30 Years Old – A Milestone In The Evolution Of An Individual
Is it true or not that after 30 years of life we reach a threshold? In what way our nature evolves until then and afterwards? How big are the changes we go through after this age? Are people capable of feeling, psychologically, the transition from the 2nd threshold to the 3 threshold?
According to specialists, turning 30 is indeed a milestone in the evolution of an individual throughout his life.
Brian Little, associate professor of psychology at the University of Cambridge, says that if a person is not satisfied with the way he/she grew, psychologically speaking, until the age of 20, then there is nothing encouraging to say about it.
The stage where you are at 30 years and how you are, it’s the way you’re going to be in the future, says Little, who is also the author of the book “Me, Myself and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being”, in which is debated this problem. In order to argue this idea, Little cites a famous American psychologist, former professor at Harvard, William James, who, in 1890, published the book “The Principles of Psychology”, which supports the idea according to which a person’s personality emerges and stabilizes one with the age “for most of us, until we reach the age of 30, the character hardens like the plaster and it never softens again”.
What do psychologists think about this belief? Has the specialists’ opinion about the evolution of personality throughout life changed after approximately 100 years that have passed since the publication of James’s book? A recent article shed light on this, calling for the opinions of professionals.
The ages of personality
Today’s psychologists agree with James, but only partially. According to Brian Little, around the age of 20, a person’s personality is like a plaster “half-hardened”.
The way we are is strongly determined and shaped around some personality traits influenced by genes. But, a part of our personality is also influenced by our own choices.
Professor Little says that we can choose to act against our natural impulses and in this way, even if the personality traits don’t change, our behavior is the one that can change.
Modern psychologists resort to a system called The Big Five, to define the human personality. The Big Five is used in psychology to describe an individual’s personality; using specific tests, through which the contribution of each factor is evaluated, it is also established a profile of our personality:
# Openness – opening to new experiences, emotions, adventure, curiosity and imagination;
# Conscientiousness – self-discipline, compliance obligations, orientation towards purpose, the tendency towards organization;
# Extraversion – energy and positive emotions, sociability;
# Agreeableness – a tendency to be empathetic and cooperative;
# Neuroticism – the tendency to experience negative emotions such as anger, concern, the feeling of being vulnerable.
The percentage associated with each size is related very much to everyone’s genetic heritage, some aspects of personality being noticed since the baby stage.
As we age, our personalities evolve. In adolescence and youth we change a lot and fast. Studies have shown that major changes of our personality occur in childhood and by the age of 20-something years.
After passing the threshold of the age of 30, we can still change, but much more slowly and with much more effort, says Paul T. Costa Jr., a scientist who works in the laboratory of behavioral sciences at the National Institutes of Health, USA. He, together with Robert McCrae, a psychologist at the National Institute on Aging, have conducted a research that led to results that promote the idea that personality tends to become stable after the age of 30. Moreover, as a result of longitudinal studies, these two specialists have found that after the age of 30-35 years, the pace, at which the personality of a person changes, slows down very much.
Regarding the 5 dimensions of personality, have been noted the following: between 18 and 30 years, people tend to be more neurotic, more introverted and less open to new experiences, but at the same time they tend to be more agreeable and conscientious.
After overcoming the age of 30, the tendencies are maintained, each individual evolving in the same direction, but at a much lower rate.
Many of the transformations that occur before 30 years and that contribute to building our future personality are due to numerous changes that occur in our living environment: the transition from one educational level to another, the first job, the first loving relationships, starting a family. After this age, our life calms down, we become more settled and thus our lives enter a steady-state.
Which aspects of personality may change when we reach the maturity threshold and how this happens?
Brian Little says in his book that the degree of extroversion remains fairly constant – a person who is introverted since he/she was a child will be introverted when he will be old as well -, but we can change our behavior when the situation requires.
Basically, we have to play a role: people who are more reserved can learn to be more open and more communicative when their profession requires. Nobody thinks it’s easy to behave differently than they normally do, this behavior having psychological effects, the respective persons starting to feel anxious and showing signs of stress. For example, the introverted persons need to make courage to speak in public, but many of them that do come in contact with many people, after the event need some time alone to recharge their batteries.
Nobody knows how long we can “play a role”, because this thing has not yet been studied by psychologists.
Brian Little says that due to our brain, the ability of people to “refocus” their personality can be achieved with patience and practice, with the help of a psychotherapist.
It take a lot of practice to change our way of being, but it is not entirely impossible to become agreeable, conscientious or more open and receptive to new experiences, until the age of 30 and afterwards.