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There was something about the title Personality isn’t Permanent (by Dr. Benjamin Hardy, PhD) that really got my attention. I didn’t buy it at first, but something about it stayed in my mind. Thankfully, a few months later the digital Kindle version had a huge discount so I bought it right away.
My intuition was right. That book DID contain some extremely valuable lessons on personal growth and self-improvement and I’m very glad to have learned about them.
The main point of the book, if you haven’t guessed from the title, is that our personalities change over time. If you think about it, it’s pretty obvious. How many working adults are the same as who they were back in high school? How many 40-year olds are exactly the same as their 20-year old selves? Most likely very few. Extremely shy introverts can become outgoing leaders, and reckless party animals can become more intellectual and contemplative. Obviously, people mature and grow over time, right?
Think about this though.
How many of us develop some negative personality traits because of some trauma from our childhood? How many of us who have been bullied as kids grow up to become extremely shy and reserved, or become bullies at work? How many of us failed some tests, got scolded by our parents, and had the thought “I’m not very smart” etched into out minds? How many of us couldn’t keep up with other kids at sports and had “I’m not strong or athletic” marked into our self-image? How many abusive adults were the result of their parents abusing them as children?
Are those bad experiences and traumas holding us back from trying new things, such as good habits and hobbies that can improve our lives, because we think the effects of those traumatic events are a part of our personalities and are therefore “permanent”?
That is the most important lesson within that psychology book. We grow and change over time, and we can CONTROL that change. We can choose what part of ourselves we want to change for the better. Nothing in our personalities are permanent—not even our toxic habits and traumas.
We can be more confident, more generous, and more emotionally mature if we really want to. We can be the kind of person who is disciplined and courageous enough to succeed at what we value, such as our careers, relationships, physical and mental health, and more.
To do that, however, we have to imagine what kind of person we want to become. We have to seriously start thinking and planning our future selves.
Why should you think about your future self
1. People change and you can control how you change.
Do you cringe when you look at some of your old photos? How about when you read your five or ten year old social media posts? Do you get embarrassed when you remember some things you did in the past? You probably won’t do those things again, and you’re probably thinking about how “stupid” you were back then.
That just goes to show that we’re not the same person we were back in high school. We grow and change over time depending on the choices we make, the hobbies we try, the things we put in our homes, and the people we spend time with.
The secret to success is in carefully choosing what we put into our lives so that we can change for the better.
We can think more carefully about the long-term consequences of our habits. We can start trying out some healthy and creative hobbies instead of wasting the days on social media. We can put healthier food in our kitchen instead of only junk food. We can start hanging out with good friends instead of toxic abusers.
Everything we do adds up over time. If we want to be better, wiser, more mature, healthier, and wealthier overall, then we have to start planning for it now. There’s a saying, if we fail to plan then we plan to fail. We have to set a goal for ourselves in the future and THEN base our decisions on how we can make it happen.
Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When a man does not know what harbor he is making for, no wind is the right wind.Seneca
2. Self-fulfilling prophecies happen. Use it to your advantage.
When I was taking up psychology in college, one valuable lesson I remember was all about self-fulfilling prophecies. When we expect certain things to happen or we expect that things are a certain way, we subconsciously act in ways that make those things come true.
For example, if we think most strangers are mean and are out to take advantage of us, we’ll likely act snobbish or cold and people may treat us badly in return. On the other hand, if we think that most people are good and kind, we’ll likely smile and address them warmly, and they’ll likely treat us kindly instead. That’s an example of the Pygmalion effect.
Similar to that, our expectations of ourselves also affect our skills and abilities. For example, if we think we can succeed at something, we’ll give our full effort and keep trying even if we fail. That persistence and repeated practice WILL eventually make us better at it, and we’ll more likely succeed. On the other hand, if we think we’re NOT good at something (e.g. “I’m not strong or athletic” because we were once bullied in school), we’ll probably just dabble in it a bit, lose interest, and give up if we don’t get good results immediately.
Our thoughts and expectations of the world AND of ourselves does affect our quality of life. If we want to improve things then we have to believe in ourselves and our ability to achieve it. Start with positive expectations and good results will very likely follow.
Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee; And light shall shine upon thy ways.Job 22:28 KJV
3. Do it for your own happiness.
While most people don’t want to be unhappy or miserable, we may have some personality flaws and bad habits that can cause a lot of problems and make us extremely unhappy. Just think about alcoholics or drug addicts who never tried rehab, or extreme pessimists who won’t even try small positive changes that can massively improve their lives.
How can improving yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally bring happiness?
First off, if you sincerely work on the toxic or negative parts of your personality, you’ll attract (instead of repel) good people who can become positive influences in your life. You will also be able to get rid of toxic abusers who try to use you by manipulating your emotional weaknesses.
Second, when you teach yourself to become more mentally and emotionally strong and resilient (and for sure, there are many psychological skills for that), you’ll be much better at facing life’s challenges head on instead of just sitting around moping and complaining.
Finally, you’ll be far happier when you learn to be grateful for all the blessings you have in life, ESPECIALLY the ones you currently take for granted (good friends and family, being educated and smart enough to read this, etc).
Remember that if you have a negative outlook in life, you’ll tend to look for faults and failures and you’ll never run out of things to complain and feel bad about. On the other hand, if you develop a more positive personality and outlook, you’ll never run out of things to appreciate and be grateful for. That’s especially true if you continuously work on yourself and work towards your goals. You will constantly see the positive changes you’ve made and be grateful for those.
If being happy is important to you, try this: instead of regretting all you lack, celebrate all you’ve got.Brian Vaszily
Time will pass anyway, so we must start working on ourselves!
Our “personality” affects our quality of life. Our habits and thought patterns affect how we respond to problems, how we bounce back from failures and setbacks, and how confident we are at taking on (and creating) new opportunities.
The most valuable lesson here is that you can CHANGE yourself, your personality, for the better. Personality, after all, is not permanent. Yes, not even the traumas that haunt us. The events in the past cannot be changed, but we CAN change our reaction to them, their effects on us, and the toxic thoughts and habits that resulted from them. We grow and mature over time, and we can indeed control how we do that if we set our minds to it, and learn how when needed (books, therapy, self-improvement).
The best way to make sure that we change for the better is to actively make it a goal, believe it’s possible, and continuously learn to become the best person we can possibly be.