It's About Time!

Ned Hamson -- 2003

Sixty seconds to a minute, 60 minutes to an hour, 24 hours to a day. Time never changes. It is the universal constant, or is it? Today it seems that we never have enough time. But to some people time is never be an issue. It's not that they have no care for it, for they are always on time, or even early. So what is going on here; is time variable for some?

What does: "It's about time!" mean to you? Does it mean someone feels you have taken too much time? Or does it mean you have figured out how to break the time barrier?

To be more specific, when thinking about your life have you said to yourself: "Oh, yes, I would like to create a new, open life for myself! But I just don't see how I can. I don't have enough time."

Time is one of the biggest mountains that too often blocks our way. You say it and you hear others say every day, "I just don't have time to get everything done!" "If I only had more time, I could do it!"

I've found there are at least two ways that alter time. One is an inside job - in our head. The other way, the way to think about breaking many different time barriers is a bit more involved. Let's look at the inside job of changing time first.

Think about the amount of time it takes to climb a flight of 90 steps.

If you look ahead at the top of the stairs and think about climbing ALL OF THEM - time, for you, may creep and sometimes almost stop.

If you simply look ahead a few steps for balance sake and take the steps, one at a time - time may appear to go by at a reasonable pace.

If you take a step at a time, as you walk with a friend in conversation, or meditate or pray as you climb, when you reach the final step, you may - with wonder -- look back to see if somehow you took a short cut.

But you say, "Going up 90 steps is too extreme an example, Ned." Fair enough. Try this one; it is one that I use two to three times a day. My routine is to walk 12-15 miles in two or three segments  a day. I know from experience that time does not really change but my willingness or enjoyment of it depends on whether I present myself with the WHOLE thing or break it up into less daunting segments. I know myself well enough that if on a clear day, I looked at a landmark 12 miles away and thought about walking the whole way, I would be very tempted to sit down and re-evaluate my goal. So, what do I do? For the most part, I never walk more than 2 miles in a straight line and I meditate, pray or let my mind go while my legs do the walking. Then two miles are easy... I know it in my bones and don't even have to think about whether it is level or up and down hill. The result is that at the end, I may have covered 4, 6, or 8 at a time without thinking about it.

So you say, "All right, maybe I can do something about "my time." But what about the other way, or when it's not just my time, others are involved?"

The second way to approach breaking the time barrier is to structure your environment and experience it so you enter what is called a flow zone. A flow zone can be super fast or super slow at the same time.

Slow time/Fast time. Let's say ou and your teammates or friends are involved in doing something complex and important. You remember the beginning and getting involved in the tasks, then you look up and... hours have passed by but it feels as if you began just a few minutes ago. Then you check with the others and it appears that 16 hours of work has been done in 8.

A researcher friend of mine did a study about time, focus/attention, and desire/interest. She watched a video clip of an American football player during a critical part of a game. His team was behind in points and needed to "get back into the game." She timed a play that ended up with a score that involved throwing the ball more than 40 yards downfield. The whole play took 8 seconds.

The player had just 2 seconds between getting into position and throwing the ball before two players whom he could see bearing down on him would bring him down. He looked left and right, and then up the field and threw the ball exactly to where the receiver would be after running another 15 yards down and across the field. When she asked him to describe the moment, he said, "Time seemed to slow down... I could see where everyone was, the guys who would tackle me and where the receiver would be." (They ended up winning the game and that "time breakthrough" was the turning point.)

 Time, she noted did not change but he was able to observe the environment and circumstances and make decisions faster than he would have under other circumstances. And she noted, he was able to do this often not just because of his physical talent, but because of a combination of intense desire combined with years of practicing every aspect of the game. Some years later, this type of experience became known as flow or being in the flow zone - everything seems to flow effortlessly.

When you find that you are faced with a problem or situation, important to you and for which you have trained to do over a long period of time you may not have to think twice about what you are doing - all the choices are clear, everything you need to know comes immediately, even your hard physical and/or mental exertion seems "easy." That's a time when you were in a flow zone. Think about some experience you have had like that, remember it.

Most likely you will find that all or most of the following factors were present during that time:

1. You had a clear goal

2. You had immediate feedback/measurement on how you were doing

3. If working with others, you have their supportand share the end goal.

4. You had sufficient skill/knowledge to meet the challenge or risk

You were able to merge doing/thinking/knowledge into each other - to the point where they flowed as one.

If you can "structure" your work or your experience to include the three or four factors needed for "flow" to take place, then you can break through the not-enough-time barrier that too often holds us back or trips us up.

Take me back to the index, Ned!

Copyright Ned Hamson, 2005