Motivation and emotion/Book/2017/Time perspective and happiness

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Time perspective and happiness:
What is the relationship between time perspective and happiness
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Do you feel happy? How much do you know about time perspective? Do you understand the relationship between time perspective and happiness? Do you want to know the secret of being happy? By the end of this book chapter, you should be able to answer these questions and find greater happiness.

What is time perspective?[edit]

In 1951, one of the earlier researchers Lewin suggested that time perspective (TP) plays an important role in psychology and influences an individual’s emotion, motivation and behaviour (Lewin, 1951). The concept of the TP is divided into three time frames in which people would form expectations or carry out activities, i.e. past, present and future (Bergadaà, 1990). Moreover, TP contributes cognitive guidelines to help individual's form psychological concepts of past, present, and future (Boniwell, 2005). The development of TP represents a fundamental role in social goals amd is also influenced by factors like culture, education, and socialising (Zimbardo & Boyd, 1999). As the interest in studying time has increased, different conceptualisations and constructions of TP have emerged (Shores & Scott, 2007; Zimbardo & Boyd, 1999). For example, TP is interchangeable with other terminology, namely time orientation, time attitude, and temporal orientation (Hulbert & Lens, 1988). There are many tools for measuring TP, including the Time Structure Questionnaires, Future Anxiety Scale, Future Event Test. The most popular measurement is the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory (ZTPI) which it has superior psychometric properties (Bond & Feather, 1988; Zaleski,1996; Kastenbaum, 1961; Boniwell et al., 2010).

Test your time perspective in here
Figure 1: Happy person

What is happiness/well-being?[edit]

According to Haybron, happiness is an emotional state rather than an experiential state. More specifically, people who maintain happiness are labelled with his/her emotional state not an experiential state (Haybron, 2005). For example, a person may be under an anxiety state, but may not experience anxiety. Human emotions are too rich to only consider the experiential surfaces (Haybron, 2005). Generally, conceptualisation of happiness can be categorised into two types, subjective well-being (hedonia) and psychological well-being (eudaimonia; Waterman,1993; Ryan & Deci, 2001). Among the two types of conceptualisations, subjective well-being (hedonia) emphasises on positive emotions and a judgement of life satisfaction while psychological well-being (eudaimonia) refers to people entirely engaging in life activities that produce feeling of authentic and being alive (Diener 2000; Ryan & Deci, 2001).

Since happiness is a rather abstract and subjective concept, there is no a single unified definition of happiness. In most cases, happiness and well-being are often referred as synonymous and interchangeable (Diener et al., 1985; Delle Fave et al., 2011). Nevertheless, many believe that happiness is part of well-being and that well-being represents a broader construction and could have various meanings from different perspectives (Delle Fave et al., 2011; van der Deijl, 2016). Typically, subjective well-being includes three main constructs: positive affect (presence of positive mood), negative affect (absence of negative mood) and life satisfaction (Diener et al., 1999; Ryan & Deci, 2001; Arthaud-Day, 2005).

Figure 2, Time Perspective

Relationship between time perspective and happiness [edit]

FIVE dimension of time perspective [edit]

Five TP dimensions (features or sub-scales) are included in ZTPI: Past-Negative (PN), Past-Positive (PP), Present Hedonistic (PH), Present-Fatalistic (PF) and Future (F) (Zimbardo & Boyd, 1999). Empirical studies have shown that the five TPs have different implication for different aspects of well-being (Drake et al., 2008). Various studies have shown that there is a correlation between time perspective and happiness (or well-being as an interchangeable concept in this chapter) with all the measurements were based on the leading ZTPI framework. For instance, people who have high level of PP are associated with high scores of self-esteem and happiness (Zimbardo & Boyd, 1999). In contrast, people who are more inclined to PN are associated with depression, low self-esteem and tend to have more involvement in gambling, alcoholic abuse and taking drugs (Zimbardo & Boyd, 1999; Wassarman, 2002; Klingeman, 2001). Further studies showed that people who seek more risky activities with high level of PH are generally happier than people who are dominated by PN (Drake et al., 2008; Boniwell & Zimbardo 2015). Interestingly, people who are strongly Future oriented have a negative relationship with subjective happiness as they are too focused on future goal achievement to enjoy the present happiness (Boniwell & Zimbardo 2003). 

Dimensions Typical description Summary of TPs 
Past-negative (PN)] “a pessimistic, negative, or aversive attitude toward the past” p. 1277 Some traumatic events possibly happened in the past that result in pessimistic attitude. PN persons are afraid of trying new thing.
Past-positive (PP) “glowing, nostalgic, positive construction of the past” p. 1278 Sentimental, warm and positive, stands out relationship between friends and family. PP persons are embracing more positive attitudes.
Present-fatalistic (PF) “that the future is predestined and uninfluenced by individual actions, whereas the present must be borne with resignation” p. 1278 Lack of hope and belief, for life and future and reveal life is fatalistic or uncontrollable.

PF persons lack of personal efficacy.

Present-hedonistic (PH) “present pleasure with little concern for future consequences”

p. 1275

Oriented toward present pleasure and embrace with risk and excitement but less concern future consequence. PH person are living for the moment.

Table.1 (Zimbardo & Boyd, 1999, 2008)

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Balanced time perspective (BTP)[edit]

Even though having one certain TP, e.g. PP, can lead to higher well-being, it may goes to the opposite if one TP is too excessive to prevent the existence of other TPs. For instance, if PP orientation goes too extreme, people may be too conservative to reject new experiences and figure out new solutions. For the sake of having psychologically healthy individuals and a harmonious society, BTP is necessary to be investigated and promoted (Zimbardo & Boyd, 1999).

People with a BTP are able to handle past present and future time perspectives simultaneously. More importantly, BTP is associated with the capability that people could flexibly switch between each TP and use the appropriate one depending on different situations (Boniwell & Zimbardo, 2003). For instance, students who have a BTP may fully concentrate and place extra efforts on study to achieve HD in their final exams, celebrating after the exam even the result has not released, and enjoying the time with their families and friends during exam preparation. According to Zimbardo and Boyd (1999), BTP is vital to optimal functioning that people with BTP have a positive attitude toward their past, appreciate the present and strive for their future goals. People who have BTP acknowledge that they know what to do and how to do among different TPs, in other words, they work hard and play hard respectively. (Boniwell & Zimbardo, 2003).

Empirical research has concluded that there is a significant positive relationship between BTP and subjective well-being (happiness). For example, people who have higher level of BTP also get higher scores on happiness and self-esteem from Webster’s study; higher subjective happiness and mindfulness according to the research from Darke et al.; gain more life satisfaction, subjective happiness, and psychological needs satisfaction etc. in the study from Zhang et al. (Webster, 2011; Drake et al., 2008; Zhang et al., 2013). Therefore, it is recommended to have a balanced time perspective to have best optimal well-being. Based on the experimental data and ZTPI framework, Zimbardo and Boyd have proposed how an ideal BTP profile should be, which is shown in Figure 1 (, 2017). From the ZTPI profile, it is indicated that an ideal BTP comprises a high score of PP (3.67), a relatively high score of both PH (4.33) and F (3.69), and a low score of PN (2.1) and PF (1.67), respectively.

List of linked to Wikipedia articles
List of linked to Wikipedia articles

Limitations and considerations[edit]

The ZTPI and BTP provides a leading framework to study the long-lasting topic of time perspective and happiness and also to propose useful predictors of happiness/well-being. There are still, however, some limitations that need to be considered, such as the generalisation and categorisation of ZTPI is not necessarily the universal one due to the subjective nature of this measurement. For instance, future TP is usually regarded as a positive term (e.g. hope and career success) in the original ZTPI, however, future TP can be in principle associated with negative terms, such as fear and anxiety. Therefore, future can be also further extended to future positive and future negative the same as past positive and negative, which was implemented and validated in the Swedish ZTPI conducted by Carelli et al., (2011). Another study of academically talented adolescent also supported the necessity of constructing a six-factor structure model of TP by considering negative feeling about future (Worrell & Mello, 2007). In addition, even though score of ZPTI provides a quantitative matrix of TP and happiness and easier comparison of individuals and groups, the score scale may need to be adapted for samples from different backgrounds, such as, religions, education, social class etc. The corresponding optimised BTP score will also be adapted for significantly different samples. 

Implication for individuals and society[edit]

Generally, ZTPI presents a fundamental framework for studying time perspective and happiness. More specifically, the BTP provides a vital guideline for individuals on how to achieve the best optimal happiness/well-being, namely the past positive help individuals establish a strong positive identity of themselves based on their own culture and growing experience, the present hedonistic lets them focus on their daily life and enjoy every moment of life, and the future makes them pursue higher achievement and maximise their human potential.

For individuals who are too excessively involving in one TP to enjoy happiness, the corresponding time perspective therapy (TPT) may be needed. For instance, a more positive future TPT was implemented to enforce the Future in BTP to balance the excessive traumatic PN in the study from Sword et al. (2014). Similarly, a future time perspective intervention was successfully utilized to increase study motivation of secondary students (Schuitema & Peetsma, and van der Veen, 2014). Indeed, it is necessary to have certain interventions, especially for students as they are in the stage of developing time perspective, which can be significantly influenced by education and individual experience (Kruger & Reischl and Zimmerman, 2008).


It is undoubted that every individual is pursuing for their own happiness/well-being during life even though they are may be under different paths. Evidently, there is a strong correlation between time perspective and happiness. The five factors of time perspective, namely the Past-Negative, Past-Positive, Present Hedonistic, Present-Fatalistic and Future can be a sensible predictor of happiness. Particularly, the balanced time perspective profile represents an important framework and guideline for studying psychological well-being. Corresponding interventions or therapy with consideration of culture, education and social class, way help individuals who are too biased in certain dimensions of time perspective to achieve optimal happiness and greater harmony in society.

See also[edit]


Arthaud-Day, M. L., Rode, J. C., Mooney, C. H., & Near, J. P. (2005). The subjective well-being construct: A test of its convergent, discriminant, and factorial validity. Social Indicators Research, 74(3), 445-476. doi: org/10.1007/s11205-004-8209-6

Bergadaa, M. M. (1990). The role of time in the action of the consumer. Journal of consumer research, 17(3), 289-302. doi:10.1086/208558

Boniwell, I. (2005). Beyond time management: How the latest research on time perspective and perceived time use can assist clients with time-related concerns. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 3(2).

Bond, M. J., & Feather, N. T. (1988). Some correlates of structure and purpose in the use of time. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 55(2), 321. doi: org/10.1037/0022-3514.55.2.321

Boniwell, I., & Zimbardo, P. (2003). Time to find the right balance. The Psychologist. 16(3), 129-131

Boniwell, I., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2015). Balancing time perspective in pursuit of optimal functioning. Positive Psychology in Practice: Promoting Human Flourishing in Work, Health, Education, and Everyday Life, Second Edition, 223-236. doi:10.1002/9780470939338.ch10

Boniwell, I., Osin, E., Alex Linley, P., & Ivanchenko, G. V. (2010). A question of balance: Time perspective and well-being in British and Russian samples. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5(1), 24-40. doi: org/10.1080/17439760903271181

Carelli, M. G., Wiberg, B., & Wiberg, M. (2011). Development and construct validation of the Swedish Zimbardo time perspective inventory. European Journal of Psychological Assessment. doi: org/10.1027/1015-5759/a000076

Delle Fave, A., Brdar, I., Freire, T., Vella-Brodrick, D., & Wissing, M. P. (2011). The eudaimonic and hedonic components of happiness: Qualitative and quantitative findings. Social Indicators Research, 100(2), 185-207. doi:10.1007/s11205-010-9632-5

Diener, E., Suh, E. M., Lucas, R. E., & Smith, H. L. (1999). Subjective well-being: Three decades of progress. Psychological bulletin, 125(2), 276. doi: 10.1037/0033-2909.125.2.276

Drake, L., Duncan, E., Sutherland, F., Abernethy, C., & Henry, C. (2008). Time perspective and correlates of wellbeing. Time & Society, 17(1), 47-61. doi: 10.1177/0961463X07086304

Diener, E. (2000). The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. American Psychologist, 55(1), 34-43. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.34

Diener, E. D., Emmons, R. A., Larsen, R. J., & Griffin, S. (1985). The satisfaction with life scale. Journal of personality assessment, 49(1), 71-75.

Haybron, D. M. (2005). On being happy or unhappy. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 71(2), 287-317. doi: 10.1111/j.1933-1592.2005.tb00450.x

Hulbert, R. J., & Lens, W. (1988). Time and self-identity in later life. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 27(4), 293-303.

Kastenbaum, R. (1961). The dimensions of future time perspective, an experimental analysis. The Journal of General Psychology, 65(2), 203-218. doi: org/10.1080/00221309.1961.9920473

Kruger, D. J., Reischl, T., & Zimmerman, M. A. (2008). Time perspective as a mechanism for functional developmental adaptation. Journal of Social, Evolutionary, and Cultural Psychology, 2(1), 1-22. doi:10.1037/h0099336

Lewin, K. (1951). Field theory in social science: selected theoretical papers (Edited by Dorwin Cartwright.).

Nuttin, J. (1985). Future time perspective and motivation: Theory and research method. Leuven;Hillsdale, N.J;: Leuven University Press..

Ryan, R. M., & Deci, E. L. (2001). On happiness and human potentials: A review of research on hedonic and eudaimonic well-being. Annual review of psychology, 52(1), 141-166. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.52.1.141

Schuitema, J., Peetsma, T., & van der Veen, I. (2014). Enhancing student motivation: a longitudinal intervention study based on future time perspective theory. The Journal of Educational Research, 107(6), 467-481. doi: org/10.1080/00220671.2013.836467

Shores, K., & Scott, D. (2007). The relationship of individual time perspective and recreation experience preferences. Journal of Leisure Research, 39(1), 28.

Sword, R. M., Sword, R. K., Brunskill, S. R., & Zimbardo, P. G. (2014). Time perspective therapy: A new time-based metaphor therapy for PTSD. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 19(3), 197-201. doi:org/10.1080/15325024.2013.763632

The time (2017). The Time Paradox Surveys. [online] Available at: [Accessed 16 Oct. 2017].

van der Deijl, W. (2016). What happiness science can learn from John Stuart Mill. International Journal of Wellbeing, 6(1). doi: org/10.5502/ijw.v6i1.464

Wassarman, H. S. (2002). The role of expectancies and time perspectives in gambling behavior.

Waterman, A. S. (1993). Two conceptions of happiness: Contrasts of personal expressiveness (eudaimonia) and hedonic enjoyment. Journal of personality and social psychology, 64(4), 678. doi:org/10.1037/0022-3514.64.4.678

Webster, J. D. (2011). A new measure of time perspective: Initial psychometric findings for the Balanced Time Perspective Scale (BTPS). Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science/Revue canadienne des sciences du comportement, 43(2), 111. doi:org/10.1037/a0022801

Worrell, F. C., & Mello, Z. R. (2007). The reliability and validity of Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory scores in academically talented adolescents. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 67(3), 487-504. doi:10.1177/0013164406296985

Zaleski, Z. (1996). Future anxiety: Concept, measurement, and preliminary research. Personality and individual differences, 21(2), 165-174. doi:10.1016/0191-8869(96)00070-0

Zimbardo, P.G., & Boyd, J.N. (1999). Putting time in perspective: A valid, reliable individual-differences metric. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 77(6), 1271–1288. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.77.6.1271

Zhang, J. W., Howell, R. T., & Stolarski, M. (2013). Comparing three methods to measure a balanced time perspective: The relationship between a balanced time perspective and subjective well-being. Journal of Happiness studies, 14(1), 169-184. doi:10.1007/s10902-012-9322-x

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