Thinkpiece: Time speeds up the older you get – here’s proof
Did you know that the older you get time actually moves faster? Don’t worry; I shall (try to) explain all…
It’s a theory I’ve mulled over for years; it surfaces every now and then over dinner, after a few drinks or during that coffee catch-up that gets far deeper than you envisaged. But recently the concept boldly resurfaced and I thought to myself, “Right Eli, time to package this in your mind once and for all”. Today it is that packaged version I share with you for your consumption, enlightenment and potentially, for your derision.
Our understanding of time is finite. We see a beginning, and we see an end. So the mere comprehension or understanding of that measure in time is based on our experience of that time. Let’s start simple. When you first start driving, even 15 minutes on the road feels like a ‘long time’ however when you (eventually) pass, it feels like next to nothing. Then fast forward a few months (or years) and 1hr on the road feels like a ‘long time’ but when eventually you conjure up the bravery/need to drive further afield on 2, 3, 4hr journeys, suddenly that 1hr drive doesn’t seem so long – it’s almost as if that time has passed more quickly. And so it goes on. Quite simply, we quantify time in respect of our past experiences.
The previous is a concept most of us understand and accept: due to the number of hours and minutes we experience on such regularity, we are able to rationally quantify and align our expectations with those periods of time.
But what about longer time periods such as months and years?
The human mind cannot truly envisage the notion of infinity, and hence we can only quantify time based on the total number of years we’ve lived; that is the only tool we have to put time in perspective. You would have heard the expression, “That year went quickly” and it is a truth – of sorts. For example, before the age of 10, one doesn’t truly have an understanding of what 10years feel like. But once you reach 10, you can now in your mind more accurately project how long it will take you to reach 20 years old.
To help this proof, let’s look at simple mathematics. We would all agree – I hope – that ½ is greater than ¼, and ¼ is larger than ⅛ right? (If you don’t agree, it’s probably best to stop reading.)
Would you also agree that at 2 years old, 1 year is ½ your life and at 4 years old that 1 year is now only ¼ of your life…?
As such with every going year, the proportion of 1 year in relation to your whole life lived becomes smaller, and hence a time period of a year becomes a shorter length of time in your cognition of it – that last part is key. To us all time is finite, only quantifiable by the measure our lives can comprehend which is inevitably based on the length of life we’ve lived. No matter how fast time truly passes, to our mind the following is always true:
Your entire life to date = 1 time period (in your mind)
And hence in your twenties, thirties, forties you’ll experience the feeling that years are growing shorter, and in essence they are; when you’re only 2 years old, 1 year is literally half your life however by the time you turn 30, 1 year is now only 1/30th. Got you thinking right..? That’s why it’s called a think piece after all.
How we treat time is wholly in our relation to our experience of it, so to everyone time will feel different. The measurements of time – minutes, hours, weeks, months – serve as mutual ground, a way for us to relate the passing time with those around us, and structure our lives accordingly.
Alas I must leave you to ponder (or dissect) the feature as I’ve ran out of time, and in the words of Blaise Pascal:
“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”
What will really frazzle your mind, is this final question: based on the above theory, if I had written this this piece 10 years ago, I would have used up less time or more…? Answers on a postcard.
P.S. You may need to reread this a few times for it to truly to make sense. If this is your tenth time reading it and you still don’t understand, my advice? Read it again.
Thoughts from, Editor in Chief & . To find out more about Eli’s insights visit