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The Psychology of Your Future Self: Dan Gilbert (Full Transcript)

Dan Gilbert at TED Talks

Here is the full text of social psychologist Dan Gilbert’s talk titled “The Psychology of Your Future Self” at TED conference.


At every stage of our lives we make decisions that will profoundly influence the lives of the people we’re going to become. And then when we become those people, we’re not always thrilled with the decisions we made.

So young people pay good money to get tattoos removed that teenagers paid good money to get. Middle-aged people rush to divorce people who young adults rush to marry.

Older adults work hard to lose what middle-aged adults worked hard to gain. On and on and on.

The question is, as a psychologist, that fascinates me is: Why do we make decisions that our future selves so often regret?

Now, I think one of the reasons — I’ll try to convince you today — is that we have a fundamental misconception about the power of time.

Every one of you knows that the rate of change slows over the human lifespan, that your children seem to change by the minute but your parents seem to change by the year.

But what is the name of this magical point in life where change suddenly goes from a gallop to a crawl? Is it teenage years? Is it middle age? Is it old age?

The answer, it turns out, for most people, is now, wherever now happens to be.

What I want to convince you today is that all of us are walking around with an illusion… an illusion that history, our personal history, has just come to an end, that we have just recently become the people that we were always meant to be and will be for the rest of our lives.

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