Change your mind and keep the change

Reading this week, Andre Comte Sponville philosophical works in relation to Time, reminded me of the NLP Time orientation. Our spatial representation of Past – Present- Future is linked to the vision and out look of our being. A change in the representation will certainly change our outlook thus operate a corresponding change in our behavior. Do you want to be a more future oriented person? Do you want to have a better Time Management? Read below an extract of the book: Change your mind and keep the change, by Connirae and Steve Andreas, my NLP tutors. It is one of the NLP books which I cherish.

Time Orientation
Let’s talk a little bit more about past-, present-, and future-oriented people, and how their orientations relate to their time sorts. For example, one person that I worked with had the past right behind her, the present directly in front of her, and the future going out ahead. Now, what kind of person was she with respect to time? If you try on that timeline, what will your orientation be?

Al: I’m not sure. It’s confusing.

Well, can you see the future?

Al: No, not really.

Not unless your pictures are transparent, and hers weren’t! If the present is right in front of you and the immediate future is behind that, so you can’t see it, what is your time orientation?

Sally: Present.

Right, and for her it was the immediate present. When she said “right now,” she really meant right now–this split second! Five minutes from now would be in the future for her. She had a very narrow sense of the present.

Now try this out. What if your future goes off to your right at an angle, so you can see most of what’s in each picture, and it gets bigger and brighter as it goes forward in time? The far future will be more important for you. You would tend to live for the far future, and respond less to the present and past.

If the near future or the present were bigger and brighter than the far future, you might experience difficulty with long-range planning or thinking about the consequences of your behavior, but be very good at planning immediate future events. Investigating your timeline can often give you some clues about how to change it in a useful way.

Carol: I started out being very present-oriented. My present was big, bright, and close, and both future and past were small and dim. We changed it so that I could keep all that wonderfulness of the present, but move some of that brightness into the next several weeks also, so that I’d respond more to the immediate future and get more done.

That sounds like a useful change. Here’s another timeline you can all try out. One man had his past on a line straight in front of him. His future went way off to the right. You know the phrase, “My past flashed in front of my eyes?” This man lived that way all the time. What does that do to your experience? It certainly focuses your attention on the past. Depending upon whether your past was wonderful or horrible, you might like it or not, but you wouldn’t pay much attention to the present or future. This is the kind of person for whom using the Change Personal History pattern will be very impactful, because he responds so strongly to representations of the past.

Carl: I’ve noticed that in certain circumstances I can focus a lot on the past. My past was right up here in front of me. So I just moved it over there to my left, and went, “Beep. Bang!” and slammed the door.

And how does that work for you?

Carl: Well, I don’t know yet.

If you now take this new timeline into future situations, you can get a good idea of how it will work, and if any adjustments need to be made. The ideal is to have some flexibility with your timeline–to be able to move the past where you can see it when that’s useful, and move it out of the way when you want to be more present- or future-oriented.

I think you are all getting the idea that in general, whatever is right in front of you and noticeable–big and bright, colorful, etc.–will be most compelling and you will pay most attention to it.

Fred: I’m interested in hearing about some useful timelines.

Well, the question is always “Useful for what purpose?” or “Useful for whom?” You’re getting a sense of what the possibilities are. Let me tell you some fairly standard ones. Most people have some kind of gentle, open curve, the way Linda has. The past is usually a line off to the left, the present right in front of you, and the future in a line to the right. Images may be stacked behind one another, but they’re usually offset or arranged at an angle, so that part of each successive picture is visible.

Deciding whether a timeline is useful or not depends on what your personal outcomes are, and what’s ecological for you. Saying “this is the right timeline” is like saying “this is the right way to be, and there are no other useful ways to live in the world.” A person’s timeline can make him unique. But if it gets him into trouble in certain situations, or if a different timeline would allow him to do things that he can’t now do with his own, then it might be appropriate to explore alternatives, at least for specific contexts.

Timeline Spacing

It’s often useful to find someone you think is very capable and skilled, investigate how she sorts time, and try it out. For example, people who are good long-range planners tend to have the future close in front of them rather than off to the side. We know a man who teaches business people long-range planning, and he’s very good at it. He has both his five-year and his ten-year plans right there in front of him, very detailed, and quite close. Ten years is only about two feet away. That works fine for him, and he really likes it, but when I try it, the future seems to press in on me too much. I want the future a little bit farther away and less detailed, so that I have more room to move in the present.

What difference might it make in a person’s life if his future timeline is really e-x-p-a-n-d-e-d instead of compressed, like that of the long-range planner I just mentioned? Try putting tomorrow halfway across the room, next week down the hall, and next month so far away on the horizon that it’s barely visible. What might be the behavioral consequences of having such an “expanded” timeline?

Anne: I wouldn’t be very motivated to do something that was way out there someplace! I’d feel as if I had a lot of time to kill before getting around to it.
Mike: How true! When I was writing my dissertation, finishing it was quite a way off in the future. There was lots of room to add other projects between the present and the completion date of my dissertation, so I kept taking on new jobs and putting off the dissertation. When I finally realized what was happening, I “reeled in” the deadline until it was so close to the present that there wasn’t enough room to add anything in between. Any new projects had to get added on after the dissertation was done.
Nice! That’s a good illustration of how compressing a timeline can help someone meet deadlines.

Lars: I think I need to do the opposite. My future is all bunched up close, and I always feel like the future is pressing in on me. When I spread it out a little more, I feel much more relaxed.

You look as if that might lower your blood pressure 30 points. Let’s check carefully for ecology, though. Imagine taking this new spread-out timeline with you through the next day . . . and the next week . . . Can you still get the things done you want to get done? Or are you too “laid back”?

Lars: No, not at all. In fact I think I can plan and schedule better. Before, my future was so bunched up that I couldn’t really see it to plan very well.

That sounds good. We’ve also noticed that for some people, having a long-range future that is filled with big bright goals literally gives them “something to live for” and they’re more apt to stay alive! One study on cancer patients found that survivors are apt to be future-oriented, whereas non-survivors are past-oriented.

Bob: I used to be much more future-oriented than I am now. In the past couple of years I’ve slowed down, and my future seems to be less clear than the way it was before. There are obviously advantages and disadvantages.

Absolutely. If you are too fixated on the future, you may not be taking care of things in the present. You may not notice that you’re having a lousy time now, and that your family’s having a lousy time, too. On the other hand, if all your attention is on having fun in the present, you won’t notice the future consequences, and your future won’t be as enjoyable as it could be. Depending on the consequences you ignore, it could be a lot shorter, too!