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dkranzberg's avatar

Is what you will become already present prior to age 8?

Asked by dkranzberg (514 points ) October 29th, 2010

Recently I’ve been thinking about being a young child; remembering what I was like, what I was interested in/fascinated by when I was a young boy.

I sat down and made a list of all of my talents, abilities and skills as a 43 year old. I quickly realized that every single one of them could be traced back to the way I looked at and and interacted with the world at approximately age 6.

The things I love to do and think about today are simply an expansion of the interest/fascinations that abounded in my 6-year old heart and mind. The seeds of everything that I am and enjoy doing were already there.

Then the thought hit me: what have I forgotten from those days? What had I been interested in/fascinated with as a 6-year old that I had allowed the crowded noise of adult life to cause to fade into the background?

So I made a list of those forgotten joys and dreams.

I would encourage you to try this. It will lead to some deep soul-searching; maybe even a few tears when you realize how many dreams you have discarded. But, it is one of the most revolutionary things I’ve ever done. Ever since, I’ve been able to recapture some of that magic of life, the sort of magic that this gray world can drive from one’s heart and mind through the accumulation of rejections and “no’s.”

Let me know your experiences. I’d love to hear how this simple exercise worked for you.

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27 Answers

CMaz's avatar

Yes. For the most part, your disposition is set by the time you are 4.

Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

No. If what I will become is a cashier at Wal-Mart, then my whole thinking now is out of whack. When I was 8, I used to think that the little scanners the cashiers used were so cool, and I wanted to do that and make the beeping sound it made.
Now I like writing and computers, and I don’t want to be a cashier.

wundayatta's avatar

Not that I recall. I had no idea what statistics are, nor did I know what a labor union was. I did have a sense of righteous indignation, which has motivated me all my life, but that is so inchoate—it could have led anywhere.

El_Cadejo's avatar

ehhh yes and no. I mean I was always into comics and scifi as a child. Not much has changed there, but my passion, fish, until about two and a half years ago I couldnt tell you a single thing about a fish. I think I probably would have loved it from a young age if I was exposed to it sooner though.

On the level of who I am and my personality, not much has changed. Ive become more mature over the years sure, but Im still as curious about everything as I was when I was six. Constantly asking questions trying to find out how/why things happen

janbb's avatar

Yes – in terms of being a reader, a dreamer, a joker and artistic. The librarian part makes sense but I would never have expected in my shyer, early years that I would be able to be a great teacher.

Cruiser's avatar

I knew early on what I did NOT want to do and that was to continue on as a legacy in the family Real Estate business. I am definitely not one for working Saturdays and especially Sundays.

Coloma's avatar

Sure, certain ‘core’ traits are intact at a very young age.

Basic temperment, introvert/extrovert, etc. but….I have changed tremendously over the years and unless one is dead there is infinite possibility for growth and change.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I think yes. Like @Cruiser says, you can also know at an early age what you don’t want to be and try like hell to keep it off you.

nicobanks's avatar

I don’t remember what I was like – my joys, dreams, temperament – at age 6.

Like Coloma said, I think there’s infinite possibility for growth and change. I had pretty much no social conscious until age 19 or so. Now, this is very important to me and motivates a lot of what I do (sort of).

@Aesthetic_Mess So you used to be into grocery scanners, and now you’re into wiring and computers. Seems a pretty clear connection to me! You don’t want to be a cashier anymore – that’s not about a change in joys/dreams, that’s about being more informed about what the position would entail (i.e. very little to do with scanners, very much to do with repetitive activities and customer service).

choppersangel's avatar

I think that, depending on stimulus and exposure to life, a child from age 8 to around 12 – or puberty, whichever comes first – will already have found most of their core beliefs and interests. During the last year, I have done something similar to @dkranzberg, looking back to myself age 10 years. The things I was fascinated by and the activities I loved then are very much the ones that I am drawn to now.

If you decide to hold a conversation with an average 10 year old, who has a fairly stable and stimulating life, they are often very knowledgeable about their chosen interests. It is the age when kids appear most like ‘little adults’... Shame that puberty, peer pressure, cyber worlds and adult worries come along and do away with that time so thoroughly!

LuckyGuy's avatar

When I was a kid I loved science, chemistry, astronomy, and girls.
Not much has changed. I’m still a kid.

partyparty's avatar

I think the quote Give me a child until he is seven and I will show you the man,” which was supposedly said by the founder of the Jesuits, St Ignatius Loyola is so very true.
What we have by the age of 7 or 8 is built upon throughout our lives.

crazyivan's avatar

This is something that I’ve said for years and it seems incredibly appropriate in this thread, “Some people make the mistake of looking forward and wondering if the person they will become will be proud of the person they were. Far more could be learned by looking backwards and asking if the child they were would be proud of the person they became.”

Blueroses's avatar

Director Michael Apted explores this question in his Up documentaries following the lives of 14 seven-year-old children beginning in 1964 . The participants are now 54 and the project has been 46 years in the making. It’s a fascinating look at nature and nurture.

flutherother's avatar

Our personalities and abilities develop but don’t essentially change and are probably programmed into our genes. Look at twins who grow up in different environments but lead very similar lives.

skfinkel's avatar

This is a fascinating question. I think people’s basic selves are pretty much set by the time they are six or so, but I think there is still lots of room for growth. What about children who have not been exposed, for example, to any science at all—yet they might grow up and love that area. I do like the idea of going back to those days and recreating what your dreams were. I think mine (at least some) were a lot about singing and dancing in musicals. Didn’t happen. I also fantasized about owning a book store and a delicatessen/fruit store, and being able to go back and forth between the two as a good way to spend my life.

crazyivan's avatar

@flutherother You could also look at the vast differences in twins that are raised in the same environment to negate that argument. The fact is that neuroplasticity has been misrepresented for decades and science is slowly starting to realize that the personality is nowhere near as fully formed by adulthood as we used to believe it was.

dkranzberg's avatar

Great answers have been given out all around. Keep it up. Great stuff here. So many solid points and insights from everyone.

flutherother's avatar

Here are a few interesting case histories of identical twins. The surprising similarities support the importance of genes

JLeslie's avatar

I have heard that if we want to try to pursue what brings us joy, we should look back to our lives in Elementary school to remind us of what we love to do. This was said in terms of people trying to make a career change and people looking for “me” time. I would say in some ways this applies to me. I loved to dance, I liked math, among other things. But, as young children we don’t have enough knowledge of how the world works, and what career possibilities are out there to know at age 8 what we might become. I also believe that most people, as they age, become more aware of their effect on others, and even inconsiderate, self centered, mean children, can grow up to be good people.

BoBo1946's avatar

Yes, as most child child phycologist agree that your personality is developed by age 5! Well, having said that, that is what my Child Phycology teacher Dr. Garrett said 40+ years ago! loll

Off the subject, kind of, Dr. Garrett also said, “the way to rear a child is, “love and lick them when they are good and knock Hell out them when they are bad!”

MissAnthrope's avatar

I think that basic temperament is set by that age, sure. However, environmental differences can cause vast differences between paths taken. As @JLeslie said, there is also something to be said for maturity as a factor, as people tend to become more self-aware as they get older.

Me at age 8… basically, I’m the same person. My interests and god-given abilities haven’t changed, only expanded. I’d say my strengths and weaknesses are the same, though I now have better tools to cope with the latter. I’ve learned defense mechanisms to deal with my sensitivity, I learned how to behave in social situations through trial-and-error… and I am still learning.

CaptainHarley's avatar

Your personality is mostly set by the time you reach 6 or 7 years old, but your fate is not determined by what you thought or dreamed about when you were that young. If you are lucky, you will continue to develop and grow into your 60s and 70s. : )

Linda_Owl's avatar

The inner core of who we are & how we respond to the world around us, is basically “set” by the time we are 5 years old. We will evolve into adults eventually & some portions of our ‘personality’ will blossom & some will fade – but the things that we feel the strongest remains as our internal governing factor for the rest of our lives.

JLeslie's avatar

I was thinking about these answers and it occurs to me that I htink personality is different than academic knowledge. Maybe it is true by age 5 a lot of our personality is in place, but as far as career and interests, I truly believe this grows and changes over time. The belief that if you don’t learn something by 1st grade you are screwed, is a horrible untruth in my opinion.

Aesthetic_Mess's avatar

@nicobanks I don’t like the hardware or customer service so much as being able to do things on my own, and design software and creating things with writing. Those aren’t repetitive things I don’t think.

nicobanks's avatar

@Aesthetic_Mess Oh “writing”! I mis-read “wiring.” But, no, design software and writing are not repetitive – I was referring to the tasks involved in cashiering as repetitive.

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