January 5, 2013

I Predict You Will Change

2 minute read, in Behaviour / Culture

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Think back 15 years. Who were you? Have you changed?

I was 27 and I lived in Pittsburgh where I was pursuing my PhD.  I feel like an entirely different person from the one I was then. Chances are you feel much the same way.

What if you knew you would change just as much in the next 15 years as you have in the past 15? In my case, I could expect to look back at my 42 year old self from the ripe old age of 67 with a grin, realizing how much life experience has shaped the person I became and how terribly naive I was way back then.

New research from Harvard suggests that while people get that they’ve changed considerably when looking back 15 years, they’re likely to underestimate how much they’ll change in the future. As one of the researchers Daniel T. Gilbert says:

“What we never seem to realize is that our future selves will look back and think the very same thing about us. At every age we think we’re having the last laugh, and at every age we’re wrong.”

It’s called the “End of History Effect” whereby people tend to predict that their personalities will be static in the future, even though experience has shown them that change happens all the time.

Would knowing that your future self will be radically different from your current self liberate you to accept uncertainty, growing pains and life experiences as inevitable, natural and therefore good?  If change is as natural as breathing why do we resist it so much? Why does it have to be so painful?

I’m attempting an experiment. Starting today I’m going to try to flip the End-Of-History Effect on its head and rename it the Start-Of-History Effect where I accept each day as one step toward my yet to be determined future self. The experiment will end when I’m 67 and so much wiser than I am today. Care to join me?


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