Time Distortion Everywhere!

Recently during a Practitioner training, my students were learning about time distortion, both as an experience, and for the purposes of learning time distortion effects and language patterns. 

Primarily for them, this was for learning how to do coaching using time-based visualization processes.  Secondarily, for them, this was for learning how to improve one's own relationship to time. 

As for me, I had a secondary gain.  I'm investigating, creating and testing new and more effective approaches to using time-distortion patterns.  I've been way behind on the project for administrative reasons (not thanks to time distortion!), and am getting back into it heavily now.  I thought I'd share with you some of what I'm finding; I hope you enjoy the ideas presented here.  We'll begin by exploring your current sense of time, and then begin discussing the effects of time distortion.

How accurate is YOUR sense of time?

Let's look at some raw numbers.  I ran 9 people through 8 specific timed experiences, testing their sense of time, ending the timed experiments at seemingly random moments, but tracking the data nonetheless.  I wanted to find out how accurate or not each person could be, tracking time.  How accurate or not is each person's internal time clock?  And what might cause distortions in either direction, i.e., creating a slower vs. faster sense of time?  More importantly, this is leading into WHY it may or may not be useful to create a distorted sense of time in ourselves, or others.  How and where can we create benefits?

(Legend: "N/A" means the participants were simply counting time in their minds without doing any other activity)

Task Activity:N/AN/AN/AWritingDoodlingTranceFast TalkSlow Talk
Time (Seconds):2767461091096097106
AB 56508092608795
JL18 51132955495106

I find these numbers fascinating.  And to share with you a visual representation of the above... here's a scatter plot of the 9 people's guesses in relation to the actual time elapsed during tasks (elapsed time is circled in red). The columns of greatest interest are where the red circles are near the top or the bottom of the full range of answers given by participants. This shows when the majority of the group guessed consistently under, or over, the actual time elapsed.


We can draw a number of conclusions from this, which are best illustrated by looking at the positive and negative differences between each person's guesses, and the actual numbers.  These differences are shown in the chart, below.

This chart shows the time differences between the actual time elapsed, and each person's guesses.  These cells do not show the original guesses -- just the differentials.  I.e., if the actual time was 60 seconds, and I'd guessed only 50 seconds had elapsed, we'd see -10 in the table below, showing I'd underestimated elapsed time.

Task Activity:N/AN/AN/AWritingDoodlingTranceFast TalkSlow Talk
Time (Seconds):2767461091096097106
OR - over/under058-19-70-124
AL - over/under-7-14-2-62-26218-1
BG - over/under-8-15571-19-15-37-36
O - over/under01119735-15
AB - over/under -114-29-170-10-11
MR - over/under-65-51111023-1
JL - over/under-9 523-14-6-20
UC - over/under93-21-821-19-31-7-26
VG - over/under-163-116615-7-16
% Guessed High11.11%44.44%55.56%66.67%33.33%33.33%33.33%22.22%
% Guessed Low66.67%55.56%44.44%33.33%66.67%33.33%66.67%77.78%
% RIght ON!22.22%0%0%0%0%33.33%0%11.11%

What conclusions can we draw? How about these:

  • During the first round, the first experiment, people surprised themselves with their level of inaccuracy. This is common every time I run this exercise. The vast majority of people think they're more accurate than they actually are. It's just one of the many ways our brains trick us. Further, repetitious drills of this nature can and do improve anyone's accuracy at guessing elapsed time.
  • Most things that direct attention kinesthetically, are more likely to create slower time awareness. Exceptions may include trance, and/or flight-or-flight (extreme fast time awareness (seconds taking hours, split seconds taking minutes).
  • Most things that direct attention visually, are more likely to create faster time awareness.
  • Writing seems to take one's awareness outside of time. This is usually a mix of visual and auditory emphasis (though someone may write about feelings, etc).
  • Speed of speech is extraordinarily influential -- fast speech creates fast time, slow speech creates slow time.
  • An externally silent trance causes different time sensations for different people, but by and large increased people's accuracy with being aware of elapsed time.

The much bigger question remains... how do these distorted senses of time affect our decision making? Does it affect our decision making in useful ways? How about not-so-useful ways? And then, how can we best construct language patterns and other methods of eliciting optimal temporal experiences (like slow time or fast time or compressed time or stretched time, etc)... so that we can change lives for the better?

How does Time Distortion Impact YOUR life?

We all make decisions about how we move through our life... what to do, when... what buying decisions to make or put off... how long we have to think about something before taking action... based on our relationship to time.  How often are our choices the "perfect" ones for us?  Don't presume the answer is "all."  Chances are, many of us would have made different decisions in the past had we known then, what we know now.  Or had our sense of time been different then, than it is now.  So since we KNOW we've made choices in the past we might have made differently... we can therefore presume the same may happen to us in the future.  None of us are infallible.  Some of our decision strategies are less than effective.  Don't resist this, accept it.  When you accept your imperfection, you can then happily take action to improve yourself.

Since we know WE sometimes make choices that aren't in our best interests or were made at the right time, we can then also assume OTHERS do the same.  It's a universal experience.

The conclusion to draw here is:

If we change how we or others experience time... we can affect the decisions we or others make.

If that fascinates you, as it does me... then anything we can do to become better at this...  over time... will benefit us and others immensely.  Maybe we can change a few lives for the better! 

To get you started, begin by exploring your own sense of time.  Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What is your relationship to time?  Are you a great planner?  Always late?  Well balanced?  Living in the moment?  Always early?  Plan all your spare time to the minute?  Always trying to plan but can't seem to get organized?
  • When do you make your best decisions? Use hindsight as your evidence, please -- don't "assume!"  Have you been best under pressure?  Or when relaxed?
  • When are you most influential to others?  When you're passionate in the moment?  Or when you can describe the big picture over time?
  • And... if you find contrasts between your resourceful moments, and your unresourceful moments... what can you do to begin approaching your unresourceful situations with a more resourceful sense of time?

I'll have more to come on this at some point in the future.  I'm jumping fully back into a project that has not been getting the attention it needed, in the past.  And, in the meantime... feel free to discuss the topic here, below!


Author: Jonathan Altfeld