Wednesday, March 21, 2012

If you’ve ever been alive (which you probably have if you are reading this post), you've probably heard the above quote at some point throughout your lifetime. Does time actually go by quicker when we’re doing things we love to do? From my perspective, it’s not that time is actually “flying by” at a quicker rate, but that we are less aware of each specific moment that passes. We are more focused on the event/action that we love and less focused on the time it takes for that event/action to take place. In addition to time passing by quick when we’re having fun, it is also a common belief that time goes by quicker the older we get. The rate at which we perceive our lives passing us by is a topic that has peaked my interest this week. Why does life seem to pass by more rapidly when we’re having fun! and getting older?

I decided to do some research to find out when the phrase became popularized. Shakespeare used a similar phrase, “the swiftest hours, as they flew,” as did Alexander Pope, who said, “Swift fly the years.” It was no surprise to me to find out that the idea of time “flying” is an age-old idea. The question that needs to be asked is: are we actually having more fun when we perceive time to be passing by more quickly? If we consider all things, the theory breaks down when we realize that if time is “flying by” we are actually headed to our graves at a quicker pace – which doesn’t seem all that fun!

When it comes to “time flying when you’re having fun”, I think it is true that we are less aware of each specific moment that passes and more focused on enjoying the event. Our minds wander less when we do the things we love, because our main focus is on enjoying the event/action that we love. There is no time to daydream about what else we could be doing with our time when we’re having fun.

Regarding time “flying” as we get older, I think that the explanation is related to our frame of reference for time. When a one-year-old baby turns two, their reference for time is only the previous year, which means that they are 50% older than they were previously. When that same child turns three, their frame of reference is two years and they are getting one year older which is 33% older, when they turn four, it’s 25% and so on. At this rate, when that same baby turns 60 years old, their frame of reference is the previous 59 years and they are only 0.016% older in comparison to the previous years of their life. This frame of reference combined with a perspective that is always looking back rather than forward in the later years of our lives, offer a good explanation as to why it seems that time is going by more quickly as we get older. All that we can do is make sure we enjoy every moment and do whatever we can to remember the good times as we grow older.