Who Will You Be In 10 Years?

Who will you be in 10 years? If you’re like most people, you’ll probably immediately answer that you’ll be pretty much the same, just a little older and (hopefully!) wiser.

But according to psychologist Dan Gilbert, author of the wonderful Stumbling on Happiness, you’ll actually be a far different person that you imagine.

Why? Because we live with the convenient and helpful myth that the person we are today is our “true” self, the self toward which everything up to now has been pointing. It’s a convenient myth in that it doesn’t take much effort to maintain and doesn’t require us to anticipate changing all that much, and it’s a useful myth in that it offers a sense of stability and even achievement. But a myth it remains.

In this fascinating and brief TED Talk (just under 7 minutes!), Gilbert illustrates his thesis with multiple experiments that show the disparity between how much we remember changing over the last ten years – it’s quite a bit! – and how much we predict we will change in the next ten years – not that much! This is true regardless of the dimension of ourselves – values, personality, or preferences – we consider: we regularly and reliably underestimate how much we will change.

Why does this matter? Because we often make choices – about relationships, jobs, spending, priorities and more – based on what makes us happy now. But if we can imagine changing in the next ten years even close to as much as we have in the last ten, we might make somewhat better choices, or at least hedge our bets and thereby avoid some of the regret our future selves will have about the decisions and commitments our present selves are making under the illusion of the permanent self.

So I’ll ask you again: Who will you be in ten years? This time, take your time in answering. ☺

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