December 20, 2006 Self Improvement

Temporal Awareness

I have found that when I am trying to improve some part of myself that it happens in stages.  First I recognize after the fact that I failed to act differently.  I failed to execute the improved behavior.  This recognition gets closer and closer to the point at which I begin executing the new and different behavior.  This is the second stage, where I fumble with the new behavior.  I try it and fail in various different ways.  I get better and better at it until I have mastered the new behavior to a point where I no longer feel the conscious need to regulate the improvement; this is the last and third stage.

I remember a few years ago struggling with an improvement.  I was trying to expand my awareness of time.  I remember thinking of it like how a chess player thinks three or more moves ahead or how a Jazz improv musician is aware of time.  I can relate better with the music improv analogy as I am a musician and I love improv.  While improvising you must be aware of what is coming next and when it is going to happen and not at the expense of the moment.  If you are soloing, knowing how much time you have left and what the tune is going to do at that point plays a role in defining your options.  If you have 16 beats left you can’t start something that is going to take 32 or 8.  On top of this you can’t take timeout to figure this out.  You have to just know it and do it.  I swear that I heard Alan Watts say something along these lines about Zen masters.  Anyway I realized that I have not been consciously regulating this behavior.  I think it may be time to return to a conscious regulation.

I have not been able to find the words that will get Google to give me a bunch of reading on this subject.  It seems to me that temporal awareness is related to ones ability to do things like save money.  If you can’t regularly be aware of the future you stand little chance of putting aside money for it.  Maybe a better way of putting it is not spending money.  If you are aware of future needs then you are less likely to buy that Grande Latte.  The most general way I can think of putting it is delayed gratification.  The size of the delay is one of the interesting parts.  I often see others and myself looking ahead in small or very large units of time.  When I take timeout to figure on the situation I often find that there is a middle ground.  Many times there is more than one middle ground.  And what’s more, one or more of these middle grounds holds the most important consequences.

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