Delving deeper into life & happiness
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Spend some time with your younger self. You might learn something!

In a moment of nostalgia have you ever wanted to turn back the clock and momentarily step into the shoes of your younger self? Serendipitously, I got to do just that.

I was charged with the task of sorting through my childhood memorabilia in my family home. In amongst the piles of diaries, poems and photos I found a rather intriguing letter.  A letter from my eighteen year old self to my future self. The letter recounted the highs and lows of my eighteenth year and goals for the future.

I was intrigued to discover how I have changed but more interestingly, parts of me that remained the same. Many psychologists believe there are 5 personality traits which can change throughout life stages. These universal traits are conscientiousness, neuroticism, agreeableness, openness and extroversion.  Research conducted by Sanjay Srivastava at Stanford University supported this idea of personality changing and found that conscientiousness increases in your twenties and agreeableness increases in your thirties. There was a noted decrease in neuroticism amongst women implying females worry less as they get older. Thankfully, in stark contrast to the reckless critter I appeared to be at eighteen, I can see that I have become more conscientious in the way I apply myself in work and play. So far in my timeline, the other traits seem stable. I’m still a gregarious worrywart that is open to experiencing and learning new things as I’ve always been.

It’s perfectly plausible that our traits can change with life stages. After all, we need to constantly adapt to new environments. Our lives are not static. Sometimes you have to change to fit in, or even re-wire your attitude and belief systems to cope with life’s changes. The brain’s neuroplasticity makes us capable of change and this adaptability could be highly advantageous in surviving a changing world.

Socrates advocated self-knowledge being the key to happiness. Observing traits which haven’t changed can increase your self-awareness by reinforcing what you already know about yourself. Through reading the letter, I discovered that my goals as a teen is consistent with my current aspirations. My mission back then was simple – to understand and appreciate myself. Unknowingly, the letter itself has got me closer to achieving that goal!

View old pictures, old video footage and see what’s changed and what has stayed the same. Your younger self may teach you a thing or two about yourself.

1 comment

1 David Smith { 09.04.11 at 10:00 am }

I’ve always said, in our past we find our future. Nice article Annie. 🙂

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