It's 15 years since I started my doctoral program (really??? where did the time go?), and I am still as fascinated with conceptual change as ever. I'm particularly interested in how the beliefs we hold frame our world and the conditions that precipitate conceptual and belief shifts so that the world is perceived in new ways. For example, an acquaintance of mine has labored under the assumption that she would finish her doctorate "some day" since she does not have any time in her busy professional life (full-time career) or personal life (wife and mom of two young children) to add anything else to her schedule. Interestingly, though, with the imminent retirement of her major professor, she now perceives time differently, and she now sees a way to make time to work on finishing her dissertation. It's not just a case of being more motivated now, though that does have an influence, it's that she actually perceives her schedule and availability differently now. This happens to me--in inconsequential and important situations alike--fairly frequently (I may be a bit of an anomaly here, since I've gone through many major conceptual shifts, probably worthy of 4 lifetimes in one.....)
One of the more major shifts in my life was changing my beliefs about whether I wanted children. From a very young age, I knew that I didn't want to have kids. I told everyone--even my future spouse. And it was't hormones that made me change my mind (at least I don't think so). It was just a different way of seeing the world that happened due to various influences occurring in my life at the time. Plus I had a dream, and in the dream, I saw myself having a child, and it seemed right somehow. That, plus other influences in my life at the time (great marriage, good friends, lots of love I wanted to share) led me to reconsider 30 or so years of thinking to make room for the possibility of redefining who I was. Ten years later, I am grateful for this shift and my two young boys who fill my life with so much unanticipated joy.