Have you ever been driving down the road and noticed that your car seems to be pulling to the left? Or attended a yoga class where you thought you were perfectly straight in a pose, only to have the Instructor come by and re-align you? Do you ever find yourself wondering how you could have been so naive as to trust that friend who betrayed you? These are all places where we might look to recalibrate, realign and shift some of our positions.

Phillip G. Zimbardo, a renowned American Psychologist, has spent much of his 60 year career researching how and why people shift. He wanted to know why some people respond positively and others respond detrimentally to the same stimuli. Why did that diet plan work brilliantly for you, but not for me? Why did that early childhood trauma make you decide to live a life of service and put your brother on a path to addiction and criminality? 

Zimbardo’s hypothesis was that our lives were shaped by how we viewed time. In fact, he developed the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory  (ZTPI) to measure our attitude towards five specific aspects of time:

  • Past-negative assesses regret and painful past experiences or events that we think of negatively – “My family always treated me poorly.”
  • Past-positive examines nostalgia for childhood or past events that we think of with fondness –  “It gives me pleasure to think about my past.”
  • Present-fatalistic measures perceptions of lack of personal control over events in one’s life. Events are perceived as inevitable and we are powerless to change them – “I can’t really plan for the future because things change so much.”
  • Present-hedonistic assesses spontaneity, risk-taking propensity, pleasure seeking and pain avoidance – “I make decisions on the spur of the moment.”
  • Future assesses the importance of planning, consideration of consequences of actions, and delaying gratification – “I keep working at difficult, uninteresting tasks if they will help me get ahead.”

Zimbardo outlined his theories in his book The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time That Will Change Your Life. The best case scenario is to be that individual who has very few negative past influences. Certainly, it makes sense that the more positive past events you internalize, the better.  Zimbardo speaks of a balanced present day circumstance where we have control of our decisions and are wise with our resources.  If these elements are within a normal range then our future outlook will be positive and well planned.

In short, Zimbardo discovered that our perspective of time, affects our emotional responses, our behaviour and how we view the world around us. When we shift our perspective, great and sustainable transformation can occur.

Susan struggled with depression. Nothing seemed to help. She had tried it all; exercise, relaxation, meditation, supplements and medication. She had no memories of past traumas and was desperate to find a tool that would help alleviate her overwhelming sense of daily dread.  

Susan completed the ZTPI and the results confirmed that she had significant issues when it came to her beliefs about her past. The assessment indicated that she viewed her past as a series of negative events. She struggled to find any positive events in her memories of the past. 

The assessment of her present circumstances displayed a trend towards present-fatalistic thinking. She didn’t believe that anything she did would change her situation. Co-incidentally, her scores related to impulsivity and self-indulgence were significant as assessed on the ZTPI scale under present-hedonistic. Susan’s spending was out of control. This sense that she had no control over events, coupled with her ‘live for today’ attitude was taking Susan down a path of self-destruction. Her plans for the future were non-existent.

The ZTPI, is a 56 question inventory. It’s reliability as a predictor of behaviour, emotional expression and perspective is unparalleled. We use it to help get to the heart of a client’s issue without having to go through all of the emotional re-traumatization and disruption. Once completed, this first ZTPI can be used as a baseline metric for coaches and NLP practitioners against which the progress and successes of the client can be measured.

Completing the ZTPI assessment allowed Susan and her coach to efficiently assess her current situation. Together they implemented a step by step strategy to support Susan in resolving the emotional triggers and unproductive habits that were interfering with her life. As a result she was able to start managing her impulsivity and developed the ability for self-control. She started to gain control over her life and plan for her future. Susan now lives her life with confidence, focus, balance, fulfilment and a sense of joy she has always yearned for.

Sometimes, our car just needs an adjustment. Sometimes we need to re-align our bodies to get into that perfect yoga pose and other times, it is our inner sense of time and perspective that we need to adjust. It is truly amazing how a tweak here and there can change how you view your life, whether it be in the past, the present or looking toward the future.

If you would like to learn more about the ZTPI and how I might help you to recognize and shift some of the those perspectives that no longer serve you, so that you can experience increased success and live a life of your own design, please call to book a 30 minute phone session with Simone Usselman-Tod, Dynamic Visioning Coach, Certified Life Coach & Business Coach and Certified NLP Master Practitioner. Learn more about Dynamic Visioning.