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As a college student, it’s very possible you’re feeling like you just weren’t cut out for this whole wake-up-before-noon-and-be-an-adult thing.
For most of us, this point in our lives is a time of great and constant change – you’re figuring out relationships, school, new social circles and even yourself. As you wonder about what you want and what needs to improve in your life, you’ll realize that you’re gonna have to make changes. But in that process, you may wonder: Can people change?
You may have heard, either from song lyrics, TV shows or oh-so-profound Internet quotes that people just don’t change, including you. Perhaps you’ve even heard it from friends or family, when your grandma told you that “a leopard doesn’t change its spots.”
There may be various reasons for why these ideas become popular — people see others around them fail to change, or maybe their own attempts at changing don’t go so well and they reach the conclusion that, well, change is just impossible.
The idea that people are completely set in their ways actually dates back centuries. “Determinism” is the philosophical idea that every human action is the inevitable consequence of the actions or events that came before it – basically that there is only one possible outcome in every situation, and people can’t choose to change what is already determined to happen. This can serve as an argument against free will: that people are stuck on a set path and don’t have the ability to influence their future.
This probably doesn’t make much sense on an intuitive level, because you engage in choices every day – for instance, when you choose to eat a bagel in the morning instead of a doughnut. But let’s assume that your choice was the only possible outcome in that situation, and no matter what, the universe would not have allowed a reality in which you chose the doughnut.
But even if everything was predetermined, and you were fated to be a certain way, that knowledge wouldn’t really change anything about how you live. You can’t just say, “Welp, my choices don’t matter anyway, so I’m just gonna sit on the couch all day and wait for things to happen.” Predetermined or not, no force is going to magically make you breakfast, get you a job or make you who you are. Your decisions matter, and you have to make them.
While it’s psychologically true that our overall personality structures remain the same throughout life, there is still room to change small aspects of how you behave, if you’re looking for change. Start with a goal, a specific thing you want to change in the way you live. Maybe you want to be a little more confident in class, or maybe you want to be a more caring or conscious person. The first step is to identify the goal.
Then ask yourself, how can you get there? Change happens by repetition, so taking those first small steps will add up. Remember not to get discouraged if you hit a road block or if the process is taking too long. Change doesn’t happen quickly. It took you years to become who you are today, to form all your current strengths and weaknesses. It’s going take a while to change things around. But the day when you look in the mirror and realize you’ve successfully conquered your struggle might come sooner than you think — believing in yourself is the first step. So get going, keep at it and, as Michael Jackson so wisely once said, “Make that change.”
Contact Assistant Opinion Editor Ellis Arnold at email@example.com.