I remember waking up one morning in July of 2001 at my Mom and Dad’s place in Herndon, Virginia and thinking to myself what the f*ck am I doing with my life? From the age of 16 to about 21 it seemed like I was doing the same thing, day in and day out, with the same people, day in and day out, and getting the same type of feedback, day in and day out.
I was frustrated, depressed, and disappointed in myself. I remember sitting outside on our back porch that same day and convincing myself that something needed to change, I needed to change.
One of my favorite things about living is that each of us has the ability to reinvent ourself on a whim. It’s true, you, me, and the guy next door can consciously make a decision at any given moment to make changes in our lives that will start a domino effect leading us to eventually becoming the person we have always wanted to be.
Like Jay Gatsby I wanted a fresh start, a second chance at creating my identity. Call it running away if you will, but I wanted to be in a place where no one knew me, where there were no expectations from others or myself, I wanted a clean slate to work from.
One week later I was in my car with a little bit of money, a few clothes, and headed to Southern California with an open mind about embracing the upcoming change that I knew was needed in order for me to live out my purpose.
I knew I needed to change, to learn how to get comfortable with the uncomfortable, and to establish my own identity.
A new way of thinking, acting, and behaving that had no influences from parents, peers, or media. I wanted a personality makeover (where’s Ricki Lake when you need her)?
Was this even possible? Could I… hell, can anyone change their personality? Something that I had already been building for 20 years, and I didn’t just want to polish some blemishes, I wanted a complete overhaul.
The most influential times of our lives are as adolescents. Some of the most important habits, traits, and beliefs that we hold are developed at a very young age and strengthened as we grow older. Sure, as we age priorities and responsibilities change and some of our beliefs do with them but the core of our souls usually remain the same.
I’m sure you’ve wished it before; to wake up as another person.
To all of a sudden be:
- An optimist
- To change from procrastinator to productive
- To be friendlier
- To be more caring
- More grateful
- Less stressed
WHY CHANGE YOUR PERSONALITY?
So why would you want to change your personality?
Simply put, because personality is the strongest indicator of personal satisfaction and because it is your personality that influences your habits of thought, and it’s the way you think about the things you have, the events in your life, and the interpretation of the experiences you have that determine your life’s satisfaction.
More specifically there are five fundamental traits that have a gigantic impact on how you view your life as it stands. These are known as the BIG 5
- Consciousness: Ability to handle tasks, organize skills, show self-discipline, to act dutifully, operate with planned rather than spontaneous behavior.
- Agreeableness: Warmth, generosity, helpfulness, compassionate and cooperative, trusting and well-tempered
- Neuroticism: Worry and instability, easily experiences unpleasant emotions (anger, anxiety, vulnerability)
- Openness to experience: Trying new things, having adventures, embracing curiosity, unique thinking, the introduction of variety into your life.
- Extraversion: Seeking social support, assertiveness, to seek stimulation from the company of others.
These traits morph and mold themselves as you age, experience new things, and take on new responsibilities and adjust priorities. Other influences on personality changes can be associated with marital status, employment, income, education, and your social network.
TAKE NOTICE OF YOUR PERSONALITY
Change is usually seeked due to some sort of dissatisfaction, discomfort, or stress and we seem to seek more change in the years of our lives between the ages of 24-40.
I see it as a bell curve:
- As a youth we don’t seek much public approval at all
- As teenagers the opinions of others and expectations of others starts to grow and we are more apt to make decisions based on the opinions of others.
- Those early adult years the curve hits a peek as new responsibilities, priorities, and values may change – whether we are ready for them or not.
- It eventually hits a point where it feels like there is a void. Some buy things like cars, big homes, clothes, or other material things – while others might get into relationships they’re not ready for, or seek out numbing activities like drugs or alcohol.
- After a while we realize what is truly important as seen here in the top five regrets of the dying. The curve then starts to drop.
So how do you become more aware of where you currently are?
Seriously, take an inventory. Answer the questions below in a few short sentences:
How do you currently see yourself? Your friends? Family?
- Describe what you believe are people’s first impressions of you
- Choose 3-5 words that best describe your personality
- What are some of your strengths
- What are some of your weaknesses
- How do you currently feel about your health, personal relationships, and communication skills
- In what areas of your life do you feel the most fulfilled or excited about and which ones are lagging
Now ask a few of the people closest to you to be completely open and honest with you. Have them answer the same questions but about you. What were/are their first impressions of you, have them describe your personality, what do they think your strengths are, etc…
This might be a pretty difficult process for some of you but short-term pain for long-term gain.
WHEN WE WERE KIDS
When I was a kid I didn’t have a care in the world, living, loving, comfortably and freely being the person I was at that moment.
Psychologist and author Kazimierz Dabrowski tells us that our personalities are shaped through positive experiences – We’re not born with a given personality, we are given a clean slate, and our personality is then developed through our experiences in an effort to realize our best human potential.
Looking back to your youth can provide you with some valuable resources for exploring life, yourself, and your personality as you age.
Turn changing your personality into a “growth project” by exploring interests, emphasizing strengths, testing capabilities – Be enthusiastic about them , honor them, and encourage them. If you love dungeons and dragons or just want to learn more about it, do it and be proud of it! If you want to take a dance class but have no clue what you’re doing, do it and be proud of it!
The longer you wait the stronger your current traits will become and if you’re confident there needs to be some growth and change you need to take action now.
REAL CHANGES STARTS IN YOUR BRAIN
Raise your hand if you have “This is who I am syndrome.” It’s the belief that who you currently are is who you will always be. We tend to do this a lot with our education. If we get C’s on math tests we just assume “this is who I am,” I am not good at math. We do this in relationships, with our careers, and with health.
Change can never begin to happen unless you actually believe it can happen. I mean, how hard are you going to actually work if you believe nothing is going to come of it anyway?
There are three great ways to overcome these limiting beliefs:
- Surround yourself with people who display some of the characteristics that you wish to display. Whether you like it or not you are greatly influenced by the people you spend the most time with, personalities are contagious.
- Look to previous experiences that go against the limiting belief to disprove it. If you’re scared to talk to a cute guy or girl look back at a time when you had previously done this.
- Reframe the “this is who I am” by exploring the real evidence. If you flunked a test it probably has nothing to do with “I just suck at math,” it more likely has to do with your preparation, lack of sleep the night before, or another more logical reason as opposed to “it’s just my genetics.”
In my free book “How to create your limitless life in 12 acts” I cover how most of our goals in life are outcome based.
- I want to lose 30 pounds
- I want to be more confident
- I want to be happier
- I want to be more adventuresome
- And more…
However, these outcome based goals tell us nothing about how to achieve them. It’s the behaviors, the things you can actually DO that lead to the end result that you want. So if you want to be more confident you actually have to take the necessary steps to become more confident. While it might be hard to wake up one day and just be confident you can take small steps that build upon themselves and eventually create the confidence you want.
What is one tiny step you can take right now that will lead to one of the personality changes that you want to make?
I’ll give you a quick example for someone who might want to lose 15 pounds.
- Outcome: I want to lose 15 pounds
- Behavior: I will exercise for at least 5 hours per week. Break it down even more and say I will exercise for 45 minutes on monday, 45 minutes on tuesday…
So focus on those behaviors that will lead to the changes or results you wish to see. Those are the things you can control.
ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS
Vision is not enough, it must be combined with venture. It is not enough to stare up the steps, we must step up the stairs. ~ Vaclav Havel
It starts today!
Awesome! Now lets see it.
We often say all the right things, tell ourselves what we need to do, but when it comes down to it no action is taken.
I remember when I was a kiddo growing up in Virginia and spending a lot of time at my Grandmothers. It still remains some of the happiest times of my life. Every fall as the leaves would change and fall to the ground I’d ask my Grandmother if I could rake them up into a huge pile. I told her I was going to climb the tree in her front yard and do magnificent tricks into the huge pile below. Her response…
“I don’t believe you. Prove it to me.”
Now this was probably some reverse psychology to get me to rake up all the leaves in her yard but it was all the motivation I needed in order to jump out of that tree, to prove I could do it.
So I applaud you for wanting to make changes and for believing in yourself that you can but this is what I have to say about that…
“I don’t believe you. Prove it to me.”
So how can you start to prove it? How can you begin to take action?
- Bruce Lee tells us to be like water. To be flexible, adaptive, coherent, energized, stable, and constantly in motion.
- To experience euphoria you must open up to pain and discomfort. If you want to display more joy and passion you must be open to sadness, anxiety, and fear.
- Be more optimistic and fake it if you must. I forget where I originally heard this but someone much smarter than I told me in order to be more optimistic and open to taking action I should write down 3 favorable things that occur each day. This will convince me that favorable outcomes do indeed occur.
- Recognize your limits but realize they are no where close to what you think they are. A great example is of free-diver by the name of Tanya Streeter. She can hold her breath for upwards of 6 minutes at a time. HOLY SH*T! I would never have thought that was possible. The human potential is a pretty phenomenal thing.
- The harder it is the more rewarding it will be, remember this always. If our passions were easy they wouldn’t be rewarding. We hold those that have overcome difficulties, struggles, and stress in the highest light. If the changes you want to make are hard, good! You’ll be more stoked when you achieve them.
- Don’t be fearless but instead be courageous. In studies where individuals performed heroic acts they were asked if they were scared. Their response was yes but the did it anyway because they felt a sense of duty to perform. Courage isn’t the absence of fear it is recognizing it and overcoming it, doing the thing that scares you anyway.
- When you create the change have a celebration in place. You did it! Now reward yourself and celebrate your success. You’ll be more motivated an excited for the next challenge that comes your way.
Tune in to your discomfort, don’t numb it. Focus on identifying your own strengths and emphasizing those characteristics more often in your day-to-day actions.
We started this post with a little Great Gatsby so I think it’s fitting to leave you with a little as well.
And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.
You can create the life you want, the person you want to be, or anything really at any given moment. You just have to believe you are capable of it and then commit to the actions that will lead to it.