Author: Benjamin Hardy
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APA Style Citation
Hardy, B. (2020). Personality isn’t permanent: Break free from self-limiting beliefs and rewrite your story. New York, NY: Portfolio/Penguin.
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Who do you want to be? Is your personality determined for you or do you have a choice? Personality Isn’t Permanent: Break Free From Self-Limiting Beliefs and Rewrite Your Story takes you on a journey of self-discovery. The mainstream perspective is that personality is innate and fixed. You are born the person you are and cannot change that. However, many people are at least partially dissatisfied with their personality. Why do so many of us think personality is fixed? We rely on causal determinism, where everything is caused by the past. However, you can make choices, and your social and cultural environments help guide you. Your personality isn’t permanent and you are not bound by your past.
The field of personality is filled with myths. One myth includes personality can be split into “types.” The mother-daughter team of Katherine Briggs and Isabel Myers created personality types to help individuals feel comfortable with who they are, but type-based personality tests are unscientific. Instead, leading research focuses on five factors that describe traits along a continuum that also allows for change. Research has supported that personality can be changed with personal effort and goal-setting. Intentional change is challenging, but possible. Another myth is that personality is innate and fixed, stemming from your past. Longitudinal studies have found that personality changes. You will not be the same person as you are now in ten years. Who you want to be is more important that who you are now, so make decisions based on your future rather than present desires. As you grow and develop, your past changes with you. The personal narrative changes with each retelling and new experience. Your present context changes everything, including your memories. Another myth is one must discover their personality. Individuals are often encouraged to find their passion, but perhaps they should focus on finding a need that needs to be filled. Dr. Hardy talks about how passion and motivation should be viewed as effects rather than causes. Passion is the prize, but you will have to invest first. Personality is the same, it is the consequence of your life decisions. Purpose feeds personality and purpose isn’t something you discover, but rather something you choose. Finally, finding your personality will help you find your “authentic” self. This belief allows individuals to only do what is natural or easy to them and take a fixed approach to personality. Instead, your authentic self should be who you want to become.
It is your goals that shape your personality. What are your goals? Goals have three sources: exposure, desire, and confidence. Knowledge helps build your goals. Find sources of inspiration, read biographies of those who wish to emulate, pursue your desires, be courageous, and build your confidence. Peak desires happen not by random chance, but with intention. Who is your future self? Build your identity based on who you want to become. Dr. Hardy encourages individuals to set one goal. According to him, “One goal creates focus. Focus creates momentum. Momentum and confidence spill into all other areas of your life.” In order to stay motivated, you need a clear goal, a path to achieve that goal, and the confidence that you can succeed. Commitment to that goal should be 100%! Each decision should be based on helping you achieve that goal and individuals should measure their performance towards that goal. Dr. Hardy believes success at night and in the morning are important to your success. If your willpower is weak at night, then just go to bed. Going to bed after you search social media or watched some Netflix, gets you no closer to your goal. However, an extra hour of sleep does wonders. Get up early and seize the day! The positive effects of gratitude journals have been well documented. Daily journaling can also keep you on track to achieve your goals.
According to Dr. Hardy, there are four “personality levers” that shape your future self. These levers include: trauma, identity narrative, subconscious, and environment. Once you understand how they work, you can change your personality. Transform your trauma. The author talks of having an empathetic witness to help transform the trauma into growth. Painful experiences need to be faced rather than avoided. Shift your story and make your identity narrative about what you can attain in the future. Meaning is used to understand our life. You can control the meaning of your experiences by controlling your emotions. You have to get better at identifying and labeling your emotions, and finally letting the negative emotions go. Recognize that memories change. A horrible experience can be turned into a learning experience, and you can choose the story to remember. Dr. Hardy said, “The past is just raw material to work with. It’s entirely malleable and flexible. You get to take the pieces and choose which one’s to discard and how you’re going to frame them.” Be more aware of your subconscious. Emotions and memories are physical. Our body becomes addicted to the repetitive behaviors we do. Some individuals become addicted to stress. When not feeling stressed, they become uneasy. Dig deep and find out what you are hiding within. Some suggestions offered by the author include fasting (i.e., food or technology) and making charitable donations. Both are connected to happiness and techniques to enhance your subconscious. Finally, pay attention to your environment. Putting yourself in a new environment (i.e., people, places, roles) is a quick way to change your personality. As we age, we tend to stop having “first experiences.” We also tend to stop trying new environments and stick with what is comfortable, which helps strengthen the belief that personality is fixed and stable over time. Your personality is shaped by the culture that surrounds you and the peer group you choose. Learn to control your environment, by picking one that reminds you of your future self. A culture wall, consisting of illustrations representing your beliefs and aspirations, can be used as a visual reminder of who you want to become. Change your computer password to a phrase that is consistent with your future self. Reorganize your surroundings, even your closet, to match your goals. Be selectively ignorant of anything that gets you off track of finding your future self. As Dr. Hardy stated, “Your input shapes your identity, biology, and personality. When you change your inputs, all of these change.” Sometimes it is necessary to have a forcing function, which is a situation that forces you to take action and produce a result. They are designed to force individuals in the direction of growth. Sometimes they can be financial investments, such as paying for a gym membership to inspire positive health habits. Get to know your environment and the impact it has on you, then be strategic about picking an environment that steers your future.
Personality isn’t fixed, it is a choice. Your personality isn’t permanent and you are not bound by your past. Instead, the future helps change your past. Dr. Hardy believes, “Your past isn’t happening to you. Your past is happening for you.” It is purpose that drives your personality. Many people put stock in their personality test results, but personality tests are usually self-reported and therefore constantly changing based on current circumstances. Personality tests can provide different scores at different times and even different settings. Personality is so much more than the results on a simple test. You have the power to pick your future personality, it is not permanent. Make it a good one!
Other Related Resources
Author’s YouTube Channel
Benjamin Hardy, Medium’s Most Popular Write, Shares the Three Keys to Writing Great Non-Fiction
Psychological Concepts and Figures
Big Five personality traits
Myers-Briggs Type Indicator
NEO Personality Inventory
Primary and secondary emotions
Type A personality