coincidence aside, that’s an awesome idea – putting enjoyment of life’s little things as a goal. For a while now, that been an intention of mine, but never a goal. Thanks for leading from the front!

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Lee J Tyler

“But conscientiousness and work-ethic isn’t the defining difference between America and India. It’s the choice of yardstick.” I love this quote from your post…thesis. Taken together with the first two commenters, I want to get The World Health Organization together with all factors of environment, education, upbringing, psychology, economics, etymology, etc. and find the best ‘solution to our problems’. But that’s the American way of thinking.

I also love this quote about present time: “Present focus is our natural state – that’s how babies are born.” I will remember that the next time I need to explain the birds and the bees.

What amazes me is how often you call yourself lazy when under no uncertain terms, there is a 0% chance-given any or all of your articles-you are indeed lazy!

I will take the quiz though I have a pretty good handle on where I land and am proud of it with the one flaw being the last quote I love: “.2 percentile for past-positive. That is, I reminisce positively about my past exactly never.”

Though I have learned to be grateful for the little things. I learned that from a Buddhist professor and a bit from my current situation. It is amazing what we humans are capable of; both for the better and vice versa. I would imagine our (Amer.) culture as a generalize whole would be the most unhealthy and least enjoyment producing for the very reasons you stated. (Along with diet, divorce rate, lack of family togetherness, etc.)

We have a lot to learn from strangers. If only ‘we as a whole’ can listen. Ironically, we think our culture is the best and some other cultures agree with us in one sense. (Mostly now mixed.) You know you can bind your webpage into a text book with just a little formatting and an index (taken from the category cloud)? No wonder you use Thesis for Wordpress!! ;) Way to go Prof. Amin!

Reply

Amit Amin

You must be in a good mood today Lee – your humor is out of control :)

Let me take a quick stab at the lazy thing. First, I’m using my own internal definition of lazy – not the commonly accepted, “work hard = not lazy; bum around = lazy” definition. If I had to describe it, I would put it in this way:

Part 1-
1) A lot of hard work I do because of my personality (e.g. conscientiousness) – what this means is that my ability to apply effort is driven more by my culture and personality than the intrinsic value of a goal.
2) So with something like blogging, where I had it ‘beaten’ into me to produce high quality, the actual effort required to put in the time is low (e.g. someone high in extroversion applies less effort in making friends, likewise here with goal-orientation, conscientiousness, etc…). Or think of it like a deadline – with a deadline looming, work just gets easy. My personality traits are like a deadline.
3) But this deadline only applies to cultural/familially important goals. To something, say, like high-value volunteering or practicing meditation, both of which I hold to be much more important than spending an extra hour working, I struggle just as much as anyone else – I’m ‘lazy’.

Part 2-
1) I’m highly brute force in how I try to accomplish my goals. To be sure, I’m more strategic than most. But only marginally so – I lack the motivation/willpower to look at my situation critically, and then to follow the path of highest returns without flinching away. Instead, I run mostly off of the habits I’ve accumulated, spending little time trying to improve them.

When I call myself lazy, I don’t do so derisively – according to my internal definition, I consider the vast majority of people, ‘lazy’.

Okay, that wasn’t really so quick… so I’ll keep it short. Thanks for the great comment!

Reply

Gary Korisko

Very interesting, Amit. As you know, I also found some very stark contrasts between the USA and another country with regard to how people view and interact with people. And nice job relating it to specific psychology. It made for a great read!

Reply

Amit Amin

Thanks Gary. It’s experiences like ours that make me want to travel – not just abroad, and not just in the real world, but to other possible manifestations of human living.

Reply

Lori Lynn Smith

As always Amit, there is so much great info in your article. Your trip sounds like a true learning experience.

what an interesting quiz! I am happy to report that I am very low on the negative things and well above 75% on all the positive things. I guess I am a well rounded person, yeah me!

Reply

Amit Amin

It was a great experience – I was glad I made the trip.

That’s great Lori! Do you think it’s because of your personality that you’re so well rounded, because of those rituals that you’re always suggesting, or something else entirely?

Reply

Lori Lynn Smith

I definitely think it is the rituals that I have in place (and highly recommend to others). There is not doubt that I am a goal-oriented person, but I better understand how to create the balance now. For me that came with age, you know gaining experience like a fine wine :-)

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Kimberley Grabas

Fantastic post, Amit! Isn’t it fascinating how your whole perspective changes when you immerse yourself in a “foreign” culture? You quickly realize that assumptions you make about behavior -like what constitutes laziness, productivity, hospitality, work ethic and so- is just that, assumptions.

I had the opportunity to live in Costa Rica, Central America for three months after University, and it changed my life philosophy. What I was sure I knew about life before I went was challenged repeatedly while I lived there. The result of that trip was a much more compassionate and less judgmental twenty year old, and I still feel the effects 20 years later.

As you point out, it’s difficult to attach a right or wrong, better/best to any approach, but your article reminds us to appreciate these gifts of experience and connection and somehow find balance, and in turn, happiness.

Great article!

Reply

Amit Amin

Your trip to Costa Rica sounds like it was a great trip – thanks for sharing! It’s a good reminder that there’s always more to learn, and there’s always assumptions than need reevaluating. Makes me wonder what other crazy things I think without realizing they’re crazy.

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John Southee

For someone who doesn’t get to travel much nowadays, well out of the country that is, this was a fun article to read to escape for a moment. It seems like one of the most important things that you can accomplish in this life is to be well traveled, to learn about other cultures while traveling, and experience life outside of your norm.

I think it’s so amazing the difference in how the Indian culture experiences life compared to us Americans. Reading on how the friends of friends just give up their time to show you around and not think twice as to whether or not they are “wasting” theirs.

Time has become one of my biggest influencers on my personal happiness and how I react to life. I find myself returning to the present and telling myself to enjoy what I am doing now because this is what I have and stop always planning for what I picture my life to be. Whether it be just one day from now or one year I catch myself a lot in the future. I like to think “how things would be a little better” or if I do this then I have be able to show that.

I haven’t taken the test yet but I will and then I’ll try to remember to follow up this comment with my results.

Reply

Amit Amin

“It seems like one of the most important things that you can accomplish in this life is to be well traveled, to learn about other cultures while traveling, and experience life outside of your norm.”

I totally agree. This isn’t my first time out of the country – I’ve spent weeks in Europe and months in China. My thoughts when coming back – “I don’t see the big hype about travel.”

But this time, I saw what can make travel so impactful – experiencing life outside your norm and learning about other cultures. In Europe I was living in hotels and site-seeing with American friends. In China I was living in an enclave specifically for Americans. I spent months there and even learnt some of the language, but the critical ingredient was missing – immersion. I wasn’t interacting with the locals.

It’s great that you’re working hard to create an amazing life, but at the same time frequently coming back to enjoy the present moment. Let me know how you score!

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John Southee

I’m not 100% sure what my results mean but this is what I copied down:

Past Neg 2.4 20%
Past Pos 4.0 between 90-99%
Present Fat 1.67 10%
Present Hedo 3.67 30%
Future 3.0 between 10-20%

Maybe you can help me figure out what that means.

Reply

Amit Amin

Future-orientation between 10-20%? You’re a terrible American! That’s what the results mean.

This is what comes to my mind –

You see the past in a positive, rather than negative light. This is awesome. You seem like you’ve got a grateful personality – this is a reflection of that (e.g. you appreciate your past).

In his book The Time Paradox, Zimbardo talks about how most people have a dominant time perspective – according to the results, yours is past positive. Do you think that’s accurate?

According to him, having a dominant past positive perspective is the best,

“A sense of a positive past gives you roots. The center of self-affirmation, the past connects you to yourself over time and across place. A positive past grounds you, provides a sense of the continuity of life, and allows you to be connected to family, tradition, and your cultural inheritance.”

From what I can tell from your blog, you’re already working hard on increasing your appreciation of the present. You also blog about motivation and goal setting. So let me just ask you this – do those posts come from experience, or from excitement?

A lot of bloggers write about motivation techniques before they themselves successfuly use them several times. I’m just as guilty, which is why I rarely talk about motivation – I no longer want to say anything unless and until I’ve proven it true in my own life. IF, on the other hand, those posts come from well-worn experience… then I’d just ignore the results of the test :)

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John Southee

I would say that I do agree that I see my past as very positive. Not everything in my past was positive but I taught myself to look at everything as a lesson learned and had I not gone through what I did then I wouldn’t be here talking to you today.

I say that because I think I was so consumed with myself 10 years ago (most young 20-year olds are though, right?) that seeking out how to learn more about happiness, trying to make the best of my present moments, and building a future while enjoying the journey would have not even crossed my mind.

Which brings my to my blog. First, I thank you for your critique. No one has ever given my a nice broad summary like you just did and it helped me realize that I AM getting the point across that I want even if it feels slow.

To answer your question, when I write I usually am talking to myself or to my kids. Mostly my kids (they are 5, 5, & 1) so when they are older and God forbid anything bad happen to me they have a “book” to read on how to live a happy life. I write from experience. I try to be as authentic and transparent as possible when I write. I want to be able to show people/my kids that happiness and goals are all achievable if you do what I say. LOL So yes, I write from experience and I try to back it up with a little research.

I love what you do in regards to research. As a psychology major, I love seeing the empirical truth that you put so much time into. It’s so fascinating. I think your readers will appreciate you more if you prove what has or has not worked for you so then can understand the techniques that you’re writing about and how it worked for one person.

Steve

There is a lot of great information here. I have quite a bit to add too from what I’ve learned and experienced.

First, I had a complete stranger ask me to stay with them when I was traveling in Morocco. On a train, my wife and I got into a conversation with a middle-aged woman. Eventually she asked my wife and I to stay with her. She gave me her phone number, name and address. She really wanted us to stay with her for a few days. It was a great experience. You’d never see that happen in the US or in many Western countries for that matter.

It wasn’t completely out of the blue for me since I had read this might happen. I wish I could have done it, but there wasn’t a good way to fit it in. I was on an already tight schedule. I still have the paper she wrote on though as a memento.

Anyway, I’m glad you used research from Philip Zimbardo. I’m more familiar with his Stanford Prison Experiment, but I knew he’s done some things on the psychology of time. So it was good to read his contributions to that. I think it’s crazy just how where you focus your attention to time changes other ways you see the world. I’ve heard that languages affect where you see time too. Some languages are more present oriented. I don’t know how true that is though.

Reply

Amit Amin

You’re not the only one – my first introduction to Philip Zimbardo was also his Stanford Prison Experiment, when I was learning about cognitive dissonance, situational attribution, and Nazis. His book on the psychology of time seemed like such a radical departure that I considered skipping past it, but his RSA animate video got me hooked.

Thanks for adding your experience – I don’t read any travel blogs, so I had no idea that would happen. I wasn’t sure if the experience was unique to India, or unique to present-oriented cultures.

I don’t know if language effects how you see time. I’m just as curious as you. Philip Zimbardo makes that argument in his book, but none of his research papers specifically address the idea. I think it’s probably most accurate to call it a speculative theory – maybe true, maybe not. One thing that is true – the distribution of vocabulary along the time dimension is different. Zimbardo mentions that in his native Southern Italy, present-oriented verb tenses far outnumber future-oriented verb tenses. BUT I’m not clear on the cause-effect – is the language causing the time orientation, or is the language a reflection of the underlying culture? It’s probably some complex mixture.

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Diana

Amit! lol I love reading your posts, great story, great wisdom, Insight & of course humor :) Looks like you had a wonderful experience and was then able to share what you learned & teach me something new. just brilliant.

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Amit Amin

Thanks Diana :) I’m glad you learned something at the same time as being entertained!

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Ciara Conlon

Sounds like an amazing trip Amit and I like you am too future focused. Always trying to live in the now and getting better at it but still sold on the future holding something better something shinier! I keep asking people lately. “If this is it, if the rest of your life were just as it is, would you be happy”? The amount of people who say no is scary, I’m sure you would get a different response in India! I’m learning to love my life – the more I practise gratitude the easier it gets and the closer it gets to summer in Ireland (summer usually lasts a week or two and we never know what month) the happier I get! I hope your trip leaves a beautiful scar for life.

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