Time – it’s all relative.

25 October marks the end of BST and with it images are conjured up of cold, dark mornings, scrapping ice off the car windscreen and an hour less in our warm, comfy beds. But what is your perception of time? Can we gain a deeper appreciation for time if we consider it from a different perspective?

How to stop time: kiss someone you love.

How to travel time: lose yourself in a book.

How to escape time: listen to music.

How to loose time: focus on your passion and strengths.

How to feel time: have a looming deadline.

How to make time: practise mindfulness.

How to cherish time: be present in the moment (in the now).

How to reverse time: reminisce and cherish the past with old friends.

How to waste time: tweet or update Facebook status (I see the paradox).

Harvey Mackay, a businessman, author and syndicated columnist with Universal Uclick writes a weekly column. He described the paradox of time in a recent until piece. Time is free but it is priceless, you can’t own it but you can use it, you can’t keep it but you can spend it, once you have lost it you can never get it back.

We can all manipulate time through perception and perspective, because ultimately perception and perspective are all that really matters anyway.

The flaws in our system


Are we in an age of enlightenment? If so, what are the consequences? Our mind is not only capable of feats of innovation and creativity but also catastrophic decision making, we lose focus or focus too much, we get scared or overconfident and are susceptible to bias. Within such a complex technological world it would seem that it is human factors and errors that determine failure… let’s explore why humans are flawed by both our hardware (the brain) and our software (the mind). 

We only believe what we already think – Confirmation Bias.

BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in 2010, prior to the accident testing confirmed that the concrete seal on a freshly excavated well was insecure and could cause a catastrophic blowout however the failing of the test was explained as a phenomena called the ‘bladder effect’, thus with the riggers reluctance to take their test at face value the resulting explosion was seen from 50 km away. Many of us have trouble believing evidence that contradicts our preconceptions, from a chemical position, dopamine acts on the prefrontal cortex inclining us to ignore evidence that challenges long-held views keeping us from having to constantly revise the mental shorthand we use to make sense of the world. 

We miss the woods through the trees – Fixation Error

Martin Bromiley brought awareness of fixation error to the medical profession. Bromiley’s wife passed away after a room full of doctors and medical professionals failed to respond correctly to a blocked airway, fixating on intubating the patient rather than recognising that this method was failing and resorting to other means to provide the patient with oxygen. Humans have a remarkable ability to focus attention on the things we care about or that are relevant to our task or the present situation, this can mean that we sometimes don’t look for alternative solutions and miss critical factors that can lead to catastrophe. 

Our survival instinct is out of date – Primal freeze

In experiments involving underwater helicopter evacuation drills, researchers found that trapped passengers tried to release their harness from the side as they would do with a car seat, even though they knew that the clasp was positioned centrally. Fear has evolved as a survival mechanism, when we encounter danger our heart rate raises and the stress hormone cortisol floods the system giving muscles glucose for the extra energy required. The issue faced is that cortisol knocks out cognitive functioning such as memory which intern denies us the ability to process information, make decisions, recall facts and events effectively.

We are seduced by success – Outcome Bias

If we get consistent good outcomes over time we start to ignore near misses more and more often, it is only when a catastrophe occurs that we suddenly wake up. We tend to evaluate a decision on the basis of its outcome rather than on what factors led to the decision. For example, a doctor decides to give a critically ill child a new, experimental medication that has a 50% chance of curing the child’s condition. If the child survives, the doctor will be praised for his actions. However, if the child dies the doctor will be criticised harshly for his ‘mistake.’

 We are wired to conform – Group think

People tend to bend their opinions towards those of the majority. Conformity is useful in day to day living, also valuable when letting others lead in unfamiliar situations but this could lead to danger… after all a camel is a horse designed by a committee. Decisions shaped by group think have a low probability of achieving successful outcomes, one of the most famous examples of group think is the presidential advisory group who almost led the U.S. President Kennedy into invading Cuba and potential a nuclear war in the Bay of Pigs Affair.

Our minds are built to wander – The default mode
As soon as our environment becomes predictable, safe or boring our mind will start to wonder, consider a stretch of familiar motorway and how you switch to ‘auto-pilot’. Mind-wandering tends to occur during driving, reading and other activities where vigilance may be low. In these situations, people do not remember what happened in the surrounding environment because they are pre-occupied with their thoughts. 

 We don’t speak machine – Technology Clash

One of the worst friendly fire incidents involving U.S. Troops in Afghanistan was set off by a low battery. In 2001, a member of US special forces entered coordinates of a Taliban position into a GPS unit and before he could relay them to a B-52 bomber the device’s battery died. After replacing the batteries and sending the location,the device had reset it’s coordinates to it owns position, a 900 kg bomb honed in on the U.S. Command post killing him and 7 others. In an increasingly automated world misunderstandings between human and machines are an urgent issue. 

Highlighting these areas and creating awareness of these human conditions will facilitate understanding and allow us to develop individual strategies ensuring that we as a civilisation and race continue to thrive and survive with the increase of technological advances. Now we raise our consciousness the next step is to ask yourself how you will make use of this information?

Information cited from New Scientist Magazine and ScientificAmerica.com

Serenity, Courage and Wisdom

Many people are familiar with the Serenity Prayer by the German Philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr: 

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

However, do we know the difference between want we can change and can’t? I spend many a day anxious about things I cannot change from the weather, to politics, to people who generally frustrate me. As a result, I find myself lack lustre with insufficient energy to make the most of the opportunities I do have.

So what are the vital distinctions? You can change what you want, but you cannot change what you need. You cannot change another person, but you can change how you treat them, how you react to them, your opinions and judgments of them, and your relationship with them. You cannot change the past, but you can reappraise, apologise, forgive, let go, take responsibility for yourself, learn, change the present and the future, and move forward.

From a Buddhist perspective understanding what you can and cannot change is the simple but often difficult path to inner peace. It is fruitless to pray for peace because it is already within you, you already have it, it cannot be given to you.

The rational evidence for determining what we can change and what we cannot is overwhelming, but our behavior often tries to defy this reason and logic. Consider what you can change… You can change what you do, what you communicate to others, what you know, how you think, what you dream, hope and aspire to be. But we worry more about what we have no control over such as our pasts, our history, the laws of physics, the weather, human nature (yours or others), personality traits (yours or others), another person’s beliefs or thoughts (unless they choose to change), someone who doesn’t want to change, who you are related to, human needs, sexual preference, your talent, and things you do not acknowledge.

Let’s take a look at what the research states about worrying in general:

• About 85% of the things we worry about never happen.

• If what we worry about does happen, 80% of us said we handled the outcome better than we thought we would.

• People who let go of worries instead of stressing over them are much healthier than those who don’t.

So how do we let go and accept the things what we cannot change? Consider these insights to increase your awareness, perspective and recognition of the difference:

1. Accept uncertainty & learn to thrive in it.

The beauty of life is in how unpredictable it is. It has the potential to bring some exciting opportunities your way. Do things that make you happy, things you care about, and work hard on achieving your dreams. That’s all you can do… The rest is up to the universe.

 2. Open up.

What would it mean to have someone to confide in, to listen to you and allow you the opportunity to unload? Confiding and exploring creates opportunity which can lead to perspective and acceptance of those things we cannot change and also develop an understanding of how to change the things that are in our power.

3. Practice mindfulness.

Even simple meditations, such as 10 minutes of focusing on breathing has been shown to reduce everyday stress by as much as 39%. Learning to be present in a moment will help you keep your mind focused on what you’re doing now rather than worrying about things you can’t change in the future or the past.

4. Intentional activities

By focusing on things we enjoy doing we can choose activities that fit our needs and our personalities e.g. If you don’t crave excitement, parachuting it is unlikely to fit with your needs. The content and timing should vary. Varying the routine is likely to minimise the effects of hedonic adaptation (see the 40% solution to happiness).

5. Physical Activity.

Reducing the levels of your stress hormones, stimulating the production of feel-good brain chemicals, and improving your self-image are all excellent ways of changing what you can and accepting what you can’t. 

Recognising the difference between what we can and cannot change can help us all live a more peaceful and productive life… After all worrying is like being on a rocking horse, it gives you something to do but doesn’t get you anywhere. 

Read this common story to appreciate when it is in our best interest to change course and yield to an immovable object or accept some permanent condition.

The following is often presented as a conversation between the American ship USS Lincoln and a Canadian officer. 

Canadian: “Please divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.”

Americans: “Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the north to avoid a collision.”

Canadians: “Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the south to avoid a collision.”

Americans: “This is the captain of a US Navy ship. I say again, divert your course.”

Canadians: “No. I say again, you divert your course.”

Americans: “This is the aircraft carrier USS Lincoln, the second largest ship in the United States Atlantic fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, three cruisers and numerous support vessels. I demand that you change your course 15 degrees north, I say again, that’s one five degrees north, or counter-measures will be undertaken to ensure the safety of this ship.”

Canadians: “This is a lighthouse. Your call.”

Instead of asking God for serenity, consider changing it to a positive affirmation.

I have the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And I have the wisdom to know the difference.

Information cited from discussions with my colleagues and friends in my workplace, joy2meu.com and patheos.com.