The Notion of Time and the Fluidity of the Mind.

by Destiny Chukwuma Ogbonnaya

In this contribution, I will attempt to explore how many people may have constructed or construed the concept of time that may be a limiting factor in many areas of their life. In particular, I will focus on the attributes of time including relativity, consumability, inelasticity, measurability, equitability, tradability, eternity, intelligibility and fluidity. This contribution is purposed to increase readers creativity, performance and achievements of set goals in general.

In 2013/2014, I studied Masters of Science in Manufacturing Systems Engineering at Warwick University, Coventry, United Kingdom. That was my first time to visit Europe as I had lived in Africa.

I arrived in September 2013 – that chilly morning! School activities started fully and I was struggling to survive the cold weather whilst completing my assignments. But something fundamental happened to my concept of time over time. In one of our lectures, the Professor announced that the clock will adjust by 1 hr, so we can have extra 1 hr sleep. That was strange as I had thought all my life that time was fixed, absolute and permanent. This was the frame upon which I built my realities.

One day, I discovered that there was still daylight even at 9 pm. On one occasion, I took pictures and sent to my wife, highlighting that it was unbelievable that there should still be daylight at night. As if that was not a sufficient disorientation, I woke up one morning at 4 am and there was daylight. I thought that my watch may have reset itself. So I prepared and went to school. I suspected that my watch may be correct after waiting for a long time without getting a bus. When I finally got a bus, I was the first person to arrive at the department. I pondered why there was daylight at 4 am – so bright that you could see everything as far as you could see at noon. At this point, I was dumbfounded, nay, confused with awe!! In fact, I did not rule out a day in which I may likely have 24 hrs daylight. So great was my disorientation of time.

You may not understand my fascination until I tell you that there is a clear demarcation between day and night in Africa, probably because of its closeness to the equator. For anyone who is interested in nature, such discords between time zones may not go unnoticed.

My experience of time in the UK made me to question the framework upon which I built my conceptual understanding and use of time. As I continued to think and reflect on time over the years, I have realised the criticality of time in life and activities of life. First, let me enumerate the characteristics/attributes of time and link them to how we can improve our mind fluidity. But before then, what do I mean by the “fluidity of the mind” in this context? It is the ability of the mind to create and recreate domains, images, frames and stories ( please see ). A change in a domain could create a different meaning and prompt the mind to think differently. The mind creates images and frames to make up stories consciously and/or unconsciously. I suppose that this explains why we understand the physical equivalents of domains in dreams and visions.

Attributes of time domain of the questelligence framework

In the coming months, I will be writing more on the seven (7) domains of the questelligence framework ( i.e. Time, Place, People, Reason, Process, Specific and Objective domains). You may wish to follow this Blog to get updates. Let’s start by exploring the attributes of the time domain.

1. Relativity: For better understanding of the relativity of time, I will recommend an understanding of the theory of relativity as proposed by Einstein. This is an explanation of why we have differences in times and time zones in relation to time-space relationship between two people/objects at different positions on earth’s surface. Since there is a rotation of the earth round its axis and the revolution of the earth on its orbit round the sun, people will experience time differently throughout the year. For scientific explanation of time, please at your free time, watch “A Brief History of Time Audio Book | Stephen Hawking |” on YouTube ( ). May I also add that before Einstein’s theory of relativity, Aristotlean time and Newtonian time were used as the basis of understanding time. Even today, Science is still making efforts to understand time.

This contribution is not scientific in nature but motivational. In one academic conferences I attended, I had opportunity to listen to experts in “biomimetics”. Experts in this branch of science mimic nature designs to design artificial designs. Underlying the inspiration of biomimetics is the assumption that nature is highly optimised and designs after nature are likely to be optimised. Look at robots, neural networks, etc that are created by understanding nature. Indeed, humans are endowed with the capacity to adopt or adapt the logic and wisdom of nature in creating individual or collective experiences.

The aim of The Questelligence Forum is to provoke creativity, innovative thinking and creative problem solving at individual, family, group, organisational or national level based on a novel ” Questelligence models and framework”. My goal is to share my thinking and how I have used this approach to achieve diverse goals and scale up my performance. Therefore, in many instances, you will come across the motivational bits! Now, how can we apply the principle of relativity of time within the context of life and living? First, we need to accept that time is relative. More specifically, our time is relative to the time of others. To make the best use of our life, we need to focus on our time. There is an Igbo addage that says that “mgbe onye tetera bu ututu ya”. This is loosely translated into “whenever a person wakes up is his/her morning “. Never think of yourself in relations to others because your duty in life is to ultimately become the best of yourself and not the better of others. Where others are is not a predictor or a measure of where you can get to in the future.

Take for instance, in thinking about development in Africa, some people compare european countries with Africa. More specifically, consider access to electricity in both regions. You may live in the EU without experiencing power outage for 10 years. On the contrary, in Africa, millions live without electricity. Yet, no pun intended, “electric makes a city”. Without electricity, there is no sustainable development and most goals outlined in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will remain elusive, unattainable and fairly-tale in Africa. To solve the problem of electricity in Africa, it must not necessarily follow the development curve of developed nations. This is where innovative thinking by Africans and development partners is required to create a novel socio-technical framework for power generation for Africa because there is a relative difference between the times of Africa and that of developed countries. Africa can generate 90% of its electricity in less than 25% of the time it took developed countries to get to where they are today.

In particular, the time we are in now is “renewable energy time” and not “fossil fuel time”. The infrastructure for fossil fuel may be different from the infrastructure for renewable energy. I have argued in my academic papers (please see that Distributed Generation microgrids and mini-grids based on renewables should be deployed in Africa since it will eliminate the dependence on unreliable transmission infrastructure and it will reduce the overall cost and time-frame for getting value-for-money from power projects in Africa.

Lastly on the relativity of time. During my medical documentation for an employment, the Doctor noticed that my blood pressure was high. She asked me to go outside and relax since I just arrived after walking a long distance. I went outside, sat on a seat, closed my eyes, with my mouth closed, I started reciting Psalms 121(“I look up to hills from whence cometh my help, my help cometh from the Lord who made heaven and earth…). I syched the recitation rate at about 1/2 of my breathing rate. Few minutes later, I went in to see the Doctor. After measuring my blood pressure, she told me that it was OK. I left without telling her what I did. My illustration is not a means of reducing high blood pressure and people with high blood pressure as a medical condition should seek medical advice. I narrated this experience because I am aware that many people are stressed on daily basis. Some even feel as if the relative speed of their mind or soul is faster than the speed of their body. This is dangerous! We must seek to create harmony between our body, soul and spirit.

2. Uncontrollably Consumable: When time is viewed as a quantity of measurement, it cannot be recovered after it has been used. In life, although uncomfortable, we must realise that we start dying immediately we are conceived, not even when we are born. When the male sperm fertilises the female egg, a zygote is formed. It will grow into a full baby and be born after nine months. The baby will pass through childhood, teenage years, and adulthood and ultimately old age. No matter how long it takes, humans die as all their time would be completely consumed.

It is wisdom to know that time is consumable so that we can enhance the quality of our life by utilising every second of our lifetime for things that matter or things that make us happy, useful to others, and things that align with our purpose in life. “Any time not used effectively will enter a blackhole and can never be retrieved!” ( just kidding). But, let’s face it, you can easily make up for other resources but not time.

It is important to note that the consumption of time is beyond the control of mankind. You do not need to do anything for the next day to come. What high performance people do is to flow effortlessly with time by using time as a resource. Taking actions towards our goal is within our circle of influence while the passing of time is within our circle of concern ( i.e. we cannot do anything about it).

The principle of planning is the most useful tool and activity to capture and use time productively. The art and science of planning is like reincarnation in which you can live an experience at least twice. A fulfilled life is a product of “plandoing” and not chance. Planning is a means of living a story created from the questelligence domains at least twice. To illustrate this, my wife has just asked me to buy milk and bread as I am writing this contribution. In order not to break the flow that I am having now, I have promised to get the milk and bread after writing this contribution. When I finish, I will take a piece of paper and ask her to list all the items we require. I will then decide which supermarket to go to while at home. I may even imagine how I will walk in, take a shopping basket, walk up to the bread section, then to the milk section, etc, based on my list. I can even see myself pay and leave the supermarket. I can also decide how much time to spend so that I can come back to continue other activities. As I am stepping out of the door, I have a set of decisions on how I will bring home those items, even before stepping out of the door, all things staying as planned. This is the end of the abstract dimensions of physical activities. Walking to the supermarket, buying those items as planned, returning back would have allowed me to create physical experience of the abstract plan.

Planning can happen at individual or organisational or national or regional level. A quality plan is the difference between quality outcomes and mediocre performance. Your mind becomes more creative and innovative when you have plans. Your mind can even continue creating the abstract dimensions of your plans while you are asleep. Have you ever woken up with fresh ideas or had dreams that led to breakthroughs? Plans are stories of things yet to happen, and thus a product of thinking and the domains of questelligence. The mind think of time as time. You are the one that will assign “real” or “imaginary” to the domain of time. What happens when you set deadlines? Your mind calculates the “distance equivalent of time” and trigger you to either act with more urgency, average pace or with a relaxed pace.

Overall, the ability to utilise time effectively is embedded in the fundamental understanding of the uncontrollability of time. Thus, time must be used not saved since humans have no control over the decay of time.

3. Inelastic: Overall, a day will remain 24 hrs and 1 hr would remain 60 seconds. Time is inexpandable, it is purely inelastic. You cannot assign to yourself 30 hrs in a day because you have a worthy activity to do. Everyone has only 24 hrs in a day. To overcome the inelasticity of the time domain, mankind has developed tools and practices to maximise time as a consumable resource. This includes the art of time management, outsourcing of activities where an organisation’s capacity can not meet the time element of a project or programme, use of Gantt charts and computer applications for managing time domain-based activities.

Again, planning is a valuable tool to optimise objectives within the limit of time. The inelasticity of time also highlights the necessity of the use of technology and the importance of practices such as collaboration and cooperation. The goal may often be to get the best within the time allowed. Is it not rather pleasurable to live in a manner that we will feel that we have lived out our life regardless of how long? This has to do with how we live each moment of our life. If we fully use the moments, we will be better fulfilled in life.

Managing the instinct to procrastinate may go a long way to manage the inelasticity of time. There is no need to shift to later what can be (or oftentimes must be) done now. If you read “The richest man in Babylon”, “Who moved my cheese” “First thing first”, “Eat that frog” and other books on time management, you would evidently realise that human beings do not subconsciously accept that time is inelastic, hence they procrastinate. Habitual procrastination results in perpetual regrets. Procrastination should be overcome through personal development.

4. Measurable: Rate has a notion of time. For instance, velocity is the rate of displacement or the change of displacement with time. Flow rate is the volume of fluid that passes through a cross-sectional area at a unit time. Interest rates shows how income is accrued for an investment over a time. Time is divided into measurable units and we have used it to configure human experiences. The measurability of time has added some degree of certainty. You know that your birthday or anniversary celebrations occur annually and not monthly. You know how long it will take you to move from one city to the other or from one country to the other. If an exam is for 2 hrs, students understand that they are not expected to write the exam forever. So time acts as a reference for space and process. Not just in terms of motion but in terms of process. Not all consumption of time involves movement. During meditation, you don’t need to move to consume time.

In management, goals are expected to be SMART. That is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. The time element of SMART framework directly acknowledges the inelasticity of time.

The greatest feature of my phone is the Calendar. I log in any event that I want to engage in. Every week, I would look at it to have an overview of my appointments and then make more detailed plans to participate. This looks trivial but effective use of your mobile phone Calendar can increase your engagements in things that matter, reduce conflicts in appointments, help you prioritise, remind you of key schedules, allow you to update schedules, declutter your mind and reduce stresses associated with accepting too much. Can I also add that managing time using mobile Calendar increased negotiation skills, recently. Logically, I apportion prime times for valuable activities and move less valuable activities to less competitive times.

5. Eternal : Time lasts forever. One day, I realised that I had an inherent assumption that the world was as old as my historical horizon of events in time. When I started reading about Acient Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, and other civilisations, my scope of time started expanding. Time travels, time machine movies (e.g. Outlander or Black Panther) are worth watching on this. Wouldn’t it be wonderful for humans to be able to go back in time to choose different experiences or go into the future to influence positively the amount of wealth and happiness of one’s 20th generation. These fictional thinkings are good for tickling the imagination but they are useful for enhancing the fluidity of the mind. The first useful realisation is that life will go on even after we are all gone. Shakespeare said that life is like a stage, you play your part and leave the stage. Tyrants and despots are usually victims of the notion of “permanence of moments”. I remember a taxi driver that branded his car “No condition is permanent”. Permanence of moment is not the same as the permanence of time; yet, neither moments nor times are permanent. Some politicians act as if they will be in a position forever. Those that understand the temporarity of moments and eternity of time do their best to create legacies and opportunities for the future generations to come on stage to contribute to furthering humanity. By so doing, the society would be sustainable.

When we experience strong emotions such as loss of loved ones, disappointments, economic loss or other  traumatic experiences, moments appear to be frozen and permanenced. But, with time, the emotions would defuse. As we mature emotionally, we learn how to release the emotional valves and let go so that we can welcome new moments.

The eternity of time is the domain where God exists in every religion. If God is theologically conceptualised in time, then God would have been subject to the decay of time. God therefore is thought of in terms of eternity while mankind is thought of in terms of time.

6. Intelligible: Based on the Questelligence framework, time is intelligible. This means that human mind can think in terms of time and communicate the notion of time to other humans. This is obvious when we are fixing appointments or telling stories with timelines. We are simply acknowledging the intelligibility of time. If you ask a friend to come over at 3 pm for lunch, your friend will be there at 3 pm. But tell your friend to come at “dot pm”. He/she may ask what dot pm means. Dot pm does not exist as time and the mind would perceive this incongruence because the domain of time is intelligible and perceptible. But both of you can agree that dot pm means 3 pm. You can fix appointments in the presence of others without them knowing.

7. Tradable: The society is configured in a manner that individuals should spend time adding value to others as a means of creating tradable values. I understand that some are entrepreneurs but they work towards spending time to create values.

Spending time to learn how to add values to others is a critical aspect of living a purposeful life. Whatever you love doing, spend time to learn how to do it well, and then spend time doing it and learning how to do it even better. It is less stressful than doing unnatural things as a way of trading your time for livelihood. Refined talent or expertise acquired through professional development and experience can increase the unit value of time of an individual. This explains why there is variations in the pay package of different people in the same industry.

Time can also be exchanged for other non-monetary values as long as it can be quantified or its value estimated.

8. Equitable: Everyone has equal time but everyone does not achieve equally. When it comes to productivity, the personal characteristics, genetics, environment, trainings, etc may come into play. In the future, I will write about the objective domain of questelligence to highlight that individuals may pursue unique objectives. Thus, the equitability of time does not imply that people should achieve equally, but that each person should achieve the optimal outcome of objectives they set.

9. Fluidic: When we think of time, we can think of the past, present or future. We can also rearrange images and frames in time. Without dates, it would be Impossible to differentiate between 10 am in the past, 10 am present, and 10 am in the future, on the same day of the week. Interestingly, humans have the capacity to think and reflect. This makes it possible for mankind to navigate the time domains without being constrained by the frozen past, transient present and the fictional future. The ability to think of the the past, present and future, simultaneously is a critical skill for creative, innovative, visionary and productive people.

If you got to this point, well done! Follow my Blog to get new writings on The Questelligence framework. Send me feedback via

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