Select Page


Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’…

Well here we are in February of 2015!

There are certainly no shortage of clichés regarding the passage of time. If you were lucky enough to meet your grandparents I’m sure you heard them say to your parents “they grow up so fast!” or “where does the time go?”

I had a conversation once with one of the most insightful managers ever in my career about the passage of time. He suggested a book to me called “On the Experience of Time” by Robert E. Ornstein. The book, written in 1997, describes time experience in terms of perception and recollection of perception.

Ornstein basically says that the brain retains its memories by recording differences. Think about this: have you ever had a male friend that normally has facial hair? You never notice it until he shaves his face. Then suddenly, he spends the whole day with everyone saying “something is different about you”.

My grandfather shared an incredible piece of insight with me once about time. He said that as we age the proportions of time we are accustomed to become smaller in proportion to our total life. In other words, a minute to a five year old feels much longer than a minute to a 40 year old. This is why time “feels” faster to older people. I found this observation totally amazing! I was still left wondering, why is that? Ornstein offers some additional insight.

Because the brain records memories as differences and older people have had more experiences then logically they have less differences to encounter. Consider that same drive to and from work. Have you ever arrived at work and not remembered the drive in? I have many times.

What Ornstein found through his experiments is that time perception is related to the recollection of experiences. If the brain did not encounter many differences then it effectively did not record the time so the recollection of the past is based on little information and therefore “feels” like time went by faster.

Pretty interesting stuff.

So, what can we do with this information to improve our lives? Here’s an idea. Find many different things to experience and try to experience them as fully as possible. Drive a different way to work now and then. Have something new for lunch. Visit a town you’ve never heard of. Learn a new language.

The human machine was built to learn by experiencing differences. If time feels as if its is slippin, slippin, slippin into the future its because its true, but it doesn’t have to feel that way.

Enjoy the Steve Miller Band’s “Fly Like an Eagle” from which today’s article was inspired.