Are you really happy? It’s a pretty simple and straight-forward question, right? Yet for many of us, what follows next is an uncomfortably long pause before giving our answer. What does it really take to be happy in today’s world? As it turns out, happiness is all about balance. To be more specific, happiness is all about having a “balanced time perspective”. In solution-focused conversations people’s attention is subtly focused in the directions of firstly, a positive future, secondly, positive aspects of the present and thirdly, positive past through exception seeking questions and past success questions which help get a clear picture of when things were already going well. This process of going back and forth between past, present, and future in solution-focused conversations is actually a good idea. It’s best to be balanced in your time perspectives.
Having “balanced time perspective” can make people feel more vital, more grateful, and more satisfied with their lives. Do you look fondly at the past, enjoy yourself in the present, and strive for future goals? If you hold these time perspectives simultaneously – and don’t go overboard on any one of them – you’re likely to be a happy person. If you are too extreme or rely too much on any one of these perspectives, it becomes detrimental, and you can get into very destructive types of behaviors. While it may seem obvious that people who have a positive attitude about their past, enjoy the present, and focus on goals for the future would be the happiest, a sense of well-being depends on the balance between these elements.
If you’re really dominant in one type of perspective, you’re very limited in certain situations. To deal well when you walk into any situation, you need to have cognitive flexibility. That is probably why people with a balanced time perspective are happiest. It can be fine to have fond memories of childhood, for instance, but spending too much time remembering the past can keep you from enjoying the present. It might be great to treat yourself to a nice dinner, but “living in the moment” like that every night could keep you from achieving future goals.
It can also be said that people can “rebalance” their time perspectives. Although, there hasn’t been a lot of work that’s tried to change time perspectives explicitly but in general if you’re too future-oriented, it might be good to give yourself a moment to sit back and enjoy the present. If you’re too hedonistic and living for the moment, maybe it’s time to start planning some future goals.