This week is Time Travel Week at bradhuebert.com.

On Monday I demonstrated that time travel is normal; our minds “travel through time” as we remember the past, and as we imagine what the future holds. Yesterday I introduced the Five Indispensable Axioms of Time Travel, the guiding principles of time travel that we ignore to our peril.

Today I’m going to start unpacking the axioms and explain why they’re so important.

AXIOM #1: Time travel on purpose.

If you’ve ever seen or read The Time Traveler’s Wife, I’m sure you can sympathize with poor Henry DeTamble, the main dude in the story. He has absolutely no control over when or where he travels, so he might be gone for hours, days, or even years. Sorta hard to keep the love fires burning when you’re jumping all over the place.

Science tells us the average person spends nearly half their time “away” from the present moment. Our minds are continually jumping from past, to present, to future. This wandering is so normal that we’re mostly unaware of what’s going on.

So I replay a moment on my date with Shauna last week, or maybe worry about the meeting next Tuesday. And then wonder if we need passports for the trip this summer. And then chuckle as I recall the last border mishap we experienced.

This sounds so innocent. What’s the worst that could happen?

Well, at best it means we’re spending half our lives checked out of the present—which, by the way, is the only place where you can live your life. It’s critical that we become conscious of what we’re thinking, where we’re going, and even more importantly, why we’re going when we leave.

AXIOM #2: Time Travel for the right reasons.

If you’ve ever read Ray Bradbury’s short story “A Sound of Thunder” or endured the ridiculous movie by that name, you understand that there are both noble and stupid motives for time travelling. Why we time travel matters. Why we go determines where we end up, which determines what we get out of the trip, and what we get out of the trip reshapes our reality (You may want to read that again).

The bottom line is this: We should only let our minds time travel when there’s something we need (either in the past or the future) to seize the present moment more fully. If we travel for lesser reasons, the trip will cripple our ability to seize the moment, because of AXIOM #3.

AXIOM #3: Be careful about your souvenirs.

Shauna, my ridiculously awesome wife, worked at Starbucks this past year. When she got home after a shift, she always smelled like coffee. It was impossible not to. What we need to realize about time travel is this: No matter why or where we go, or how long we linger there, we will always bring back souvenirs. This I call the souvenir effect.

That’s why we leave the present, in fact; to go “get something” we think we need to live more fully in the now. The souvenir effect explains why the where of our time travel matters. Remember my little time travel romp from AXIOM #2?

  • I replay a moment on my date with Shauna last week because it was so much fun. When I return to the present, I bring happiness back with me.
  • I jump ahead to the meeting next Tuesday because I’m worried about it and want to prepare for it. But because my motive is worry, I just bring back more worry when I come back to the moment.
  • When I wonder if we need passports for the trip this summer, I come back with a decision to check into that.
  • When I recall the last border mishap we experienced, I bring back a chuckle or two and a promise to never crack that joke to a border guard again.

Here’s the thing about time travel souvenirs from the past or future: They always shape the present. In each of these examples, what I’m feeling in the now has nothing to do with the present moment. My emotions are almost entirely the product of the time travel souvenirs I’ve dragged back with me.

Which is why we should only let our minds time travel when there’s something we need (either in the past or the future) to seize the present moment more fully. If we travel for lesser reasons, our emotional souvenirs will contaminate the present with negative emotions. This usually makes us miss the real present moment in the process.

Tomorrow we’ll dive into axiom #4: Choose Your Guides Wisely.

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