Balance present with past, future
Have you ever thought about how you feel about time? Do you dwell on past events, think too much about the future, or do you simply take one day at a time?
Research and personality studies show that perceptions of time affect a person’s behavior. Current studies on reasons for student dropouts reveal that young people who drop out consider only the present in their lives. Beyond today and what they plan for Saturday night they see not future. Dropping out of school and earning the minimum wage is gratifying for today. It may provide money for a car, which seems to increase status and control for its owner. These youths tend to act on impulse and fail to consider the consequence of their acts. Unwanted pregnancies can happen to teens who are too “present”-oriented.
Students who live in the so-called expanded present may be victims of poverty, of a ghetto life. With no successful past or prospect for a successful future, they see no way to break the chain of disadvantage. Studies show that unusual ghetto kid, the one who does break away and earns a degree, may experience a sadness, a feeling of guilt and loss as he realizes that there is no going back and that he has left others behind.
In some cultures, young people are taught to honor their ancestors to place great value on their heritage. To them the past is all-important, and they have a sense of continuity from older people that is their overriding concern. However, most past-oriented young people cannot visualize themselves working in any unfamiliar setting or living anywhere but in their present neighborhood. They have little opportunity to develop their creativity, to search for new inventions or to make scientific discoveries.
Students who are future-oriented may smile a lot, but laugh very little. They feel they have little time to develop relationships. They look at their watches a lot, but study twice as hard as those who live more in the present. They tend to set far-reaching goals and well on future careers as their main objective. They will even answer most of their test questions and conversations in the future tense.
For information and education to become effective, educators must learn to help these young people change their perception of time.
A well-balanced personality, of course, makes use of all three time perceptions – the past, the present and the future. By having a feeling of and love for the past, a student can appreciate history and the contributions of all cultures in art, music, architecture, drama, medicine, etc. By studying the past, the student will be prepared to live in the future.
The student who includes the future in his life will look ahead for benevolent ways to protect his environment and to preserve the resources for future generations. He sees life as ongoing and improving. And the student who takes advantage of the present appreciates each day with a sense of peace and contentment. He is able to withstand pressures, stresses, joys and disappointments by taking the attitude that this day, too, will pass and that each day is a full measure of time in life. We all need each dimension.
Harold H. LeCrone, Jr., Ph.D. Copyright 1988