I came across this concept of the end of history illusion twice within a span of 2 weeks by two different authors using different examples to showcase its impact. But the concept in Farnam Street podcast discussion with Neil Parishca was the one which struck deep as it talked about this frame of mind to build the resilience muscle to face the challenges which life throws at you. If one understands what is happening when we are faced with a challenge then we are better prepared to handle this and this is the main idea behind knowing about the end of history illusion.
End of History illusion
The end of history illusion is where people believe that they have experienced significant personal growth and changes in life up to the present moment, but will not substantially grow or mature in the future. To illustrate this with a simple exercise and see it happen in front of your own eyes I suggest you take a pen and paper to write down the changes which have happened in the last 10 years. Let’s stick only to the most significant ones, if you are like me you would have 8-9 significant changes listed down. Now attempt to list down the changes for the next 10 years, if you are like most people then you would find it hard to see any significant changes in the next 10 years. There will always be a story which we tell ourselves that the last 10 years were very different because of something which happened and the next 10 years things will not change much. How is that even possible? If the last 10 years had significant changes then surely the next 10 too must have the same level of changes if not more. This is because we are unable to imagine a future and so settle for the easy route of saying that we would not change much. This was exactly the study done by Daniel Gilbert and he coined the term, end of history illusion. This is because the mind thinks that we are at the end of history. This is especially true when you are faced with hardship or challenge.
Helping build resilience
Neil talks about a superb example that showcases this playing out in real life. When he was working at the HR department of Walmark his job was to be an observer during the lay off process and escort the employees outside the Walmart office. He noticed one thing that most employees felt that getting laid off from Walmart was the worst day of their life and most of them were so desperate that they thought they needed to commit suicide. The fear was that they would never get another job. Yet when he met those very same people after 2-3 years, each one of them said that getting laid off at Walmart was the best thing that happened. If you sit down to list the challenges which you faced in life then I am sure you too would echo a similar sentiment at a later date. Personally getting laid off has always been really good as it had helped me grow to the next stage of the career. This is why being aware of the end of history illusion will help you see things positively and realize that what is happening now would most likely be an insignificant event than what it seems now. This is how one can build resilience in one’s life.
This too shall pass
As I learn more about this concept I realized that this concept of the end of history illusion is also what the Budha taught in his teachings with an example of a story of a king who always wanted to be happy. When faced with challenges the king would sulk for years together and when he was happy he would go overboard in celebrating it. A wise advisor to the king gave him a ring with the letters “This too shall pass”, this ring reminded the king that nothing is permanent in life and change is always around the corner. By seeing that the current adversity which we are facing is not permanent one can find the courage to look for solutions to fight the challenges which we are facing. Thus knowing and internalizing this – “End of History Illusion” or “This too shall pass” will help build resilience muscle in our minds.
What are some of the times when you have seen beyond the immediate challenges in life? Do sit back and think about it and you will for sure see that each adversity is a stepping stone to success afterward. Once you internalize this you will respond to challenges with a different mindset.