The distant past is shrinking.
A friend of mine told me a story about something that occurred a few weeks back and he referred to it as being a super long time ago. Does a few weeks in the past constitute a long time? Well, let’s see. Would money earn much interest or land appreciate significantly in that timespan? Mm, not so much. Let’s just take a look at time itself.
Early American settlors spent months crossing the Atlantic. It took just as long if not longer to send and receive letters. A completed correspondence (“how are you?” and “I am well, thanks.”) might take nearly a year. Generally, long courtships occured before people got intimate. Now, its a second date. Or a late-night text. My theory is that a long time ago, a long time ago was much, much longer.
So what’s the problem? Well, this perception of time may be limiting our emotional and financial well-being. I’m too lazy and too right to go looking for hard scientific data right now, so please confirm with your own reflections. Cake tasted good this instant, but being ten pounds lighter, which took way more time and effort, tastes even better (perhaps), but significantly, the positive feeling lasted longer. Saving money also takes time and discipline, and rather than buying beers at the bar, you buy a plane ticket.
What both examples have in common is that they require you, at an earlier point in time, to acknowledge that that point in time will become a much more distant point in time, and that to achieve a desirable outcome in a future point in time, requires action in that earlier, soon-to-be distant point in time. You can’t just sit down a press a button for sustained happiness. You’ve got to plan for it.
The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is today. This is surely common sense. But with a sense of time that makes two years feel like twenty, you may be screwing yourself twenty years from now.