Past, Present, and Future: Where are you?

Philip Zimbardo, psychologist and head of the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment, recently gave a presentation entitled “The Secret Powers of Time.”  During his presentation, he mentions that there are six different types of people when it comes to time.  They are:


  • Past Positive – This first personality is for those who remember all the good times.  These are people who are likely to keep photo albums and old awards.
  • Past Negative – This personality type are of those who focus mainly on regrets and failures.  Things they wished they had accomplished and things they wish they could forget.
  • Hedonistic – These people live for pleasure and live for enjoyment.  They look at each day as a new way to be happy and strongly avoid pain.
  • Faded Present – This trait can be seen in those that express no real reason to plan for the future.  They see the world as already planned out due to religion, politics, or poverty.
  • Future Oriented – A common trait in most people, future oriented people avoid temptation and avoid pleasures to achieve success.
  • Fatal Future – Not as bad as it sounds, Fatal Future people see their lives as beginning once the soul leaves the body or, after death.  These futuristic people are typically guided by religion.

Looking at these, it becomes easy to categorize those around you into where there mind sits in relation to their personal and professional lives.  It’s more important however to view where you are with the above categorization.  As students, we were taught to take our hedonistic present way of thinking, and turn it into a future oriented thought process.  We were taught that going out late at night, stopping at the snack shop while walking home from school, and buying that extra chocolate bar in the cafeteria was wrong, while planning for college, saving for the future and getting homework done days in advance was and should have been a priority.

Today, this same mind-set and thought process you had when you were young can now affect not only your own career, but your entire company as well.

I’ve observed various industries and company leaders speak about their organizations.  Those leaders who seem to have a thriving organization do not dwell on what they have done and what they are accomplishing, but speak about what they will be doing in the future.  These influencers are the true industry leaders.  A great example is the late Steve Jobs.  Every year when Apple unveils their new product line, the presentations never about what they have done, but what innovations they are working on for the future.  This not only makes them an industry leader, but creates a strong client following due to the excitement of knowing that Apple is always thinking of the next big thing.

Look at your own work life.  When you speak to others about what you do, do you dwell on what you’ve done, or do you speak about what you will accomplish?  When you carry your own thoughts from the past or present, into the future, you will see a noticeable difference in not only your own work life but your teams, and with the right ripple effect, your organization.