Who are you? Who were you yesterday or last year? Who will you be tomorrow or in five years or in twenty? Of course, you can give multiple answers to the first question: you can state your name, say "daughter" or "son," "brother" or "sister," "student," "Psi Chi member," and so on. Because you are changing and growing, some of your answers to the second question will be different from your answers to the first. The third question involves your future psychological identity, and this is also a matter of change and growth. Who you are and who you will become is deeply imbedded in the world around you—a world that is rapidly becoming more global. I invite you to explore with me what that means to your identity, and how globalization and some of the psychological decisions you make will influence your answer to the third question.
As you change and grow, you take on more responsibility for creating and defining your unique identity. Navigating your journey into the world of the future will not be easy because no one has gone before you. The metaphor of a sailing ship is useful. Sometimes you will sail with the wind and sometimes against it, but you will always need to be aware of the major winds of change if you want to keep your direction and reach your desired destination. The winds of change can blow you off course, or they can speed you to your goals, depending on your skill in understanding and using them, and on the identity you develop that will serve as a compass to guide you.
Some of the powerful winds of global change are the dramatic progress in science and technology, the knowledge explosion, population growth, and the unprecedented global migration. Let's examine each.
To appreciate the march of technology, note that the first patents for the automobile were taken out in 1885—only a little over a hundred years ago—by two Germans, Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz. Today, automobiles are taken for granted around the globe. The Internet—so indispensable today—was developed only in the 1960s by the U.S. Department of Defense to improve communication among scientists and engineers working on military contracts. In 1980, there were fewer than 2 million computers in the world and these were mostly mainframes. By 1995, 150 million computers were in use and more than 90% were personal computers with far more computing power than the earlier mainframes. By 2002, there were 666 million Internet users worldwide. The number continues to grow. The knowledge explosion and technology are putting a premium on advanced education. Are you obtaining the scientific knowledge necessary to utilize fully the developing technologies? Is being or becoming scientifically literate part of your present or future identity?
Combined with rapid technological changes are tremendous population growth, and an enormous increase in migration worldwide. The U.S. population has almost quadrupled in just over a hundred years—from 76 million in 1900 to 300 million today. The world population has grown at an even faster pace and is now nearly 6.6 billion. In addition, our culture has become much more diverse and international. Almost one person in five in the U.S. speaks a language other than English at home. Language influences how we see the world. Have you considered your language skills as part of your identity? Are you multilingual, or do you plan to become so?
Technological advances such as the Internet, video conferencing, and wireless communication, along with population growth and migration, bring us into daily contact with people from many cultures. Our social world is growing and changing; interaction with a variety of people offers a rich future. Will you have the psychological tools to thrive in this culture?
Although the citizens of many countries are interested in gaining modern technology, many people find some western cultural values and practices undesirable. Even in the U.S., many find the dominant consumerism and materialism to be a threat to their personal values, to wholesome family life, and to childrearing. Do you actively reflect on these issues as you make important decisions, or merely "go with the flow" that is driven by advertising and slick marketing?
Actively deciding your values and goals is the psychological work of developing your unique potential and identity. As you grow up in a global world, you can choose to develop a world-wide perspective. You can create an identity that will prepare you to act responsibly and to thrive as a global citizen. To do this, you must have developed the competency to:
- consider and respect multiple perspectives and world views,
- understand and value your own world view,
- open yourself and learn from the unfamiliar,
- understand the interplay of local and international influences,
- recognize the value of multicultural diversity,
- appreciate the complexities of culture and of intercultural issues, and
- avoid cultural smugness and overly critical views of your own culture.
If you nurture and develop these psychological competencies, you will be more comfortable, more capable, and more successful in our more global world. You will become more deeply aware of your own worldview and also more interested in others' views. I urge you to engage in the world broadly. Find ways to travel, to study abroad, to live abroad. Read extensively to keep pace with change, for knowledge is the key to understanding. Preference for the familiar and fear of the unknown are normal but, to the extent that you gain knowledge, apprehension will fade, and you will expose yourself to new people, new ideas, and new experiences—some of which will greatly enrich your life. I have found that the effort required pays large dividends. It has opened many doors for me around the world. I am sure it will open many doors for you.