Personality Isn’t permanent

This is a review & summary of the book Personality Isn’t Permanent by author Dr. Benjamin Hardy.

Personality Isn’t Permanent offers a compelling story that our personality isn’t set in stone.

In fact, we can create a new future through vivid imagination and mental flexibility by foreseeing the future possibilities.

Throughout the chapters of Personality Isn’t Permanent, Benjamin takes us on a journey to uncover the myths of our personality. Because even though personality is what defines us, it can also be what limits us into who we wish to become.

That’s why Benjamin Hardy poses that the key to changing your future is to reverse-engineer the future behaviour towards your current reality:

“Never mind searching for who you are. Search for the person you aspire to be.”

– Robert Brault

Personality limits our Perception

What was intriguing from the start is that the book takes a stance against personality tests – because they can create tunnel vision and limit our perceived potential.

Actually, the origin of the word “personality” comes from the Latin word persona. In the ancient world, a persona was a mask worn in a theater by an actor. It can also mean a character played by an actor. So our personality is just a mask. One of the many different masks we have in different settings and environments.

In short, the book gives a fresh perspective on how personalities aren’t set in stone. And who we think we are doesn’t mean that we have to stay that way forever.

Transforming your future

They say that the best way to predict the future is to look at the past.

But is this beneficial when it comes to changing our personality?

The book Personality Isn’t Permanent poses that the more you ‘re-mind’ yourself of the past, the more you maintain it. So to become someone different, the new future self needs to be thought about in the present moment:

“Real people become who they want to be by orienting their life toward their goals, not as a repeat of the past; by acting bravely as their future selves, not by perpetuating who they formerly were. “

Put differently, by acting bravely as your future self you set the beacon of something to look forward to.

Take Harry Potter for example, when he enrolled in the first year of Hogwarts.

How Harry Potter chose his future

Harry Potter was selected by the Sorthing Hat to become part of Slytherin.

So, he actually wasn’t ‘born’ as a Gryffindor.

But he made his decision. He saw he could be a Gryffindor.

He made his choice. And choice is far more important than our ability or current skill-set.

In this story lies a fundamental truth that we can apply to our own life:

“You become who you choose to be”

Nevertheless, facing the responsibility and freedom of making one’s choices is difficult. However, it is also what makes us unique as humans – we can mold ourselves into the person we want to become.

Personality is malleable

Personality types are social and mental constructions, not actual realities.

Admittedly, they do reflect how we react in certain situations or social nuances. But the point is that any category of a personality is never exclusive – meaning that if you’re an introvert in one situation you are an introvert in every situation.

At different stages of your life you can display different personality types. As Jordan Harbinger said in an interview regarding the famous Myers and Briggs personality types:

“Before coffee, I’m an INTJ. After coffee, I’m an ENTJ.”

So even though personality traits serve to make sense of who we ‘are’, it also limits the creative expression of ourselves when we think the situation lies beyond our personality.

In other words, if you make the label your ultimate reality your life will do anything to support that label. By accepting the personality trait as the truth, alternative ways of thinking won’t ever come up. In this sense you shouldn’t trust your personality type any more as you trust your horoscope.

Let’s take a look at some myths about our personality.

The myth of the five personality factors

There are five personality factors that are widely known:

1. How open you are to learning and experiencing new things (openness to new experience)
2. How organized, motivated, and goal-directed you are (conscientiousness)
3. How energized and connected you are around other people (extroversion)
4. How friendly and optimistic you are toward other people (agreeableness)
5. How well you handle stress and other negative emotions (neuroticism)

These factors are not solid and definitive, and in each situations it’s possible to express these factors differently. Sometimes for better and sometimes for worse.

Everyone can think of examples where they have defined themselves by something that was done in the past. Or how we limited ourselves by categorizing situations as ‘that is not for me’. But what would happen if we stopped boxing ourselves by using a different type of thinking?

Past thinking vs. Future thinking

Of course it’s a fact that our behaviour normally flows forth from past behaviour. Your current structure is what defines your daily behaviour.

But what if you prefer to have a future self that is nothing like your current self?

This is the problem with past-related thinking: it’s a narrative that keeps you rigidly stuck in equilibrium.

However, we cannot change our past. We cannot change what happened to us. So it’s not the content that needs changing, only how you view that content:

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscape, but in having new eyes to see the same landscape differently

– Marcel Proust (bold words added)

To master psychological flexibility to re-frame the past and take action is difficult but necessary to break free from who we are:

  • What purpose are you creating for yourself?
  • What would happen if you stopped trying to find yourself, and started giving to others while becoming more creative and collaborative?
  • How would you be if you could creatively design yourself?

Becoming a new person

Charlie Trotter was an American chef with a restaurant in Chicago. His restaurant serves dishes of hundreds of dollar in a luxurious setting. Regularly, Trotter would invite impoverished kids to come eat at his restaurant.

It was normal for Trotter to hear people criticize him; you’ll make them unsatisfied with their current life and unhappy because of the food they get.

But he didn’t care what they said. Because he regularly received emails from children that were inspired by his generosity. Because Trotter provided them with an emotional experience within a rich environment.

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

– Albert Einstein

Because of the dinner experience, they were able to envision new possibilities that they never knew existed. The exposure of the new experience gave them the ability to truly open their eyes and change their life view as a result.

Who is your future hero?

There is a famous speech by Matthew McConaughey when he won an academy award for best actor. He explained who his hero was:

“When I was fifteen years old, I had a very important person in my life come to me and say, “Who’s your hero?” And I said . . . “You know who it is? It’s me in ten years.” So I turned twenty five. Ten years later, that same person comes to me and says, “So, are you a hero?” And I was like, “Not even close! No, no, no.” She said, “Why?” I said, “Because my hero’s me at thirty five.” So you see, every day, every week, every month, and every year of my life, my hero’s always ten years away. I’m never gonna be my hero. I’m not gonna attain that. I know I’m not, and that’s just fine with me, because that keeps me with somebody to keep on chasing. “

The focus of the future image makes you an active architect of your own life.

Creating peak experiences

According to Abraham Maslow, the psychologist who coined the term and framework for self-actualization, peak experiences is what allows us to pursue our higher potential.

In such peak moments we are free from internal or external limitations. We become deeply moved, exhilarated, excited and elevated in our present state, generating an advanced form of perceiving reality.

So how do we create peak experiences?

Method 1: Create a life biography

“You need to aim beyond what you are capable of and develop a complete disregard for where your abilities end. If you think you’re unable to work for the best company in its sphere, make that your aim. If you think you’re unable to be on the cover of Time magazine, make it your business to be there. Make your vision of where you want to be a reality. Nothing is impossible.”

– Paul Arden (words removed)

With an autobiography you step forward into the future and outline the story of your whole life:

  • What was your story?
  • What were the significant events that happened?
  • How will you be remembered?
  • How did you live your life?
  • What did you accomplish?
Method 2: Create a future you three years out

Looking ahead into the future can help you define who you want to be and why:

  • Who do you want to be in three years from now? Get specific.
  • What does your typical day look like?
  • What type of work are you doing?
  • What does your environment look like?
  • What do you want to have accomplished by then?
  • How do you want to be different?

Both exercises serve as a tool to think of new thoughts, emotions and future images. And with new mental thoughts your input will start to change.

Your input defines your output

The key takeaway from the book is that our input is what defines our output. So focus on that future image, and let it be the catalyst to transform your future.

Your input determines your outlook. Your outlook determines your output, and your output determines your future.

– Zig Ziglar

So who will you be?

References
Personality Isn’t Permanent – Benjamin Hardy

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