On Throwing Away Your Last Year's Resolutions

Think of your favorite band, musician, writer. How much would you be willing to pay for the ticket that allows you to meet him (her, them) in person? But what if you learned that the meeting will take place in ten years — is it still worth it? Probably a little less, but still…

Now try to picture yourself ten years ago. Who was your idol back then? What books did you find interesting? If you were to pay big bucks to meet your idols, who would it have been? And what about your dreams from ten years ago? Did they change over time?

End of History Illusion

Daniel Gilbert is a psychology professor from Harvard, his research specialty is how we predict our own future. It turns out, we’re not very good at it. We know that we are changing during our lifetime, yet we greatly underestimate the scope of that change. We believe that what we feel and think today will remain with us for the rest of our days. A fifteen-year-old thinks his world view is already perfectly shaped, a twenty-five-year-old believes he’s ready for the rest of his or her life, a thirty-five-year-old looks back and thinks Oh, how stupid you were… But the very same thirty-five-year-old thinks he is already mature and aware. Gilbert calls this end of history illusion — although we know we’ve changed in the past, we consider our present self to be a finished entity.

Why am I telling you that? New Year is the time of new beginning, starting fresh. I would like you to know that it’s not the system reboot. Rebooting the system carries an implication that the clean system is still the same version that was installed previously. But it’s not so.

You are changing. More than you can see, imagine, appreciate. The quicker you become aware of that, the easier it will be for you to embrace the change. Because change is inevitable. Sometimes a bunch of smaller changes cumulates into one bigger change — a rapid, violent transformation from Hannah Montana to Miley Cyrus. Sometimes they are just a set of small, evolutionary steps. But a new year is an upgrade, not a reboot. What does this mean?

Third Bag For Resolutions

I used to plan my restart by re-evaluating my to-do list. I used to put my unfinished business into one of two bags labeled now and later. Ever since I realized how much I am changing, I added yet another bag, this one labeled never. And I have no problem putting things into it — both from the now and later basket. Perhaps you need a third bag as well?

Do you want to know how much we change? Gilbert and his team did the measuring. It turns out that the amount of change we expect to happen during our lifetime is complete… within ten years. Now think about your future and how your beliefs and attitudes will evolve until you get old. And then realize that this get old mindset will arrive in just ten years. After that it’s uncharted territory. A set of emotions you’re not able to imagine today. And in order to wander there your now and later bags cannot be full. What will you drop?