Your Interpretation of Time

Your Interpretation of Time

In tonight’s post, guest blogger Bruce Baker walks you through your own interpretation of time, and what that interpretation can do to you.

Your Interpretation of Your Reality Is Taking You Down!

Human behaviour has always been based on our primary instinct of avoiding loss at any expense.  If we can acquire equal gain, we tend to be satisfied and move on with our merry lives.  When people feel that they are about to lose something or have lost something, our primary drive kicks in, and we try to compensate for this loss.

There is, however, a difference between loss aversion and risk aversion. As a business owner, this is where I encourage you to pay very close attention. Risk aversion is your perception of the utility value of a monetary payoff that depends on what you have previously experienced or what you expected to happen. For example, the last time you decided to pay for Bookkeeping services (your previous experience), you paid a lot of money, but the Bookkeeper made a bigger mess. (Your perception of the utility value of this service and the level of monetary payoff). Moving forward, you would rather do it yourself.

As our instant gratification mindset gains more traction, so does our interpretation of time change – suddenly, time is interpreted as being a lot shorter!   With shorter perceived periods to prevent loss and reduce risk, our reaction to fear also increases not only in the sheer number of times we react to fear but the intensity of how we react. This intensity destroys what comes naturally to us and our ability to be creative and build tremendous value for ourselves and the others we serve.

This has profound implications for a business owner scaling up, starting up or fixing up a business.  I continuously find myself working with CEOs that are constantly on edge, struggling to grow their business or, in many cases today, trying to prevent their companies from going down the proverbial tubes. What is even more profound is what got them to this state: short-term and reactive thinking based on their interpretation of risk and potential failure.  Being in this perpetual state of loss or risk is not something new but being in this state continuously and over short bursts is what we need to be concerned with.  Business leaders are always convincing themselves that “if I get this fixed now, all will be good” or “I’ll get back to the customer before the end of the day” or “I’ll pay some of this now and hopefully pay the rest at the end of the month.” The list goes on and on.

One of the primary reasons we end up “multi-tasking” or “switch-tasking” is the need for an instant fix based on an inaccurate interpretation of time.  All this has achieved are businesses that are built with short-term solutions or quick fixes.

To take this a step further, business owners are not just confronted with one or two competing priorities but many at the same time.  Franklin Covey’s Important vs. Urgent model is outstanding and always a tool I reference with my clients. Although a great tool, I continuously find that it is only useful if we understand our interpretation of time and how we behave as a result, as described above.

If we live in a world requiring instant gratification and quick fixes and respond to this as a business by operating this way, we are only preparing for one thing, failure.  We run our businesses based on this behaviour based on our interpretation of time and the risk of loss as a result. If our expectations are short-term and superficial based on who we serve, then the nature of our decisions and our state of mind will respond accordingly.

Returning to Franklin Covey’s Important vs. Urgent model, trying to distinguish the importance and the urgency of the task just doesn’t cut it. When we are in the classroom or with our business coach or consultant, it seems logical and rational to think this way (i.e., tasks classified into their level of importance and urgency). As soon as we return to “the field,” we return to solving problems and making decisions based on instant gratification and quick fixes. Our natural need to want to be accepted and not rejected forces us into the same old vicious routine – reacting to every single demand that needs to be resolved.  The business owner, in turn, responds to this as a risk that needs to be managed and if not “now” or “very soon,” the overwhelming reaction of loss aversion kicks in again.

Society has only been successful in times when we have been able to cooperate and align our expectations.  We are a society today and subsequently a business community that has evolved into the “me” culture that works on their individual needs and expectations, which are now governed by the need for instant gratification and instant resolution. As such, we respond to each other this way which requires any small business that either wants to scale, start-up or fix-up to respond the same way, failing, not only the business failing but the business owner failing, which in most cases causes a breakdown in their lives in general.

It’s time that business owners realize that this elusion of time and their response to their interpretation of risk and fear of loss is not a sustainable reality. If we think that this short-term reactive and superficial culture is the “modern way,” I hate to see the state of business and the value of service to each other over the next decade or so.

I can tell you without a doubt that business owners that I have and continue to work with that have finally realized the extent of this problem for themselves and are now thriving. You may ask what I define thriving as? Their levels of stress have drastically decreased, their creativity has drastically increased, and the value they deliver to their market has improved significantly.

Take a leap of faith, and I can guarantee you that you and your business will thrive as well!

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