Topic: You keep changing, but you keep forgetting you do
Conclusion: You can bypass some of your evolutionary mismatches by keeping smart records of the self
Length: very short
You are different
You were a different person twenty years ago. You had other habits. You thought other thoughts. You reasoned differently. You harbored different beliefs. In short, you have changed your mind since then, whether you realize it or not.
Typically, it’s difficult to remember clearly that you actually were of a different mind, unless you have actual tangible records for reference. If you are a mindful and highly metacognitive person you might be able to do it, but not without a certain amount of effort.
The different yous are like different religions or cultures
In my conversation with serial entrepreneur Ola Ahlvarsson on my podcast Future Skills a few weeks back, Ola talked about observing the world through different cultural lenses. Among other things he said it’s very dificult to truly understand a different culture. We are trapped within our own cultural box of , e.g., believing in “freedom”, “pursuit of happiness”, “individualism”, “socialism” or “martyrdom”. Within that box it’s all but impossible to grasp what’s inside another box without ending up in that box instead.
One thing that really struck me was Ola’s claim that many people in the western world think that an Islamic State warrior probably would come around to our views of freedom and justice with the right amount of education. However the IS warrior might think the same about us. We just don’t understand each other, and a little education doesn’t fix that gap.
Ola makes a much better job at explaining the concept than I could ever hope to do, so do check it out on any podcast app you like (here is a link to the iTunes page). It’s the podcast Future Skills, episode #10.
I recently listened to a science show about the self, and the memories of the self. The host talked about how there aren’t any evolutionary advantages in remembering being a different person. On the contrary, much of the conscious self is occupied by continuously adapting its narrative and back story to fit with current events. Being a person is mostly an illusion, an afterthought made-up to keep us safe and sane.
Unfortunately that’s an evolutionary mismatch with the modern world, since being of a fixed state mindset makes us less prone to trying new things — since we assume we are static anyway. In Future Skills we devote a lot of time to analyzing mismatches between our prehistoric brains and the modern world, as well as suggest ways around them and our numerous and counterproductive psychological biases.
In short, Future Skills is there to inspire you to make yourself future proof in a world of accelerating change.
Another interesting avenue of thought was how we judge ourselves based on our thoughts, but other people based on their behavior. Sure, we don’t have much choice about others, but in theory we could judge ourselves based on our behavior rather than our thoughts. I actually try doing that myself sometimes, not least during interviews: “I think I want A but it turns out I most often choose B, so I guess my personality really is B rather than the A I otherwise assume”. It still feels weird, however, thinking I am A, but having to say I am B based on what a past version of me simply happened to do rather than the very tangible thoughts I am having now.
Take aways — embrace change
Here are a few things you could do to map out your changing personality and take advantage of the information gleaned from the exercise:
- Keep a diary of your thoughts, decisions and beliefs — it will become increasingly interesting and valuable as the decades pass.
- Analyze your past behavior (which could be inferred from photographs and other records)
- Remember that just by internalizing the fact that you do change, will increase your propensity to try new things and adapt even faster to your environment — a superpower in the way the world works in this century
- Check out my podcast Future Skills for more inspiration through our three different show formats (10-minute future skills tool episodes, half-hour long expert episodes, e.g., #12 about entrepreneurship, and longer format guest shows)