Chapter 13Balancing Time Perspective in Pursuit of Optimal Functioning

ILONA BONIWELL AND PHILIP G. ZIMBARDO

Central to the discipline of positive psychology (Seligman & Csikszentmihalyi, 2000) is the answer to the question of what makes life worth living, or simply: What is a good life? What constitutes a good life is a multifaceted issue that positive psychology sets out to study across three levels: positive subjective experience, positive individual characteristics, and qualities that contribute to a good society (Seligman, 1999). One key to learning how to live a fulfilling life is discovering how to achieve a balanced temporal perspective (Boniwell & Zimbardo, 2003).

The construct of a balanced time perspective provides a unique way of linking positive psychology's three levels of research. The study of time perspective investigates how the flow of human experience is parceled into temporal categories, or time frames, usually of past, present, and future. The relative emphasis or habitual focus on any of these frames is often biased toward overusing some of them while underusing others. These learned temporal biases are influenced by culture, education, religion, social class, and other conditions. A balanced time perspective is the state and the ongoing process of being able to switch flexibly among these time frames as most appropriate to the demands of the current behavioral setting (Zimbardo & Boyd, 1999). Time perspective is a basic aspect of individual subjective ...

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