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Psychologists Say It’s Really Possible To Change Our Personality

Psychologists Say It’s Really Possible To Change Our Personality

Do you feel that you can become a better person, but your personality is hindering you from doing so?

Are you one of those people who is making a conscious effort to change, but no matter how hard you try, you remain a prisoner of your personality traits?

Don’t lose hope – it is indeed possible to change your personality!

Personality Crisis

According to the widely accepted model of personality with over 50 years worth of research and study, there are five dimensions of our personality, known as the “Big Five:”

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  • Extraversion: People with high levels of this personality dimension are much more outgoing and tend to be more comfortable in social situations compared to others.
  • Agreeableness: Your level in this dimension determines whether you are more cooperative with other people or competitive (even to the point of being manipulative) with other people.
  • Conscientiousness: Thoughtful people who have high levels of this trait dimension are much more detail-oriented and driven.
  • Neuroticism: Moodiness and the propensity for sadness are associated with people who possess excessive amounts of this personality dimension.
  • Openness: Imaginative and insightful people are very receptive to change and new experiences, whereas those who are not are much more stubborn and reluctant to try out new things.

These personality dimensions are further shaped by our genetics and our upbringing, the latter of which also involves our living environment and culture. These factors ultimately help shape your personality as you grow up, some of which could lead to personality disorders.

However, your personality is never fully set in stone. In fact, it is not uncommon for adults to tweak their personalities as they prepare themselves for new challenges and life situations. For example, stubborn partners will find themselves making an effort to become more cooperative with their loved ones if they want their relationship to work. While these instances may not necessarily lead to positive results, it is evidence enough that changing your personality is not impossible.

The question that begs to be asked is this:

How Much Effort Are People Willing to Put in to Make That Change?

According to a recent study at the University of Illinois, only 13% of respondents were satisfied with their personalities – most of them wanted to change for the better. However, instead of encouraging these people to get help from experts or take courses, R. Chris Fraley and Nathan Hudson conducted different tests instead to see if the respondents can quantify their personalities to make the necessary changes. The results of the test were published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, which you can view here.

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The first experiment involved an introductory psychology class, who were educated about the Big Five personality dimensions and asked to grade their personalities by filling out a rating form. They were then asked if they wanted something to change in their personality over the 16-week period of this study. To do this, they needed to find a way to change their undesirable personality traits using goals and metrics to track their progress.

Among the 135 participants, half joined the “change plan” condition, in which they were given writing assignments over the same period to assess the changes they need to make for their personalities. Every week, they were also required to complete additional writing assignments to evaluate their progress further. The other half were not asked to write – instead, they were placed in a controlled setting and were provided feedback about their development.

The second experiment involved roughly the same number of participants. The only variable that Fraley and Hudson changed is that, instead of focusing on personality traits, they targeted daily behavior related to the traits that defined their personalities.

The result of both experiments demonstrates the capacity for people to make breakthroughs with their personalities. Participants were able to make strides by getting better scores on personality traits that they wanted to improve. However, the comprehensive change plans only had a modest impact on the actual changes in personality. Also, the 16-week period for the study was not enough for the participants to make the drastic changes one might expect.

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Steps to a Better You

Now that you are aware that you can still change your personality, below are some proactive steps that you can take so you can make the change as early as possible.

1. Do not let “labels” define you

You are not a shy and timid person. Nor are you a cold and callous one. You are simply a person full of potential to change and become a better version of yourself every day. You can be anything, as long as you put your mind to it.

2. Do good deeds

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Getting rid of a terrible personality can start with doing something good. A study published in Motivation and Emotion suggests that engaging in acts of kindness allows you to overcome anxiety. Letting the focus from yourself shift to others leads to more opportunities for social engagement.

3. Just wait

If you cannot force change, then let it come to you. According to a study conducted at the University of Manchester and the London School of Economics, change that naturally takes place is not out of the question. The more you undergo transformative experiences in life as you grow older, the more chances that changes in your personality take place.

At the end of the day, change is inevitable. As mentioned above, our personalities are shaped by our experiences in life. By exposing ourselves to positive experiences that we can live by and keeping an open mind for our own identities, there is no doubt that change for the better is indeed possible.

Featured photo credit: Jedidja via pixabay.com

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Christopher Jan Benitez

Christopher is a passionate writer sharing about lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on December 3, 2019

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

2. Pace Yourself

Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

3. You Can’t Please Everyone

“I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

“Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

6. It’s Not All About You

You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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