Think about something you feel passionately about today. Now envision yourself 10 years from now. Do you feel the same way? Slightly different? Radically changed? A new study published in the January 4th journal, Science, asserts that most adults change significantly over a decade but when asked to predict their future selves, fail to recognize just how much change they will actually see. Huh?
According to an interview with Harvard psychology professor, Daniel Gilbert, in Health Day magazine, “People dramatically underestimate how different their future selves will be.” That got me thinking about my own life and how much I’ve changed over the last decade.
Ten years ago my political beliefs were strikingly…how to put this…different. But I think that has more to do with having and raising two children. Suddenly the whole “do what you feel” and “follow your bliss” approach to life seems to wither as you raise kids. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Or is it?
Teaching kids about right and wrong seems to make parents concretize their own belief systems in a way that’s hard to predict. The practicality of life, the ups and downs, the immense challenges that pop up unexpectedly, all of these change us, make us harder, less willing to trust the whimsical mysteries of nature. Well, not for everyone. But it’s worked that way for me.
I miss my more childlike view of the world. It was a view that allowed me to trust in the goodness of people, to always follow my heart, to imagine that a spiritual force greater than myself was guiding my every step. Nowadays I feel consumed by the violence in our streets, the senseless genocide occurring around the globe, the carelessness people exhibit towards their neighbors and family. But I sure didn’t see this coming. I thought I’d always be wide-eyed and open to the possibilities of life.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a fairly positive gal. I still find ways to express my creative spirit each and every day. I try really hard to believe that life has a purpose and that somehow I’m on a path, albeit circuitous, towards discovering that purpose. But I feel a constant weight, a heaviness, that rests on my shoulders as I meander through life these days that wasn’t there a decade earlier. That makes me wonder about where I’m heading and what life will look like in the next ten years. Maybe I’ll make a total 180 degree personality swerve and end up more like the bohemian, free-spirited person I used to be. Or maybe I’ll do a full 360, grow a goatee and pursue my dormant dream of becoming a Krill fisherwoman in Antarctica.
Daniel Gilbert explains that people are just not very good at predicting who they’ll be in the future. He tells the New York Times, “Middle-aged people — like me — often look back on our teenage selves with some mixture of amusement and chagrin. 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.”
Kind of depressing, no? I mean I hate to think that in ten years I’ll look back with embarrassment over my funky fashion foibles or trendy hair coif. Because looking back now, I can see that the whole Jennifer Aniston Friends “do” wasn’t my best look. But at the time, I thought I was red-carpet ready.
So we can’t accurately project ourselves into the future and we’re pretty much assured to be horrified by who we were in the past. Sounds like a lose-lose for all of us. Guess that’s as good a reason as any to live in the present.