Who Will You Be In A Decade? Many Believe They’ll Be The Same

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A new study says people don't see themselves changing much in the future.

For a moment, think about how you were ten years ago. Imagine who you were friends with, your most recent relationship at the time (or the state of your relationship at the time, if you’re still with the same person), what you believed, how you behaved, how you looked, the way you dressed, your job, your personality, the things you’ve learned since. How different are you now?

Now, for another moment, imagine where you’ll be in ten years. Will you still believe in the same ideals as you presently do? Will you still be dating the same type of people? According to a recent study from researchers at Harvard University and the University of Virginia, most people do not believe that in ten years, they will actually change all that much.

In their experiment, 19,000 participants ages 18 to 68 answered a questionnaire about themselves. They were questioned on criteria such as how emotionally stable they presently are, how extroverted or introverted they may be and the like. Then, respondents were asked to rate these same qualities both ten years in the past and ten years in the future. Most people felt that they had changed considerably in the past decade; oddly enough, they also generally felt as though they would not change all that much in the next ten years.

According to Harvard University psychology professor Daniel Gilbert, "It's hard to imagine ourselves in the future. That mistakenly causes us to think we won't change in the future. What our study shows is that people dramatically underestimate how different their future selves will be.”

I, for one, am certainly guilty of this. On any given day in the past several years, you could ask me how I felt about the way I was a year or two prior and I would likely cringe or giggle because I consider myself to be so different now. But when imagining myself in the future, even ten years down the road, I see the same relationships, the same body, the same awkwardly bashful behavior around new people and the same amount of openness toward new ideas and experiences. While I’m hoping I’ll be more confident with myself, my body and my life, it’s difficult to dream of myself being different than my current state. Maybe that's part of what getting older is: being increasingly comfortable with who you are and how you are, too.

But we all certainly grow and change over time — especially long periods of time. I see myself having children within the next ten years (though that could change, I’m sure), which would absolutely make me develop as a person quite a bit, so the perceived sameness of the future is unlikely.

But what about you? Do you see yourself as able (or even desiring) of change a decade from now?

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