How Much Do You Think You Will Change in Ten Years?

Ask a 28-year-old if he is mature; he will likely say yes. At a certain point in life, we believe we have learned most of the essential lessons. One can imagine our personalities are formed, and our values are secure. They will endure.


Three psychologists published an important paper (describing six experimental studies employing psychological tests) focusing on our illusions regarding the degree to which time will reshape us.

For example, they asked 28-year-olds how much they believed they would change in the next ten years. In contrast, they asked a group aged 38 how much they had changed in the last decade. The groups were similar but for their ages.

When they compared the two, the first bunch predicted they would alter a modest amount. However, the older segment recognized they’d shifted more than expected in the identical period.

The experimenters looked at individuals between 18 and 68, obtaining the same results. The study included over 19,000 subjects.

Quidbach, Gilbert, and Wilson claimed this is an illusion to which humanity is subject. Indeed, they called their paper “The End of History Illusion.” We think of ourselves as fixed in place as we are, a more or less permanent version of the one who goes by our name. The big transformations in our life exist as a remembered past, so we think.

What does this tell us?

The strawberry ice cream you love today might be cast aside down the road.

More seriously, we can tap memory to capture the extent of previous modifications to our nature but ignore or forget such knowledge when considering the rest of the journey.

Given that the findings point to underestimating the metamorphosis over the horizon, they may result from not wishing to consider what the unknowable tomorrow might bring.

Fear of change applies to a segment of life experience for many of us.

Consider this as well. If you make unexpected changes in values, preferences, or personality, the same might be true of friends, lovers, or others. Such an idea anticipates a precarious existence without a clear path to make oneself ready for it.

If one expects the coming incarnation of each of us to be like the present (except for minor personal shifts), our plans shall be off the mark. But how can we do better when we lack a crystal ball?

Every human soul can try to control his behavior, education, and decisions for now, but not for the person he will become. The bucket list items of today need to be fulfilled while they still matter.

By the time you retire, you could be someone whose interests and tastes have traded places with those of the new guy, whoever he is.

Even so, humans are adaptable. They adjust to the prevailing conditions and move toward a set point — a built-in grade of life satisfaction. At a practical level, life’s ups diminish after their moment of buoyancy, while the downs hit the floor, and we usually bounce back to some approximation of where we started.

Though we underestimate the manner and scope of our change, we are created to last through whatever those differences amount to.

Since the image in the mirror, inside and out, won’t be the same for long, perhaps the best advice is this:

We are all in transit. Use the time to improve, repair the world, enjoy the moment, and make the most of it.


The authors of the paper mentioned in this essay were Jordi Quoidbach, Daniel T. Gilbert, and Timothy D. Wilson. It was published in the January 4, 2013 edition of Science, Volume 339, Issue 6115.

Both of the above images are the work of Laura Hedien, with her kind permission: Laura Hedien Official Website. The first is the Chicago River, from the end of December 2022. The second is an Antarctic Sunset, photographed in November 2022.

18 thoughts on “How Much Do You Think You Will Change in Ten Years?

  1. Oh so complicated this “maturing” thing is…. I am happy that my husband and I have both changed but recognized this and worked to keep moving together in the same direction, even if at different speeds.


    • That you and your husband would take such a thoughtful approach to working on your marriage doesn’t surprise me, Laura. Neither does it surprise me that most people don’t, so far as I can tell. We live with a life expectancy well beyond what the institution of marriage can easily handle. My best wishes to you both, and here’s hoping your recent loss weighs less heavily on you.


  2. This is really interesting, Dr. Stein!


  3. Ten years? I think as you get older change accelerates. Life’s circumstances, aging, etc. force changes on you that can turn you into a different person in as short a time as 10 weeks. At least that’s been my experience.


    • I think your experience is accurate, Brewdun. Yes, our sense of the passage of time accelerates. If we think of what it was like when we were small waiting for our next birthday or Christmas or some big event, the wait seemed endless.

      Seniors, on the other hand, find the days speeding by. And a dramatic or traumatic experience can change a life, though most of us do bounce back to our set point to some extent, including lottery winners.

      The researchers are getting at something less remarkable, but nonetheless true. Thanks for your always thoughtful comments.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for all of this, Dr. Stein. I love the notion that we’re in transit…and time DOES move more quickly as the years pass. Your invitation to repair the world (in the infinite ways that can be done) and enjoy the moments? Precious advice. 💗
    And…thank you for sharing Laura Hedien’s photography once again…I must admit I adore the shot of the Chicago River, in all its crisp, icy goodness. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love the image of humans in transit, in a flow of being as befits where they are on their personal journey. I also see the impact of their surroundings- their environment and the humans who occupy those spaces. To believe we are fully set, without the ability to grow or adapt as you point out really doesn’t leave much room for growth does it? Stability brings comfort in many ways. The core concepts we hold on to can still be present but that fear you mention dominates, sticks them in place. Perhaps they feel they will lose all sense of who they believe they are, rather than learn who they might become? It’s difficult to imagine placing such strict limitations on myself.

    Thank you for your words today Dr. Stein.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. You are welcome, Deb. I wonder if the paralyzing fear of change is fully conscious. You put the nature of that fear well, but it may be that it is rationalized, at least in part.

    Few of us want to think of ourselves as cowards. Better to say “I will do it tomorrow or when I have less to do or after I feel more confident.” And then, for some, the right day for action never arrives. The correct answer for growth is often, NOW!

    Thank you again, Deb.


  7. This sentence really jumped out at me, “Given that the findings point to underestimating the metamorphosis over the horizon, they may result from not wishing to consider what the unknowable tomorrow might bring.”

    Right! Getting comfortable with uncertainty is hard!

    Love your advice – improve, repair & enjoy. Beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thank you, Wynne. If my sentences continue to jump out at you, however, I will have to train them about their manners. 😇


  9. “We are all in transit. Use the time to improve, repair the world, enjoy the moment, and make the most of it.” ~ Very sound advice, Dr. Stein.
    Looking back in ten-year intervals, I have certainly changed in ways I could not have imagined. Given the rapid changes in human societies across our planet, I have no idea who I will become in order to adapt to life on Earth 2033.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Tamara Kulish from

    These are important concepts to remember in relationships: we WILL change! To accuse someone of not being the same person from when they first met someone, is to deny this life lesson, and not give ourselves permission to learn and to grow.

    I read an anecdote from an old married couple who were in their 80s. The interviewer asked them how they coped with change and were they disappointed if their partner had changed from when they first met. The husband said his wife had changed and had become a different woman at each stage her life and he thoroughly enjoyed getting to know each of them! The wife said they same thing, that it was an adventure together, to discover who they would become as life changed them.

    I found that to be such a refreshing point of view, so different from how society somehow expects us to stay stalwart in our personalities in the face of change.


  11. Excellent, Tamara. I’d add a couple of points. I have met many people who, beyond the changes physical aging imposes, don’t change much. If the marital partner does change, the relationship is headed for a bad time.

    A different possibility occurs if they both change, but go in different directions and don’t resolve the inevitable tension.

    As Laura Hedien’s comment points out, much work is required to manage changes to each party. Good will is required.


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