Does time speed up?

Posted on October 15, 2015 by Robert Ringer


Have you ever wondered why time seems to pass much more quickly every year of your life? Since virtually everyone experiences this phenomenon, there has to be a concrete reason for it. In other words, it can’t just be everyone’s imagination.

As it turns out, there have been many theories set forth to explain this phenomenon, and the one that is most plausible to me is that each additional unit of time we live through is a smaller percentage of the total time we’ve been alive. Of course, we don’t consciously compare any particular time unit with how long we’ve lived; it’s just something that the subconscious mind automatically processes.

To an infant, there is no separation between himself and the world. They are one and the same. Not only is he the only player in the game of life, he is life. His crib, his smiling mother, and his baby food are all part of him.

He hasn’t lived long enough to figure out that these things are separate and apart from him, and that he is not the entire world. The world he perceives — which encompasses everything he can see and touch — is static. His unconscious perception is that nothing changes — not his mother, not his crib, not anything in his surroundings. He simply doesn’t have enough experience to notice any kind of change.

His first year seems like a lifetime to him — because it is. That’s why the passage of time has been very slow. But when the baby reaches the age of one, he slowly starts to become aware of the passage of time and the changes in his once-static world.

What happens from that point on is that each additional year he lives through is an ever smaller percentage of his total experience. So the second year of his life goes much faster than his first year, because it comprises only one-half of his life, while his first year comprised his whole life. So even though his total life at that point is two years, the second of those two years would seem to go much faster than the first.

By the age of ten, time has speeded up considerably, and a year goes by ten times faster than when he was an infant, because his tenth year comprises only 10 percent of his total life. It’s only logical that he would perceive life to be passing by much more quickly than when he was, say, only five years of age.

At the age of fifty, a year is only 2 percent of the life span he has actually experienced, so he perceives time to be accelerating even faster. At one hundred (You are going to make it to a hundred, right?), he’s at 1 percent, meaning that his one-hundredth year consists of less conscious time (relative to his whole life) than did four days when he was only a year old.

What we’re talking about here is relativity and perspective. In absolute terms, the one-time baby’s one-hundredth year was, indeed, a genuine year — meaning that the earth circled the sun one time. But relative to the time span of his entire life, it was only a bit less than four days.

And while we’re at it, why not extend this thinking beyond death and see what it might mean if there’s life after death. Imagine how quickly time would pass when you hit your one-millionth birthday. By then, a year would be reduced to a one-millionth part of your total experience, the equivalent of thirty-one seconds to a one-year-old child. A baby would grow to become an adult in ten minutes!

But let’s get back to planet earth and life as we know it. There’s also a theory that when you’re young, the reason time seems almost to stand still is that you’re experiencing everything for the first time — first day in school, first date, first kiss, first varsity game, and so on. As people age, life — at least for most — tends to be very repetitive, so the moments aren’t savored like they were in their youth.

In this regard, I remember a friend of mine, who was a star athlete in high school, lamenting when we were in our first year of college, “Once you graduate from high school, life is pretty much over.” His comment too me aback, to put it mildly, but I’m glad now that he said what he did.

Why? Because it inspired me to make my adult life a thousand times better and more exciting than my life was as a kid and a teenager in a yukky Peyton Place environment. It motivated me to try things no one had ever tried before — some of them ending in disaster, but what a ride I’ve had. And, yes, time has accelerated every step of the way.

So which is reality — your absolute years or your perceived years? I would argue that both are reality, because both are true. It’s a fact that the earth circles the sun one time between each of your birthdays, but your perception of time speeding up is also a reality. After all, what we actually experience is life as we perceive it. Our perception of time passing more quickly may be wrong in absolute terms, but our experience is what it is.

That being the case, the one thing you don’t want to do is unthinkingly wish time to go even faster — anxiously awaiting the next big game, the next big closing, the next big date … and so on. A much better idea is to have the same mind-set toward life that you have toward sipping a fine wine. Savor and enjoy every drop of it, and it might just slow down a bit — or even a lot. It’s certainly worth trying.

Robert Ringer

Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

32 responses to “Does time speed up?”

  1. Richard Lee Van Der says:

    "Time flies when yer havin' fun!" And it drags when you are having none. Apart from the Psychology of Time, I wrote an essay titled, DOES TIME SPEED? Given, for example, the writings of Bill Bryson, it MAY be argued that in fact time, objectively, does speed. Yes, Eistein's Theory of Relativity comes up inevitably. In any case, i would like to believe, that time has speeded up since I was a toddler. And, has something to do with historical process. But, as a mind-boggler, my mind has been boggled. Interesting topic, Mr. Ringer. When will you collect and publish these essays in book form?

  2. Avery Horton says:

    When one is not paying attention to time, there is no time but now. When attention is focused on what one is doing, time ceases to exist. Once the spell is broken, one realizes how much time has passed. It is October 15, 2015 – where did the year go?

  3. Robert, your article makes perfect sense. It's obvious to me that the older your become, the faster time moves—at least that's how I perceive it. If you don't get moving you Definite Major Purpose and secondary goals and desires fall by the wayside. Still, it bothered me some. I had to make some sense of it, so I wrote an article titled “Oh Time Where Have You – The Acceleration Principle. I think you have to capture each precious moment. What I am suggesting is that you attempt to live each moment as if you are joyfully inhaling the aftermath of a spring rain. You experience life with a special awareness. Making love, listening to your favorite music, bathing in the sunlight on a lazy spring afternoon, feeling the alternating sighs and roars of a windy autumn day, catching the fleeting smile of a child, the euphoria from meditation—all these moments can be sublime. Of course, it's up to each individual to determine on what he values and doesn't value. The time to begin experiencing these is now.

  4. John says:

    IMO, the perception that time passes faster as we get older is nothing more than a growing awareness (subconsciously for most people) that one has less and less time left.

  5. Ellis Baxter says:

    When I saw the Great Pyramid at Giza, I knew that time travel was possible. There is no other reasonable answer. So, Space time is a pivoting window depending on how you look at it. For me I am not concerned with time, as a trader in derivatives, @ this age, I truly understand time decay. Which is the cause for perception of time speeding up … it is just a perception … Gravity is what you need to consider … for it is the gravity defeating electromagnetic fields that alter space time … then again perhaps it all just happens or happened at once? OR as a great scientist once said "does anyone really know what time it is"?

  6. Bill Zimmerly says:

    “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.”

    – II Peter 3:8

    Mathematically, this makes perfect sense. 😉

    Good article (as always), Robert! :)

    • Paul Herring says:

      The Bible also says at Ecclesiastes 3:11 that 'God has put eternity into their heart'. Why would God 'put eternity into our heart' if we could never hope to attain it? Of course, everlasting life here on earth, for by far the majority, has always been God's purpose. It was in Eden, and that fact was reiterated by many of the Bible's prophets, so everlasting life remains one of the key messages of the Bible. Sadly, it seems to have been overshadowed by the constant wondering about life after death.

      But that hasn't thwarted God's purpose. If so it effectively means that the Devil, from his turning Adam and Eve away from doing what God wanted to doing what he wanted, is more powerful than God.

      What's all of this got to do with the speeding up of time though? Among other things it means we humans are time-poor. We have about 80 years of life and then disappear. But when God's purpose for the earth and for those of mankind who want to do things his way is realised, such ones will have life everlasting – just that, in perfect health the way originally purposed in the Garden of Eden. Humans won't be time-poor then.

  7. Marte says:

    Perception – When I'm either busy working or busy having fun, time seems to melt. When I have nothing to do (not often!) the hours drag.

  8. geichele says:

    What really makes the time fly by is ROUTINE. Doing the same thing day after day, year after year. Once you settle into your routine, your brain switches to autopilot…

    I frequently travel (on a low budget), and I have noticed that when I grab my backpack and head for some bizarre destination, where they don't speak English, where they don't adhere to our western cultural norms, that TIME SLOWS RIGHT DOWN for me. I spent six weeks in Burma earlier this year and it felt like six months back home in California. I put a lot of effort into trying to understand the place I was in, to figure out their strange culture and their bizarre language. I think that when your brain is working hard, learning and processing new information, your sense of time passing is decelerated. Back at home, following your normal, unvarying routine, going to the places you always go, meeting the same people you always meet, and not being forced to learn vastly different things, the weeks slip by increasingly unnoticed.

    Here, watch this and be inspired!

    • Jim Hallett says:

      You make a very good point, Geichele, as I find time is irrelevant when I am deeply immersed in something, or traveling to another locale, but when it reverts to the same ol', same ol', it seems a couple years can go by in a flash. Things like Christmas, which were magical to me as a child, are rather dreaded to me now, and it seems that each Christmas takes shorter and shorter to come round again, too! I think the other factor is that the culture itself has sped up, with technology, 24-hour breaking news, cell phones blasting every second, twitter & the like, so one has to be very disciplined to disengage and be mindful of THIS peaceful moment. I am somewhat successful in that regard, but NOT often enough.

    • Jim Hallett says:

      I absolutely LOVED the link you provided with Jedidiah's bike trip to South America. I viewed it after I made my first reply. It has special significance to me, as I intend on spending North American winters in Chile and exploring the rest of South America as well, and I too spend a lot of time on a bike. Thanks for sharing, and his final comment in the video is so true "A life of adventure is like living to be 1000."

  9. Scott theczech says:

    Wow! very thought provoking. Consider this: time is the only, truly priceless "thing."

    Perhaps more than any other concept, time gets me thinking about, well…God. As we discover that there aren't a few score of galaxies, nor thousands…but hundreds of billions, if not trillions – then time is, for all intents and purposes, infinite. So the question that lingers: am I?

    • Jim Hallett says:

      On this earthly plane and our egoic consciousness, time is indeed very precious. However, on the grand scale of existence, time and space do not really exist, so it is all NOW. That does not make it less precious in my mind, but it does allow me to apply the brakes to the frantic nature of our times, and not worry about being in a hurry for anything.

  10. JOSEPH says:

    It's funny how you came out with this article because I was doing a lot of thinking about how time goes by much faster as we age and I am getting older so I wanted to have a better understanding of it. I thought about it and I've concluded that the main reason, I think, that time does seem to move faster is that as we age we are not as much in the present moment as we were when we were growing up. I call it The Present Moment Theory of Time. I've noticed as we age for many different reasons we are not able to be in the present moment and we are spending more of our time thinking about the future or thinking about the past, hence we lose the present moment. I know that it's been my experience that when I'm in the present moment on a deep level because I am enjoying what I do you lose all sense of time and you therefore have this sense of timelessness. I'm sure all of us have had this experience. As we age our minds more and more gets drawn in to think about past experiences or drawn in to think about possible future experiences. When this happens, we become out of touch with the present moment and therefore lose the time of the present moment and we experience time as passing us by quickly. I know that I'm much older now and if I do everything I can to keep my mind in the present moment I experience time as passing slower, much slower. If you think about it when we are children we have absolutely no concept of the future or the past and we experience time as being timeless. Think of it this way, if you had only 1 year to live and you lived it to the fullest, meaning you keep your mind in the present moment all of the time you would experience time fully and be able to live fully. Anyhow, that is my opinion on why time seems to pass more quickly as we get older.

  11. JOSEPH says:

    I wanted to add that the experience of time is relative to the degree you have your mind in the present moment. For example, if your mind is in the present moment 100% you will have the experience of timelessness and not feel that any time has passed even though it has. If to a lesser degree let us say your mind is in the present moment only 50% you will have the experience that time moves faster. So, your experience of time is relative to how much your mind is in the present moment.

  12. Jay says:

    A man fell off a high bridge and landed on soft sand, amazingly without significant injury. He said, " I saw my whole life pass before my eyes!". That look on his face. Of seeing the impossible, I suppose.
    A man was closing his Video Rental store and had manned the counter for 38 years of trading. I asked him about the day he opened the store and if the time had passed quickly. He looked away and replied, "Yes, the opening felt like yesterday". I felt a cold chill. He was 63 years old. I realised he'd been 25.
    For the last two years, everyday I have asked God to guide my situations throughout the day. It has been a looong two years. I get annoyed at following His guidance because it challenges and confronts my self-will. It annoys me even more to know that it pays off… Strange. "I will lengthen your days".

    • Guest says:

      "For the last two years, everyday I have asked God to guide my situations throughout the day. It has been a looong two years. I get annoyed at following His guidance because it challenges and confronts my self-will. It annoys me even more to know that it pays off… Strange. "I will lengthen your days". "

      Is this good or bad? I would like to know more, as I have these same feelings from time to time…

  13. Roger says:

    It ll boils down to our perception. I forget who it was that said, "Time is a construct of the mind".
    So, make of it what you want !

  14. Jimmald says:

    My subjective experience is that time does not “go faster” or even seem to go faster AS IT PASSES; it’s that the memory of past events gets foreshortened so that the years seem retrospectively to have passed more quickly. There is a difference.

    • Arvid says:

      Good insight Jimmald. Your comment made me try to think of life events in my past (I am 64), and I realize some things that were huge, at the time, just go on the 'pile'. Actually it would take a whole lifetime to remember ALL the events, and non-events. So it seems like a smaller pile. That effect plus the proportional effect Robert describes combines to give us the Real Illusion of time compressing. Thanks to you both. Now… forget it!!

  15. retlob1 says:

    Well stated Robert…I've been using the "percentage of life" theory for years to explain why time seems to go faster as one ages. I'm always amazed how many people have never thought about it in this way.

  16. Pat says:

    The fact our memories fade seems to make this effect even more pronounced. And yes, I savor every moment of my life (except when I'm in pain).

  17. Scuzzy Rubric says:

    Robert has filled in a piece of a puzzle I had long wondered about. I always wondered why time passes faster with each successive year. And yes I do want to live to 100. My grandmother made it to exactly 100 before passing on – so I have a legitimate chance except I am a man, so I think that is a handicap but I hope I can find out.

    Here is another one I have wondered about along the same lines: Why do we lose weight if we drive long distances across country for at least a weeks time? I have tested this a few times as I noticed this effect each time I came back from vacation, and I noticed I lost weight each time – about 5 lbs on a 170 lb person. My wife also lost the same percentage of weight.

    And it didn't matter how much we ate or how many calories it was, the weight fell off. Driving was the main exercise, with not very demanding daily hikes mixed in on each camping trip. So it doesn't seem to have anything to do with food or exercise…Good luck figuring this one out! (Do we need Einstein or anything to figure this out, or is there a logical explanation?)

  18. Robby Bonter says:


  19. Robby Bonter says:

    When did Facebook take over our lives, to where we have to have everything we post at every sight online go through FB? Ahh, yes, the "Patriot Act" lives. So does the "Gestapo Act," it's real name.

  20. Robby Bonter says:

    Posted this here, before, so pardon the redundancy, but it gets more apropos with each passing day: Here is a tidbit from my song: "Get In The Game." …..

    "They know who you know, they know where you shop, they know what your smokin' 'cause you bought it from a cop. Your life is a sham, you're a pork chop for The Man. He smashed your private poker game, the Bill of Rights be damned."

    "Without big time connections you're a zero at the bank, they own your home and car so that your life is in the tank. You try to get ahead but you can't even save a dime, they called your loan, and liened your home and killed your credit line."

    "You gotta get in the game, Boy, the world is going insane, Boy, you need to figure it out, you're either in or your out, a power trip it's about, Boy."

  21. Robby Bonter says:

    (you're smoking, not "your smokin. I can spell, but checking for my errors seems to be a daunting task.)

  22. Roger says:

    You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
    And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
    No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

    – Time by Pink Floyd

  23. Peter Gasperini says:

    Two people here have essentially stated that time is an idea and has no real existence. That is true. We observe change in the physical world and when it is observed to be regular, as the rotation of the earth around the sun, we are able to construct a useful idea of "time having passed", when actually only the earth's position in "space" has been changing in a predictable fashion. Likewise, "space" has no real existence as it is simply the distance between two discreet points theoretically separated by a nothingness that we call "space". Yes, "time" seems to pass more quickly in one's senior years. Why? One commentator here essentially stated that the senior brain does not retain in memory life events nearly as well as the brain of the young. For example, as a teenager, I could remember elements of a conversation word for word for a few years. This ability rapidly faded as I became an adult. Conclusion: As the brain ages, it retains fewer and fewer of the events of experienced life, that is, each day of recorded memories fills a smaller and smaller space in our memory bank. The net effect of this is that the memory space required for one year of remembered events in an 80 year old brain is much less than the space required in the brain of a teenager. Therefore the remembered events of life become compressed occupy less & less space in memory as we age. This, perhaps equates as to why a year at age 80 seems shorter than a year at age 15. This simple explanation explains the observed phenomena as well as more complex explanations offered. Therefore, according to Occam's Razor (the Law of Parsimony), the simple explanation is likely the one closer to the truth. In any case, since neither time nor space exist, the perception of time passing more rapidly in the ageing brain is an illusion.

    Peter Gasperini

  24. attractive work admin thanks for sharing such a nice article.

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