At some time or another, we have all felt like we’re stuck in a rut. No matter what we try or what we do, everything around us stays the same. Even worse, when we try to change, we end up feeling like the same old person. No amount of New Year’s resolutions, self-help books, or community groups can make us feel different.
I certainly can relate to feeling stuck. Deciding to be a stay-at-home mom these past 18 months has meant my days have melded into one long string of diaper changes, laundry, reading board books, and singing the same songs over and over again. Sure, I attend play dates and library story hour, but time still runs together. Although on most days I genuinely enjoy spending so much time with my daughter, there are days when I wonder: is the world outside passing me by while I remain locked in just one role? Have I become a static person?
Harvard psychologist Daniel T. Gilbert would tell me no, of course not. He and his colleagues have researched over 19,000 people ages 18 to 68 and discovered what they call the “end of history illusion.” This phenomenon states that, on one hand, we easily recognize that we have changed greatly from our past selves. I don’t know of a single person, for example, who feels that they have stayed the exact same since their high school days. On the flip side, we grossly underestimate how much we will change in the future. We expect our tastes, preferences, and just about everything to remain the same, which turns out, of course, not to be true. We are as likely to change between the ages of 19 and 29, for example, as we are between ages 39 and 49.
Why don’t we think we will change in the future? Both Gilbert and other psychologists have theories. Believing that we have reached the peak of our potential right now makes us feel good, for one. Or maybe it’s just easier to see change in the past than in the future. One researcher even labels it a “failure of imagination,” being able to break our self-image of who we are today.
In any case, the “end of history illusion” holds some profound implications. The first is that, even when we can’t feel it, we are changing. For me personally, even though the last 18 months have gone by in a steady blur, I can now readily see how things have changed. I went from being a completely “newbie” mom to having experience dealing with several situations. I don’t miss my “pre-baby” life as much as in the beginning. My relationship with my daughter and husband has also changed even in such a short time frame.
So while it is easy to project forward to the next 18 months and see the “same old” me, I wonder. I wonder how much more I will change as a mother. Past that, I’m also a writer and have been scribbling away at a few personal projects. Even if I don’t publish anything, how will those experiences change me? And then if I imagine 5 years, or even 10, the possibilities continue to grow. I no longer feel stuck, but I relish all the things I can do in the next decade. My experiences will change me to the point where I will laugh at my silly fears back when my daughter was so young.
So take heart. Even if you don’t realize it, you are a constantly changing person. While it’s true that big changes – a new job, a new romantic relationship, or a new lifestyle – will have a big effect on your future, the little things count too. What you do day-in, day-out today will mold you into something else later. Those little experiences add up enough over time that your future self may not even be able to recognize you.
Whenever you feel stuck, remember: we are actually more likely to change than we are to stay the same. Break the “end of history illusion,” and don’t ever believe you will remain static. Embrace the possibilities, throw away doubt, and widen your imagination to the very real future of an ever changing you.
Photo by Andrea Rose
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23 thoughts on “Embracing an Ever Changing You”
Thank you so much for that amazing and inspirational post. It’s just what I needed to start a new week. I can totally relate to the feeling of being stuck and unable to change!!
I’ve been striving for change, I’ve become addicted to self-help books/ blogs and other sources that promise you a happy life for last few yrs And sure enough, nothing made me feel different or at least it wasn’t the difference / change I expected to happen…
I got frustrated, because it was not happening over night and the change was not that magnificent and grandiose. And I got stuck or I gave up… you name it! And after loosing the faith in the possibility of change I became scared, scared of little small changes. I’m not sure if it make sense, but the idea of ME remaining static brings me fear of change..
I’m so so glad I came across you post this mng, I’m going to put this as my inspiration:
“We are actually more likely to change than we are to stay the same. Don’t ever believe you will remain static. Embrace the possibilities, throw away doubt, and widen your imagination to the very real future of an ever changing you”.
I’m glad the post got your morning started right. The original article did the same for me several weeks ago. The idea that we are changing, even when we feel stuck, is very inspiring.
Very interesting and relatable post! Thanks!
Glad you enjoyed it!
I really enjoyed your article! Although I am in college, last year I found myself stuck in a rut, not knowing where to turn and what to do next. In September I embarked on the journey of a lifetime – studying abroad… I have been here in Austria for 5 months and things are starting to feel static again, I think this is because I have become settled into a routine and as you wrote in your article, I need to shake things up! So I have decided to start my own blog detailing my adventures! Thanks for reminding me to embrace the possibilities and widen my imagination!
How liberating science can be. Once we know what we are working with we can usually deal with it. This post has wonderful info for everyone to know!
I think that we often underestimate our abilities to learn knew things and adapt to new situations. Your story certainly highlights how personally we can travel a great distance in a short time.
I agree that we often underestimate our capabilities to change. If you took a critical look at your past, you find lots of examples of your adaptability. Why would that stop for the future?
Very nice post. Carl Rogers writes that the purpose in life is to become who we truly are. Even though many of us do not recognize it, and try to hang on to our current selves, we are ever evolving and changing creatures. I think the attempt to stop that personal evolution, or to even guide it according to what society and culture dictate is the cause of or at least a contributor to mental illness.
Wow, thank you Deborah, for sharing such a personal story. I actually love the idea of constantly changing and that is exactly what I preach! My exact advice is to be conscious and constantly “evolve” on a daily basis through self-reflection. I can see why the idea of change is scary for most people but you know the old cliche… The only constant is change. Which is why I say embrace it always.
Yes, it is scary and unfamiliar, but I love change because it brings about new challenges. It tests where you are as an individual and I don’t think there’s a better marker than to compare yourself to former you. Past Vincent had a lot to learn from present Vincent. Present Vincent is excited to see what Future Vincent becomes.
I’m glad to see you have embraced an ever changing future you. I also love the idea of constant change, but have wondered if I’ve become stagnant these past few months. Of course, when I analyze myself, it’s easy to see the changes and embrace the fact that the only constant is change.
If you feel like you’re changing then of course you’re not stagnating! I wouldn’t think for a second someone as insightful for you as at a standstill. Don’t worry Deborah, you only get more amazing as the days go by.
Parenting itself will change you greatly. I’m a single dad and have learned so much from that role. I agree that we are ever-changing, even when it doesn’t feel like we are.
My hats off to you, Dan, being a single parent. I have great admiration for people who are doing what I do, but without the constant support of a dedicated partner. And it is true that parenting does change you. It’s hard to feel it sometimes in the monotony of the day to day. It’s much easier to see it when you look back over time.
Great article Deborah. The majority of us take half our life and more to discover what you already have. Never stop wanting to find the next you.
I feel very fortunate to have found the “end of history illusion” research. It reminded me that the “next me” is always just around the corner. Cheers, Bob!
You are a constantly changing person – I like this. And it’s definitely true! I’m not the same person that I was a year ago or 5 years ago. Everything has its own influence on us. We are constantly changing…
Thanks for the great post, Deborah!
Just imagine what will happen in the next year or 5? It certainly blows the future wide open.
Thank you for the insightful, well-researched article! It’s a real treat.
You are right, it is so much harder to appreciate how we will change in the future. Indeed, there is something very freeing about the fact that we will not remain the same.
It’s a beautiful message. Thank you!
I’m glad the research opened your mind to the possibilities. I found it a very liberating experience as well.
I remember several times in my life when I thought, “Glad this is settled. I’ll be here/doing this/with this person/in this job/in this house/whatever for the rest of my life.” Ha! The one constant is that life has gotten steadily better–more fulfilling, happier, more content.
I remember thinking those thoughts too at different stages in my life. And like you, the only constant as been improvement and new challenges.