Variety is the Spice of Life: Why Time Seems to Be Passing By Quicker As We Age

According to Chip & Dan Heath in their book The Power of Moments, most people think that time passes quicker once we get past the age of 30. If this is true, why? The Heaths claim that it’s because the ages of 15-30 contain a lot of life milestones – we finish school, learn to drive a car, study for a degree, get our first job, enter our first romantic relationship, travel the world, get married, have children etc. After the age of 30, there are far fewer big milestones, and that can make it seem like time is flying by.

So how can we try to counteract this? The Heaths suggest that we should add a little variety by creating defining moments in our lives – memories that can can create by doing something novel. This could be a combination of moments of elevation, insight, pride, or connection. A moment of elevation is one that rises above the everyday; a moment of insight rewires our understanding of ourselves or the world; a moment of pride will capture us at our best; and a moment of connection is social.

As much as routines are designed to increase productivity, it allows time to fly by unnoticed. Adding the extra spice to life through variety will allow us to remember more prominent moments through our lives. So what kind of things can you do to add variety? Going to your favorite travel destination can provide a moment of elevation; doing a 10-day meditation course may provide you with moments of insight; entering an obstacle course race with a team of friends can create pride and connection.

If you think about it, life is made up of moments. So create photo-worthy moments, try new things, and lean into uncertainty. As the authors of the book Surprise put it, “We feel most comfortable when things are certain, but we feel most alive when they’re not.”

The Hidden Flaw With Following Your Passion

People always tell us to follow our passion. But Chip & Dan Heath, the authors of The Power of Moments, highlights that passion is individualistic. They argue that although passion can energize us, it can also isolate us if the passion isn’t shared with others. The Heaths argue that purpose, on the other hand, can knit groups together as it is something that people can share.

If I followed my passion, I would just be playing Football Manager for 12 hours a day, winning 15 consecutive league titles with Manchester United, until the last of the current squad members finally leaves the club (it’s Hannibal Mejbri by the way).

Or if I followed a different passion, I would be practicing snooker all day in a journey to making my first century break and becoming as good as I can possibly be. Or I could try the same in golf maybe…

The main point is that I have spent 12 hours a day on Football Manager for about three straight weeks on multiple occasions, and I have practiced snooker for hours on end to be try to be as good as I can possibly be. The problem is, no-one cares as much as you do about it. There is no sense of contribution or purpose to being really good at a video game (unless you’re so good that people watch you play), and even if you are the talk of the town because you made the highest break in the snooker league that season (humble brag), it felt like something was missing.

The problem wasn’t in the activities I was subscribing to, it was the way I was doing it – it was individualistic. Playing video games with friends can be a good way to spend quality time together, and playing snooker for the simplicity of playing instead of competing can be a meaningful form of recreation. Instead I was optimizing for performance – I was physically isolating myself to limit distractions while playing Football Manager, and I was constantly worried about losing at snooker that I was untalkative with my teammates.

The key is to find purpose in your passions, to cultivate a sense of community and to build relationships through your passion instead of becoming isolated by them.