Time Speeds Up When You’re Wasting It

Perhaps the title is a tiny bit strong, but I don’t think by much.

I read something recently where a memory expert was talking about why time seems to speed up as we age, while it seemed to move infinitely slow when we were kids.

He said it was because new and interesting experiences are like temporal milestones, and the more you have the slower time seems to be moving.

Intuitively, that checks out. If you spend 10 years of your life eating the same cereal, watching the same show on TV, and going to bed at the same time, it seems like you’re brain wouldn’t have anything to mark time on. You could have been doing that for 10 days or 10 years.

But as children, everything is new. Everything is novel. Everything is interesting.

Every year in school is a new type of magic. Every new friend. Every girl or boy you get a crush on. Your first music. Favorite foods. Becoming somewhat independent. Adolescence. It’s all non-stop novelty, with no time to rest.

Perhaps living in the present slows time, while living in the past or future speeds it up.

And at that speed of experience, you can’t possibly imagine even a few months in the future. Might as well be 30 years, it’s so far off.

But when you’re 55 and just going through the motions, you blink, look at the calendar, and another decade has passed.

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I can’t remember what the solution was, and perhaps it’s not known for certain anyway. But it was some combination of the following:

  1. Do new things all the time.

  2. Always be learning.

  3. Focus on the pure joy of whatever experience you’re having; don’t focus on the past or the future.

That #3 is key, and it could be a major part of the formula for slowing time.

As kids we’re not just having more experiences, but we’re fully immersed in them as well. We’re not thinking about college and jobs, and we’re not thinking about mistakes we made when we were 2 years younger. We’re fully dedicated to the moment.

So whether it’s the constant newness or the mindfulness, some combination thereof is producing this effect of slowing time. And slowing time is the same as living longer.

Slowing down time is another way to extend your life.

Someone who lives like a child until they’re 80 might live 200 years in experience-time, while someone who locks into a routine or obsesses over the future and past might live to 90 but only live for 30 of them.

I think the lesson is: the more you experience life, the more life you will experience.

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