We all know the feeling of time just flying past. Every year, around September, offices all over the world are filled with conversations about how they can’t believe that it’s September already and hasn’t the year gone quickly and it’ll be Autumn/Spring soon (deleted as geographically appropriate).
And I know I’m not alone feeling like this January went way beyond 31 days. When asked, a friend of mine claimed it was the 87th of January with everyone around giving a “I know, right?” sigh or tut or roll of the eyes.
A meeting about the timeline for a project which seems to go on FOR EVER.
That same project a month later when there’s suddenly a week to go and where the hell did all the time go?
And it’s something we’ve all experienced since we were kids – the extra half an hour before bed that goes by in a split second; the car journey where it feels like you’re going to get to bloody Greenland before you get to the next motorway junction on the way to the Highlands of Scotland from Cheshire when your dad piled you into the Vauxhall Carlton before dawn to “beat the traffic” [sorry got carried away for a second there].
So how come we all still have an unshakeable certainty in the “fact” that time is this constant, steady, objectively measurable thing? When every single one of us has personally experienced something different to that? It’s the exact opposite of faith – rather than believing in something we can’t prove, here we are disbelieving something we have personal proof of, in our own lives…
I know that according to Einstein time is relative (see here for proof that he was actually right) but I’m talking about a more personal relativity here – time being related to an individual’s own experience of a situation.
[By the way, I do believe that one day people look back at our beliefs about constant, linear time with as much derision as we look at the idea of the flat Earth – as something that people used to believe before we knew more and left such fantasies behind us… wait, what? Seriously?? Oh. Oh dear.]
And here’s the thing – my experience of time isn’t the same as yours. Your hour isn’t the same as mine. It depends on what we’re doing. That’s true even if we’re in the same room.
If I find the subject fascinating and wide-reaching and challenging, then the time we’ve got to talk about it goes way too fast. If you’re thinking it’s all bullshit and you’ve got something more important to be doing, then you can’t believe we haven’t ended yet.
It all related to a single, human truth – something that defines every interaction we have with the world in which we live and the people within it:
Perception is reality.
If I think it’s difficult, it’s difficult for me. The fact that you get it really easily doesn’t change that (and you telling me that really doesn’t help!)
If I think it’s hot in here, I’m hot. The fact that you are cold doesn’t change that.
[If anything, it probably reflects that I’ve spent the last twenty-odd years surrounding myself in a protective layer of fat just in case I fall into the North Sea. Always prepared, that’s me.]
If I think it’s boring, then I’m bored. The fact that you think it’s interesting doesn’t change that
And lo and behold if I’m not silently judging you for not thinking it’s boring when it clearly is because that’s my perception and [all together now]…
Perception is reality
I’m not sure that’s getting us anywhere. So let’s rewind, shall we?
Instead of accepting our own, personal perception as the only reality, how about accepting that everyone has their own perception. Their own reality.
Then how about considering what someone else’s perception might be? Trying to see the things from their perspective, understanding their view of the world?
You have to stop for a moment. It’s not always easy to take a step back from your own reality. It’s not always easy, and it takes a good deal of imagination.
But that’s the start. The start of of connection, of empathy, and ultimately of trust. It’s the start of inclusive thinking, and seeking out diverse perspectives on the world. Not less challenge, but more.
So here’s a call to action for you.
Think of a conflict you’re in at the moment. Find that person and take a minute to ask them to share their perception of the world – without judgement. Accept that, for them, that perception is 100% real and, to them, 100% right. Then share your own.
I can’t promise that it’ll solve things in a minute. But I can promise that it’ll open up a much better conversation than the one you were (or more likely weren’t) having.
And I reckon that’s worth a minute of anyone’s time, right?