Does time fly as we get older?

Time for change?

Why does time fly, particularly as we get older?

What colour was the towel you used this morning? Do you remember driving to work? What did you watch on TV last night? You may not remember because everyday routines cause our brains to click into autopilot, making the days appear to pass quickly.

In childhood experiences are novel and distinct but in adulthood each passing year converts some of this experience into automatic routine which we hardly notice at all; the days and weeks smooth themselves out in recollection and the years flow by.

The first time we experience events they make new and vivid memories. We reflect on those memories and that helps preserve them. When we’re young many new experiences are also highly charged with emotion; the first kiss, the walking on air feeling of meeting someone new, the first day of our new career, the days on which our children are born.

As life settles down and we repeat the same events again and again; they don’t make much of an impression so don’t stand out in our memories. Work, life, family and even holidays can become routine so when we get to the end of a year similar to the last, and the several before that, our perception is that time has flown.

We can’t escape the fact that as years pass they become proportionally smaller to our total life. Each year feels shorter relative to all the time we’ve lived and so seems to be going by faster.

Our daily routine can be explained as a straight line in our memory. New experiences cause the line to change direction and thus we remember them. This straight line effect accounts for why time passes more quickly as we age. We simply encounter fewer new experiences as we grow older. The days felt longer as a child because so much was new.

We remember the exciting and transformational experiences that help shape the fabric of our lives. These experiences set us on the path to who we are today. We lived life with intensity and shared this time with friends. Emotionally charged, we enjoyed every minute in vivid colour. We were young and free, not yet burdened with the realities of the world, and felt strong, powerful and alive.

As the years progress we look back with melancholy to the ‘good old days’, often through rose coloured glasses that heighten the good times and ignore the bad. We were forever young and now, looking back, we feel a sense of accomplishment but also a sense of sadness for a time that we hoped would never end. The approaching of middle age brings these feelings into close report. Many mid life crises emanate from a desire to recapture a youth long gone.

We can remember the past times with fondness but look to the future to make new memories just as satisfying. Take a positive approach to making life exciting; to enjoy the present and to look optimistically to the future.

Enjoying the now is the secret to a balanced life. In the next post we’ll look at how to maximise the time we have and taking the time to be successful.

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2 Responses to “Does time fly as we get older?”

  1. paulhassing Says:

    Nice post, WLB2. Depressing as all hell, but pretty good. Please keep ’em coming. Before I die. 😉

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