While I was getting my first degree, I was taking some developmental psychology courses because I was majoring in Education. One of the many interesting things I learned in those courses is that we human beings tend to get less and less inclined to change as we get older, and that this has to do with a significant reduction in neuroplasticity through the course of the mid-twenties.
When I was in my mid-twenties, I worked myself really hard to change as much as I could in many aspects of my life because I thought that this was my best chance to change before my brain started preventing me from making big positive improvements in my life by force of mind. I was concerned that after my twenties, only a strong emotional event could prompt me to change for the better in a systemic way.
But here I am at 31, and I’m still taking on new intellectual challenges, trying new music, tasting many new beers, enjoying forms of art that I wasn’t familiar with before, learning new workouts, and making steady though significant changes in my behavior. I can even change my habits fairly easily in a way that strikes other people as strange or wildly implausible.
My basic personality is the one thing that hasn’t shifted nearly so much, but that was something I expected. It has, however, shifted gradually to a more moderate place on a variety of axes. I am less introverted and less attached to thinking (as opposed to feeling) as a mode of operating. I’m still an INTP, but the S/N and J/P contests are in a tie at this point rather than being strongly on the N and P side of things.
So how am I still engaging in rapid intentional change in many areas of life despite the dreaded reduction in neuroplasticity? I’m not taking any special medicines or practicing any particular mental exercises designed to mitigate the loss of neuroplasticity. As far as I can tell, my habits are settling in for the long haul just like the habits of anyone else who’s aging. My habits are trending towards being static rather than dynamic.
I am still changing not because I have discovered some magical elixir for preserving youthful levels of neuroplasticity, but because the habit of mind I have settled into is a habit of change. The habit of change is the one that can keep us adaptable for a surprisingly long time in our lives.
If there is one habit you can muster enough energy to implement in your life and hold onto until the end, I recommend that you make it the habit of change. The habit of change is what will support you as you build many other good habits one by one, gradually reshaping your life in a more positive direction.