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In the 1950's every runner was obsessed with one goal: to run the mile in less than four minutes. Scientists believed that four minutes posed an unbreakable barrier and doctors warned that pursuing a faster pace might be fatal. But it finally happened on May 6th, 1954. Roger Bannister of England ran a mile in 3:59.4. He did it with the help of two friends. Chris Brasher grabbed the initial lead but after three minutes he tired and Chris Chataway took over, leading the group until the final 200 yards. At that point Bannister charged forth. When the race was over, Roger was overcome by the awareness of a "new source of power and beauty."

This chapter begins with profiles in hope. These case examples (Roger Bannister, Miguel Cervantes, and Mary McLeod Bethune) serve as an introduction to the empowered self (i.e., the will to hope, feelings of shared power, and nurtured aspirations). We provide a formula for mastery that is based on our blueprints for hope but incorporates such time-honored principles as self-discipline, transcendent values, social support, and time-mastery.

Related issues covered in our book

  • Profiles in hope: Three cases (Bannister, Cervantes, Bethune) dramatize the empowered self
  • The empowered self: Uniting the will to hope, shared power, and nurtured aspirations
  • The will to hope: Willpower and a sense of purpose combine with trust to forge a life quest
  • Mediated (shared) power: The spirituality of hope is contrasted with the egoism of optimism
  • Nurtured aspirations: We discuss the importance of social support in achieving mastery, including the concept of "spiritual justification".

Hope Tip #12: Understanding Mastery and Time

In Hope in the Age of Anxiety, we include a shared power test that helps you to gauge whether your sense of effectiveness and control is due to inner qualities, outer forces, or an empowering relationship. We also provide a recipe for genuine success based on four time-honored principles.

Below is an example of our approach to time and mastery.

Time may be the most precious of commodities. With time you can replace money that you have lost. With time you can rebuild friendships and even re-ignite the flame of a lost love. With time you can rehabilitate the body and even the soul. But time itself cannot be recouped.

We prefer the concept of time mastery rather than time management.

Most of the self-help books focus on time management (There are currently over 2,000 time management books listed on the Amazon.com website). There is nothing wrong with the concept of time management. On the contrary, it is an important part of the mastery process. The problem is that time management has been treated as the one and only aspect of time that is important. In truth, it probably ranks last among the four elements of time that must be mastered for an individual to experience true success.

Time Mastery

"Talent develops in quiet places. Character is formed in the full current of human life" - Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

In Hope in the Age of Anxiety we discuss four different aspects of time:

  • Mastering time as a substance
  • Mastering time as a cause
  • Mastering time as a medium
  • Mastering time as a direction.

Time management belongs to the first aspect of temporal experience: time as a substance. As the phrase suggests, this approach is based on a management philosophy of control and distribution of "assets", including the resource of time.

Here is one example: Mastering causal time

Mastering causal time: Time can be understood as a cause that has the power to create or destroy as well as heal or harm. Viewed from this perspective, time can be seen as either an enemy or friend. Unfortunately, we live in era that has adopted a restrictive philosophy of time. It is based on the idea that taking less time is superior to more time and moving faster is better than traveling more slowly. The media contributes to this warped view of time by casting twenty-something models in the roles of seasoned lawyers, wise physicians and hardened law enforcement personnel. In this context, it is difficult to experience time as anything but an enemy that must be controlled, limited, cut and managed.

Ironically, whenever we confront a true masterpiece we experience the force of time in a different and more positive way. Perhaps it hits you as you gaze at a classic portrait or a marvel of architectural design. It might strike you as you read a great work of literature or reflect on a classic poem. You might see time differently as you sip a finely aged wine or a single-malt scotch. Perhaps you attend a sporting event and sit mesmerized, watching a top athlete perform their magic. The contexts vary but the creative power of time is always there to ponder. How many years did it take? How many hours of practice went into this performance?

The great pyramid of Giza took about 20 years to build. The Taj Mahal required 22 years. The Great Wall of China took centuries to complete. Michelangelo, at the age of 33, spent 4 years lying on back to paint the Sistine Chapel. Dante spent 21 years perfecting his Divine Comedy. Rod Laver, who some consider the greatest tennis player of the 20th century, often practiced for six hours after a match.

How do you work with, rather than against, time? You must adopt the mentality of a craftsperson. Think of time as an ally, helping you to develop your craft and while allowing your product to reach a higher level of maturity and quality.

In your mind's eye, envision the two beakers of sand in an hourglass. The amount of time you invest is equal to the time it takes for the sand in one beaker to run out. The extent of your impact, measured in hours, days or years, will be no more or less than your input, just as the time it takes to fill the other side of the hourglass.

Take pride in your experience and be assured there are no shortcuts on the road to true mastery. Trust that time will bring you to your highest level of possible mastery. Do your part and have faith in the power of time to do the rest. Realize that even the most gifted need a decade or more of dedicated practice to produce a world class performance in art, music, science or sports. Psychologists such as Dean Keith Simonton who study age and peak achievement note that the age of mastery seems to vary by profession. Here are a few examples:

  • Women's figure skating, late teens
  • Mathematics, 20's
  • Social Scientists, 40's and 50's
  • Philosophers, 60's and 70's

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