I remember in high school reading about this study that claimed that our personalities are mostly fixed by the time we’re 23. After that, we change a bit, but they’re minor; our fundamental personality types are set.
That scared the heck out of me. I remember thinking how I had just a few years to solidify the good habits I had into real personality traits and pick up new ones that I wanted so that I wouldn’t become my parents. Nothing against my parents. But all teens go through a stage where they don’t want to be like their parents. Actually, some of that lingers for a while. I’ve noticed that some of the things parents are most adamant about in raising their kids involve not making the mistakes they think their parents made.
Anyway, I’m way past that age now and I don’t think the study’s claim is totally accurate. There are definitely exceptions. George Foreman is one. Dunno if you watched When We Were Kings, but before his fight with Ali in Zaire, he was this super serious aloof guy. But around the age of 30, his personality dramatically changed into the jovial, talkative, infomercial star he is now. A pretty radical personality change.
That said, I do think there’s truth to the study. I’ve found that in general, the older people get, the more fixed their opinions. A lot of what they think, and how they think, seems to be pretty much settled. With our parents’ generation, forget it. They’re never going to change, and we need to accept that. I’m not sure if some of them even have the capacity to recognize areas in which they need to change.
Honestly, that kind of depresses me. I’m not sure if I’ve ever written this before, but one reason I blog is that I hope to convince people, make them think, possibly in different ways than they currently do. But as me and my peers get older, I find this gets harder and harder to do. People rarely change their minds. They think what they think. I long ago realized that it’s pointless to reason with someone who can’t be reasoned with, who will never change their mind. But as we get older, I find that everyone starts looking like that. Depressing.
It kind of makes me wonder what the point of public discourse is at all. The news, talk shows, the blogosphere – it’s all about people digging in to their already established positions. No one ever really convinces anyone. I’m not sure people even listen. Like with every political issue, the story is always the same. Conservatives believe that unfettered, unregulated free markets are always the answer. That the financial meltdown doesn’t sway them one iota depresses me. No matter how bad schools get, liberals oppose school vouchers or anything that threatens teachers unions. On any issue – the environment, taxes, health care – it seems like everyone’s already made up their minds and evidence or data is irrelevant.
I really really really hope I’m not like that. I have strong opinions, but I hope that I still have an open mind. I worry though that I’m don’t. When we got married, we had one premarital session with my dad and we went over each others’ DISC profile. It’s this personality test that helps identify possible sources of conflicts in a relationship. According to the test, one potential problem area for me is a tendency to think I’m right even when I’m not. Basically, the exact opposite of what I want to be. So my natural tendencies work against me.
I still want to have an open mind though, or what I think in Christianity we call a teachable heart. I’ve been doing a personal exercise recently where I think of ways in which I’ve been wrong, just to remind myself where I need to change. Honestly, it’s not easy – my capacity for self-justification seems to know no bounds. But a teachable heart – that’s what I aspire to.
I’ve kind of given up on convincing anyone else via what I write though. Maybe that’s cynical. I think I can make people chuckle here and there. Let people know what’s going on. But convince anyone? Dunno if that’s gonna happen anymore. We’re too old.