Why does life seem to go faster the older you get?
The popular explanation for this is that the brain perceives time as a rough percentage of total life lived. For a 10-year old child, one year represents 10% of their existence to date. That’s a long time. But to a 60-year old, one year represents less than 2% of their life experience to date, giving the impression of it passing much faster. But that’s only part of the answer.
If you don’t remember something, as far as your brain is concerned, it didn’t exist.
What are the things you remember about your past? Do you recall all those TV episodes you watched? How about every class you attended in high school? Or the times you spent waiting in doctors’ offices or bus stations? Not likely.
We remember the significant things in our lives – that close encounter at the train crossing, that case of mumps as a child or your graduation day at college.
Routines, habits, boring or repetitive activities all make life seem shorter if they are not recalled. Your brain is too efficient to waste cell power remembering multiple episodes of the same thing. What brain in its right mind would want to remember ten hours spent watching paint dry?
The past will have seemed much shorter if parts of your life have been compressed.
The longer you live, the more experiences you accumulate, and depending on whether those experiences are memorable or not, life may have seemed to have passed by quickly. External or clock time passes as quickly as your brain tells you it passes. I am convinced that we can manage internal time to a significant degree. And one way of slowing the passage of time from your brain’s perspective is to add significance to your life. But there are others.
And always remember: When you lose all your money, you can always earn more. But when you lose all your time, there is no more to earn. Time is your most precious resource. Budget it well.
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Can we really manage internal time?
If you avoid mind-numbing activities, multitasking and needless hurry and have plenty of significant achievements or milestones in your life, and are totally aware and mindful during your waking hours, time, in retrospect, will have passed more slowly.
My eBook, Internal time management: slowing the pace of life, suggests strategies aimed at slowing the perceived passage of time so that when you are in your sixties, seventies or older, you won’t feel that you have been cheated out of twenty years or more. The strategies also include goal-setting, simplifying your life, exercising, getting sufficient sleep, managing technology and merging high-tech with high-touch.
The bonus in applying these strategies is that you also increase your personal productivity and health and well-being – and perhaps even extend your lifespan.
More interesting articles by Harold Taylor:
- Internal Time Management: Using Your Natural Body Rhythms to Increase Your Effectiveness
- Time Management: Budget Your Time – It’s More Important Than Money!
- Soft Skill Education: Don’t Be so Hard-Headed and Get a Softer Brain
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