Change remains the only constant in life

I remember how I was once sitting in a talk by designer Steve Allen. He has been a designer for many years and was talking about how his designs had changed over the years. In that moment, I remembered those embarrassing moments when you come across Facebook pictures from 5+ years ago and just think yourself: "Oh dang... how could I have possibly worn this?". Even David Beckham commented recently that he regrets some of the haircuts he had in the past. Isn't that an interesting phenomenon? If that's the way how we think of the past, it also means that in the future we will potentially react to today's fashion, haircut, taste, preferences, etc. the same way how we react today about the past. 

Needless to say, that got me thinking a bit. Looking back, I would confidently say that I went through a lot of changes in my life, values, taste and personality. Looking forward though, I would rather say that my current life, values taste and personality are quite developed and won't change that much anymore. But isn't that what I used to say 10 years ago? And wouldn't I say the very same thing in 10 years as well?

Turns out that some proper research has been done about it. Psychologist Dan Gilbert gives this really interesting TED talk about the phenomenon that we think that our current state is close to a "final state" of who we are going to be until the rest of our lives – which is actually not the case. In his talk he demonstrates that while we acknowledge the change we went through in the past, we have a hard time imagining and visualizing the change we will go through in the future. Example: a group of 28 year old people and a group of 38 year old people is being asked to rate i) how much they changed over the past 10 years and how much they think they will change over the next 10 years. Turns out that the 28 year olds predicted less change for their next 10 years than the 38 year olds reported for their past 10 years. This pattern was analyzed for age groups from 18 to 68 (always with 10 years of difference) and you can see below how stark the difference was between the change that was predicted vs. reported. 

While this feels like an interesting research finding, it also bears a lot of meaning for the way how we make decisions in our lives. At any point in our lives, we seem to be thinking that we are close to what our final state is going to be. Turns out that this is not true. That's why making decisions for life is such a tricky thing. Many people say you should get married as late as possible because the later you do, the less change you will go through with your partner (and thus the lower the risk of divorce). As a matter of fact, change does slow down with age, but it is a constant, perpetual thing. Getting married later will therefore never remove the risk but only lower it.

At the end of all, it's important to recognize the importance and power of time throughout our lives. Time is what changes our preferences, taste, priorities, values and personality. While we appreciate this fact, we only seem to do so in hindsight. Looking back, we acknowledge the change we have been through, but looking forward, we have a hard time imagining how time will alter our beliefs and values. The challenge is to accept our current being not as the final state, but as a work in progress. We are not finished the way we are today. The person you are today is going to go through (almost) as many changes as the version of you from 10 years ago. Same applies to the version of you in 10 years time. After all, changes is the only constant in our lives.