The Power of Storytelling: Do People Believe Who They Are Today is Essentially Who They Will Be Tomorrow?

Hola Todos!

One of my research passions is storytelling and I’ve been working on an axiom that goes something like this: “Just as our DNA creates the blueprint to our physical or biological self, stories or narratives we select as our own acts as the blueprint to our psychological self.”

An excellent post on details a study by Harvard University social psychologist Daniel Gilbert (anything by Professor Gilbert is worth reading) that investigates the premise “Do people believe who they are today is essentially who they will be tomorrow?”

We understand that as we age, we change physically but the same time, we expect our personality to stay consistent.  As Professor Gilbert states, “I have this deep sense that although I will physically age – I’ll have even less hair than I do and probably a few more pounds – that by and large the core of me, my identity, my values, my personality, my deepest preferences, are not going to change from here on out.”

In the study, Professor Gilbert and his research team collected 19,000 surveys from people in the 30’s and their 40’s.  Some people were asked to look back on how they changed over the past 10 years. Others were asked to predict how they thought they would change in the next decade.

When the research team examined the data, “We’re able to determine whether, for example, 40-year-olds looking backwards remember changing more than 30-year-olds looking forwards predict that they will change.” They found that people underestimated how much they will change in the future. People just didn’t recognize how much their seemingly essential selves would shift and grow.

Just think about it; the stories you told yourself in high school probably changed by the time you got out of college.  What you thought you wanted to be when started college, changed by the time you were five years out of college.  When you’re in your 40’s and look back on your career choices and aspirations of your 20’s, those stories are different too.

So understand that in the future, the internal dialog that you have with yourself will change over time.  It’s not a bad thing, its just natural, normal human behavior.

Something to think about today…

Best regards,

Dr. Dan-o


Daniel M. Ladik, Ph.D.,

Associate Professor of Marketing

Stillman School of Business

Seton Hall University