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The Illusion We All Believe About Ourselves and Change

Updated: May 27, 2019

Do you consider your favorite song from five years ago to be your favorite song today, or your favorite piece of clothing from ten years ago to be your favorite piece now?

Is your favorite food still the same as it was when you were a child?

Do you still have the same friends you had when you were a teenager, or still watch the same movies you watched when you were single now that you’re in a relationship?

If you think about it, your answer to many of those questions is “no!” As new movies, clothes, music, and trends happen, your tastes and ideas and preferences change, too, because the one constant in our life is change!

It may be a funny or startling thought at first - the one constant in our life is change - but the more you think about it, the more sense it might make to you, especially as you think about your own thoughts, preferences, and favorites and how they have changed as you look back over your life.

Of course you won’t like the same things you did at age five, because you’ve changed, grown, and evolved since that age. You won’t even like all the same things you did at age twenty, or through your adulthood, because as life circumstances change, you adapt and change as well.

Change is Good but Can Feel Uncomfortable

For some people, this is an uncomfortable thought, especially if a friend, family member, or other important loved one has told you “you’ve changed,” and intended the comment to be negative.

Sometimes, other people have a hard time handling it when we change and evolve, because they are afraid they could be left out or left behind. Sometimes those changes cause you and that person to have less in common with each other.

It’s common to feel upset or sad about a situation like this, both because you know the other person is upset, and because we become attached to who we think we are, and in fact, tend to assume that this is who we will be forever! So hearing we have changed can be unsettling to us, too!

According to Dan Gilbert, Harvard psychologist, speaker and author of the book Stumbling on Happiness, this mistaken view on personal change is common. In a popular TED talk, “The psychology of your future self,” Gilbert talks about how humans have mistaken ideas about change, especially when it comes to their own personal changes.

"Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they're finished,” Gilbert explains in his talk. I love that one!! He calls this the end of history illusion.

Humans believe that the person we are right now is the person we'll be forever, and we cling to this even when we realize it’s not really true. The truth is, we are never finished changing and growing. After over 25years in coaching and consulting – this is the only truth. Change is good!!

We are always learning new ideas, new skills, and new lessons,, and those learnings change us and help us cope with life, because life is always changing whether we want it to or not.

Like Nature, We Adapt to Change and Grow

Think about the seasons. They are always changing, and though the seasons change according to a schedule, they are never really truly predictable. We have a general sense of the transition between one season and another, but each year, each change, is slightly different.

There might be more rain one year, or it might get colder sooner than it did in years past. We try to adapt and cope with changing seasons using what we’ve learned in the past. Women immediately change their dresses, or if it is becoming cold, we find something that is warming and cozy to wear. We put our warm weather gear away because it would not make sense to resist the transition and always be cold. We have to adapt so we won’t be uncomfortable and ill prepared.

In weather, in nature, in life - changes are fast. In Dan Gilbert’s talk, he says, “The bottom line is, time is a powerful force. It transforms our preferences. It reshapes our values. It alters our personalities. We seem to appreciate this fact, but only in retrospect. Only when we look backwards do we realize how much change happens in a decade.”

If you want to live within the powerful forces of time, you have to change.

You will change, and if you think you don‘t change anymore or that you are done with development because “now you are the Real You,” I am sorry to have to tell you that the real you still changes as long as you live! This “real you” might change slower while aging, but the thought that you are done at some age and don‘t develop anymore is a myth.

Time and Change Make Us Aware of Who We Really Are

As people, we unfortunately lack the ability to imagine who we will be in the future - we tend to assume “future Me” will pretty much be the same as “right now Me,” and this simply is not true. In fact, for many of us it turns into a limiting belief – because we are unable to imagine our circumstances becoming different. Just as seasons change, plants grow, and animals raise new young, important parts of us change, too. Our personalities, our values, our beliefs, and our skills change as we learn and adapt to life. We may shed old ideas in favor of new ones. People enter and leave our lives for various reasons. We learn new information that may cause us to change some long held ideas.

These changes do not just happen up to a certain arbitrary age and then stop! In truth, in every stage of our life we evolve and change somehow. We always make decisions and choices that affect us in big ways and small, and some of them we might regret in retrospective. But even those bad choices help us to learn and do better for the future. At my age, maybe I regret a bit more of what I didn‘t do instead of what I did do. But what hinders me to still do it? Could only be me cause I am in charge for my life. And yes sometimes it feels uncomfortable - because this is happening with the new - exciting but we are not used to it😀. So as long as I am alive - it is up to me to decide it, do it and put it on my bucket list! And I will!!!!

Maybe you have things you didn’t do, and it feels scary to think about the changes that will be necessary for you to do those things. But the psychology of your future self is not written in stone and you determine your future! You can go out there and live life to the fullest, because life is precious and constantly changing, and you can embrace it and make it work for you! I believe this for you, because #youmatter🌟

Dan Gilbert | TED2014, The psychology of your future self, March 2014:

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