people who are running late are happier
Gemma Fischer
Gemma Fischer
May 10, 2024 ·  3 min read

If You’re Always Running Late, You May Just Be Optimistic – and Possibly Healthier Because of it

Are you someone who is naturally just never on time?  Well, some evidence seems to suggest that poor time management skills may just be an indication of being an eternal optimist, something that can also come with health benefits

Even with good intentions, it can feel impossible for some people to make it to their destination on time. If you’re one of those people, maybe you should give yourself a little break.

Or maybe it’s the opposite, and someone is as punctual as the rising sun, but you may have that friend who is always late. It may be hard to cut them some slack because you’re just two different people. 

Here’s why.

It may seem strange that being late is associated with optimism and higher levels of enthusiasm, but those doubtful thoughts are likely coming from someone who is always on time.

Those who tend to run late, may be described as ‘moving to the beat of their own drum’. Have you ever noticed that your notoriously late friends arrive smiling like it’s no biggie, while also giving off positive and upbeat vibes? 

While it’s unfortunate to feel like you’ve been kept waiting, it’s likely that their lateness is not personal, or even intentional. 

Those who are optimistic are typically faced with a skewed perception of time. These people can be seen as a little unrealistic. Optimists really believe that they can wake up, go for yoga, shower, make a smoothie, and write some emails before work. 

Research has shown that people who pull up to the party 15 minutes late may actually have a different grasp on how the clock ticks: When asked to estimate how much time had passed when it had been one minute, Type A people said 58 seconds on average while Type B people added a full 17 seconds to the clock.

One reason optimists may often be late is because they idolize their most productive day ever, leading them to believe they can accomplish that perfect day, every day. However, they also tend to forget the times where everything took much longer than anticipated.

Jason Kruger, a psychologist at a New York University explained in the Wall Street Journal that “even though society has all sorts of punishments in place for those who are late, people still fail to arrive on time despite these demerits. 


Well, it may have little to do about caring about the punishments and more to do with underestimating the amount of time it will take to accomplish all of their tasks”.

From Psychology Today, Alfie Kohn turns the question right around. Many people who run late, don’t seem upset when they do. So rather than asking “why is my friend always late” try asking “why am I always on time?”. 

Alfie suggests that those who are always on time, have a more down-to-earth recognition of how long it will take to get somewhere, or how long it takes to do all of your chores. Your friend, on the other hand, may be more of a dreamer. They may believe that they can really run to the pharmacy, to the market, pick up pieces from the dry cleaner, and make it clear across town all within an hour”.

Essentially, optimists are positive thinkers. They are more willing to believe that everything will work out in the end.

So what more is to be said about people who run late? 

It’s often that the naturally-late also operate with a sense of calm. According to Harvard Medical School, there is a possibility of adding years to their lives. 

So the next time you hit a red light and feel impatient, remember that the people who are running late could be operating with this sense of calm. Which is the better approach for keeping stress levels low, supporting a healthy heart and circulation.

It should be noted that these pro-optimist points don’t make lateness more socially acceptable. It is not advised that you arrive late for your next interview, an important meeting, or exam. However running late here and there, by simply losing track of time, with good intention – may just be an indication that you’re a more optimistic and naturally calm person. Sounds like a recipe for a happier and healthier life to me.