Benjamin Hardy, PhD, explains why identity is far more important than personality, how it is actually the driver of personality, and how to frame your own future self, so you can stop living your life based on who you’ve been.
When Matthew McConaughey won the Academy Award for Best Actor in 2014, he gave a riveting speech about how he succeeds in life. A big part of his “success” formula has to do with the person he explains as his “hero,” who happens to be himself 10 years into the future.
Now before you brush this off, this article is going to provide you with lots of the latest research in psychology on the subject of personality development and identity. You’ll learn why identity is far more important than personality, and how it is actually the driver of personality. You’ll also learn how to frame your own future self, so you can stop living your life based on who you’ve been.
But first, here’s exactly what McConaughey said during his speech:
When I was 15 years old, I had a very important person in my life come to me and say, “Who’s your hero?” And I said . . . “You know who it is? It’s me in 10 years.” So I turned 25. Ten years later, that same person comes to me and says, “So, are you a hero?” And I was like, “Not even close! No, no, no.” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because my hero’s me at thirty-five.” So you see, every day, every week, every month, and every year of my life, my hero’s always 10 years away. I’m never gonna be my hero. I’m not gonna attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing.
The psychology of your future self
In his TED Talk entitled “The Psychology of Your Future Self,” Daniel Gilbert, the Harvard psychologist explains a fascinating finding from his research. Firstly, Gilbert explains that when asked if they believe they are the same person they were 10 years ago, most people say no. It’s quite easy to see changes from our former to our current selves. As Gilbert explains, people often remove tattoos their former selves thought were a good idea, divorce partners their former selves married, and painstakingly lose weight their former selves carelessly put on.
But here’s where it gets really interesting. Despite being able to discern changes in themselves from the past, people consistently underestimate changes that will happen in the future. Gilbert calls this the “end of history illusion” by saying, “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they are finished.”
The truth is, even though it’s easy to think that who you are right now is who you’ll always be, it’s just not true. Research by Gilbert and others shows that your personality is going to change dramatically over time, whether you do anything about it or not.