- Think of your grandmother/father or great grandmother/father. Consider their life.
- How did they live? Who were they?
- How might their concept of self changed over time?
- How did their life change? What can we take from that in our own lives?
- How might they have seen the passage of time? How do they look back on their life?
Think of yourself 10 years ago…
- Who did you believe you were?
- What did you care about? Where did you find meaning?
Now, think back 15 or 20 years…
- Again, what did you think about the world?
- What would your past self think of you now?
- How have you changed? Did you think you would change this much?
- What does this tell you about the future?
The Tail End
If you visualize your life in weeks, as done by the fantastic Wait But Why blog in this post, it really puts things into perspective. Here is one visual of many from that post, showing the life of a ‘typical’ American in weeks:
We are changing creatures with long, short, chaptered lives.
If you were to cross out all of the weeks you’ve already lived, and assuming you’ll live to be 90, would you find that what you have left is long? Short?
In either case, there is an eerily short, alternative perspective. The perspective comes when we consider how close we are to the the ‘last time’ of something. This is especially poignant in relationships. You may be feeling young at 34 years old, for example, but by then, likely, 90% of the time you’ll have with your parents has passed.
This is quite remarkable.
Consider anything…how many birthday parties might you still attend? How many slumber parties? Oh, is that one finished already?
How many times will you still have a book read aloud to you? How many times will you see a live basketball game?
Of all the times you will hear “I love you” in a way that makes your stomach jump into your chest, how many do you have left?
This concept is explored elegantly in this post.
In partnership with the Wait But Why blog, Kurzgesagt made a video to illustrate this same concept of the “Tail End” of things. Check it out.
Consider Life in Decades
This mental exercise is simple. It’s unlikely you will live beyond 100. This means that, considered in 10-year chunks, you can count your life on your own fingers!
Broken into these distinct chunks, what do you make of each chapter of your life? What about thinking of them in terms of character traits, skills, relationships, or other large variables?
These articles provide some interesting fuel for thought:
- Decades of Life – The Intentional Living blog reflects on each decade of life and what forms them…what they represent.
- 100 Years – An interactive audiovisual journey article. Hear short snippets of people across the decades describing life at that time. From CNN.
- People search for meaning when they approach a new decade in chronological age – A scientific study showing the power of decades on meaningful living.
- The 7 primes of life – Why each decade comes with its own superpowers.
- 40 Reflections on the Decades of Life – A 40-year-old writer reflects on each decade and its best parts, plus hopes moving forward.
That face of yours will wrinkle.
What will you look like across the long chapters of your life? What features will you keep, and what will fade away?
Here are a few faces changed over a lifetime.
*The last person is the grandfather of someone who works on this site.
You can take a look at your own aging face using smartphone apps like FaceApp, Aging Booth (iPhone), Make Me Old (android), Oldify. You can also find filters like these on popular social media apps like Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram.
Koinophobia is the fear of living an ordinary life. Things look smaller than you remember when you reflect or look from a distance.
Easier said than understood: every single person around you has a story that is just as complex, crazy, and deep as yours.
Psychologist Philip Zimbardo says happiness and success are rooted in a trait most of us disregard: the way we orient toward the past, present, and future. He suggests we calibrate our outlook on time as a first step to improving our lives.
The Last Human – A Glimpse Into The Far Future – Another awesome video from Kurzgesagt.
Ages and stages…watch this girl transform before your eyes from a baby to a 14-year-old.
A marvelous trick of editing, this video show’s a woman aging from girlhood without any stop-motion or abrupt cuts.
A pile of jellybeans is used to visually represent a human life. Every jellybean is equivalent to a single day.
Rocks, pebbles, and sand. This fantastic analogy symbolizes how we can prioritize/organize our time.
HG Wells Time Machine — Moving through time
A portrayal of a dystopian future in which time literally is money. You work to earn more time to live.
A movie clip showing the stark contrast between a normal day of drudgery and the same day lived with a sense of presence and gratitude.
A very touching animated short showing the passing of generations.
Life After People
What would happen to planet earth if the human race were to suddenly disappear forever? Would ecosystems thrive? What remnants of our industrialized world would survive?
San Francisco 1906 – A fascinating, highly remastered look at the city in the dawn of video.
1950s Commercials and Vintage Commercials
Los Angeles early 50’s,60’s in color, Freeways
Also, check out this playlist of interviews with people who lived in the 1800’s.
Statistics and Tools
- Deaths and Births – Around the world in real-time on an interactive map.
- Worldometers – A smorgasbord of global stats.
- How Many Books – This Chart Predicts How Many Books You Can Read Before You Die
- Timeline of Your Life Infographic Poster – You can buy and hang this poster on your wall to remember what your life is composed of.
- The World Clock – Lots of fun global insights.
- Google Maps’ new ‘time travel’ feature – To celebrate the 15th birthday of Street View, the company is letting users travel 15 years back in time.
Productivity and Personal Growth
- Half-Life: The Decay of Knowledge and What to Do About It – Understanding the concept of a half-life will change what you read and how you invest your time.
- Six Ways to Think Long-term: A Cognitive Toolkit for Good Ancestors – A fascinating article from the Long Now.
- Aging is inevitable, so why not do it joyfully? – This TED article offers practical tips for aging joyfully, highlighting the “Counterclockwise” study by Ellen Langer, in which elderly subjects showed remarkable physical improvements resulting from a younger perspective.
- The Clocklike Regularity of Major Life Changes – Transitions feel like an abnormal disruption to life, but in fact, they are a predictable and integral part of it.
- How to Make Time Slow Down – After a lost year in the pandemic, you might be feeling like time is slipping through your fingers. Here’s how to stop it.
- Temporal Belonging – The timeless, futile effort to fix circadian rhythms with tech.
- Time Management for Mortals – An OnBeing interview with Oliver Burkeman, in which he brings ‘time management’ into realistic perspective.
From Philip Zimbardo
- The Time Paradox – Zimbardo’s book, shown below.
- The Secret Powers of Time – Professor Philip Zimbardo reveals how our individual perspective on time affects our work, health, and well-being.
- Time Perspective Inventory – Take this assessment from Zimbardo’s book online.
- Transcendental-Future Time Perspective Inventory – Another online assessment.
Zooming Out and Significance
- The Future Will Have to Wait – A fascinating article from the Long Now Foundation, about shifting our mental perspective to a much longer term.
- You’re astonishing! – A tribute to the unlikelihood of your living at all.
Family, Lineage, and Lifespan
- Family Tree Poster – You can order and fill in!
- Tell stories of your grandfather – How many minutes/hours can you go without drawing it out? Great grandfather? Great, Great Grand Mother?
- Your Story – A guided interview through your personal and family history.
- How Long Will We Live in 2069? – Naked mole rats, the Church of Perpetual Life, and the quest to discover what the future holds for the human lifespan.
- The Mysterious Impact of Being an Age that Ends in 9 – Who’d have thought?
- Who do we spend time with across our lifetime? – From Our World In Data, a statistical look at our social environment.
Articles on Perception of Time
- Why Does Time Do That? – Why Time Slows Down When We’re Afraid, Speeds Up as We Age, and Gets Warped on Vacation
- The Time of Our Lives – Human Awareness in the Context of Cosmic Time
- Altered States of Consciousness – The Neuropsychology of How Time Perception Modulates Our Experience of Self, from Depression to Boredom to Creative Flow
- Kahlil Gibran on Befriending Time – “The timeless in you is aware of life’s timelessness, and knows… that that which sings and contemplates in you is still dwelling within the bounds of that first moment which scattered the stars into space.”
- Neil Gaiman Reads Ursula K. Le Guin’s Ode to Timelessness to His 100-Year-Old Cousin – “In the vast abyss before time, self is not, and soul commingles with mist, and rock, and light.”
- Reasons Revealed for the Brain’s Elastic Sense of Time – New research finds that the subjective experience of time is linked to learning, thwarted expectations and neural fatigue.
- Time doesn’t flow like a river. So why do we feel swept along? – On the perception of time, by Psyche.
- Time Might Not Exist, Physicists Say; Causation Is the Basic Feature of Our Universe – An article about the nature of time from Singularity Hub.
On and Of Film
- A Marriage Story – Inside the making of the brilliant, moving first 10 minutes of Pixar’s ‘Up’
- The 10 Best Films of 1931 – A fun glimpse back in time at a slice of a maturing art.
- The Eagleman Stag – A mind-bending and strangely dark comedy short film about a man’s obsession with time and death and the extreme lengths he goes to in order to counter them.
- Histography Timelines – An incredibly designed, artfully engineered interactive timeline with links to wiki pages. It covers several different spans of history.
- Old Maps Online – A website encyclopedia of old maps.
- “The Magic Thread” Story – What if you could skip ahead into the future?
- Gates’ Law: How Progress Compounds and Why It Matters – “Most people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in ten years.”
- The Shortness of Life – Seneca on Busyness and the Art of Living Wide Rather Than Living Long
- A New Refutation of Time – Borges on the Most Paradoxical Dimension of Existence
- Lessons for Telling the Time – A short blog post from Seth Godin considering better ways to reflect on time.
- They Survived the Holocaust. Now, They Are Fleeing to Germany. – A NYT article about survivors fleeings Ukraine.
- Simone de Beauvoir recommends we fight for ourselves as we age – This article reflects on her work.
Wisdom from the Wait But Why Blog
- The Tail End – visualizing the human life in days, weeks, years, etc.
- Your Life in Weeks – another insightful visualization
- Putting Time in Perspective
- Your Family: Past, Present, & Future – illustration of the accelerating size of our family tree.
- It’s 2020 and You’re In the Future – Y2K is closer to the 70’s than it is to today! That and other ‘ah ha’ realizations.
- 100 Blocks a Day – Wait But Why offers an insightful visual aid for budget one’s time in a day
Articles on History and the Future
- Three Big Things: The Most Important Forces Shaping the World – Cultural examination of 3 big current history-changing factors: demographic changes, wealth inequality, and access to information.
- The Challenges of Modernity – An insightful collection of some of the unique challenges of the modern world we live in.
- Quit the Millennial Bashing – On how Generational is bad science.
- Extractions from Yuval Noah Harari’s ’21 lessons for the 21st century’
- A Brief History of Time Keeping – This article and infographic shares the fascinating progression of the tools we use to measure time.
On Modern Times
- Three Big Things: The Most Important Forces Shaping the World – Demographic shift, income inequality, and access to information.
- How Covid Stole Our Time and How We Can Get It Back – A fascinating piece from the New York Times.
Where does the day go?
The following infographic by Sara Chodosh visually presents the way we use our time throughout life.
Just a Second
What can happen in just a second, a minute, or an hour? How can we measure time? The flap of a vulture’s wing. A crocodile’s heartbeat.The weight of a baby blue whale.The life of a mayfly. These increments of time may sound a bit strange, but they are all fascinating ways in which we can think about time.
Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils
David Farrier explores the traces we will leave for the very distant future. Modern civilization has created objects and landscapes with the potential to endure through deep time, whether it is plastic polluting the oceans and nuclear waste sealed within the earth or the 30 million miles of roads spanning the planet.
The Clock Mirage: Our Myth of Measured Time
This book relates our eternal, and doomed, struggle to corral time and make it play by our rules. Article about the book and time as an illusion here.
Now: The Physics of Time
In Now, Muller does more than poke holes in past ideas; he crafts his own revolutionary theory, one that makes testable predictions. He begins by laying out―with the refreshing clarity that made Physics for Future Presidents so successful―a firm and remarkably clear explanation of the physics building blocks of his theory: relativity, entropy, entanglement, antimatter, and the Big Bang. With the stage then set, he reveals a startling way forward.
“Just over two hundred years ago, Edward Rutledge signed the Declaration of Independence. His direct descendants are Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson. What sort of odds would you have been willing to lay on that bet? You could be standing at his deathbed in 1800, with complete and total knowledge of his genetic makeup and the society in which he lived, and the chances that you’d predict this outcome would certainly approach zero.” – Seth Godin
“Life begins when a person first realizes how soon it will end.” – Marcelene Cox
“A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.” — Charles Darwin
“One starts to get young at 60, and then it is too late.” – Pablo Picasso
“You are richer than 93% of people.Not in money, but in time. 108 billion people have lived throughout history. 93% of them are dead.You have what every king and queen, every pharaoh and ruler, every CEO and celebrity of the past would give all their wealth for: Today.” – James Clear
“If we see someone throwing money away, we call that person crazy. Money has value. Wasting it seems nuts. And yet we see others—and ourselves—throw away something far more valuable every day: Time.” – The Shortness of Time
“”Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind; it is not a matter of rosy cheeks, red lips and supple knees; it is a matter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions; it is the freshness of the deep springs of life.Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity of the appetite, for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of sixty more than a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old merely by a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals.Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, fear, self-distrust bows the heart and turns the spirit back to dust. Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the unfailing child-like appetite of what’s next, and the joy of the game of living.” – An excerpt from the poem “Youth” by Samuel Ullman, a Jewish poet
“I don’t want to get to the end of my life and find that I have just lived the length of it. I want to have lived the width of it as well.” – Diane Ackerman
“There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen.” – Vladimir Lenin
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.” – Gandalf the Grey
“The last stars will die out 120 trillion years from now (at most) followed by 10^106 years of just black holes. Condensed, that’s like the universe starting with 1 second of stars and then a billion billion billion billion billion billion billion years of just black holes. Stars are basically the immediate after-effects of the Big Bang. A one-second sizzle of brightness before settling into an essentially endless era of darkness. We live in that one bright second.” – Tim Urban
“Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time — past and future — the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.” – Eckhart Tolle
Insightful visuals from Wait But Why:
- Emma Willard’s Maps of Time – A tribute article to a robust portfolio of infographics that predate our modern abundance.
- How Many Humans Have Ever Lived? – A fascinating article and infographics from Our World in Data.
- Change in Common Household Types in the U.S. – A fascinating data science lens on changing tides in the American housing situation.
Movies and Streams
Shorts and Series
- Undone – (Amazon) – A half-hour per episode, genre-bending, animated dramedy that explores the elastic nature of reality through its central character, Alma, a twenty-eight-year-old living in San Antonio, Texas.
- The Up Series – (Amazon) – In this seminal documentary series spanning decades, filmmaker Michael Apted examines the lives of fourteen British children as they mature into adulthood. Experience their lives in entirety with an unconventional and life-affirming binge. Up on IMDB
- Going Home – (Disney+) – A story about growing up and the meaning of home in which a young adult repeatedly visits his hometown, but with every new arrival, he starts to face the inevitable: change.
- Cycles – (Disney+) – This short film centers around the true meaning of creating a home and the life it holds inside its walls.
- Star Trek: Into the Light – (Netflix) – This all-time favorite episode of Star Trek, The Next Generation, carries HUGE implications for considering time, life, and even identity. Find it in Season 5, Episode 25 on a variety of streaming services. (Opening Scene)
Slow and Reflective
- Times Like This – Edie Brickel & New Bohemians (lyrics)
- Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay – Otis Redding (lyrics)
- Who Knows Where the Time Goes – Eva Cassidy (lyrics)
- Only Time – Enya (lyrics)
- Time After Time – Eva Cassidy (lyrics)
- Time In A Bottle – Jim Croce (lyrics)
- Good Riddance – Greenday (lyrics)
- The Circle Game – Joni Mitchell (lyrics)
Rock and Soft Rock
- Hazy Shade of Winter – The Bangles (lyrics)
- Turn Turn Turn – The Byrds (lyrics)
- These Are The Days of Our Lives – Queen (lyrics)
- Times Like These – Foo Fighters (lyrics)
- Time – Pink Floyd (lyrics)
- Time – Desree (lyrics)
- The Time of My Life – David Cook (lyrics)
Why do I always feel so ‘busy?’ Learn how to cut through the misconceptions about managing your time.
Why doesn’t a ‘happy,’ comfortable life feel like enough? Learn about one of the greatest hindrances to overall well-being.