Most people I know, myself included, have things we recognize about ourselves that we would like to change. Whether that be our waist size, financial position or improving a relationship, the desire to change and improve is shared by most. Far too often however, we underestimate the steps required to improve a particular part of our life, we thus end up abandoning the unfamiliar path of the comfort of old habits.
But still it is difficult to accept this view of ourselves and others because we like to think of ourselves as highly adaptable. According to Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic this view actually hinders our ability to produce the changes we want to see in our lives. He proposes that this optimism “breeds overconfidence and hinders change by perpetuating false hopes and unrealistic expectations”. Dr. Premuzic reports that categorical changes in character are unusual and when people exhibit change it is usually an amplification of our character rather than a new fully developed behavior trait we can substitute for the old ones. This happens in three different ways:
1. “We tend to interpret events according to our own personal biases, which only reinforces those biases. For instance, pessimists perceive ambivalent feedback as criticism, which, in turn, enhances their pessimism over time; the opposite happens with optimists.”
2.”We gravitate towards environments that are congruent with our own default attitudes and values.” i.e Aggressive people crave conflict and combat, which only augments their aggression.
3. Reputation really is fate. “others (including strangers and acquaintances) make unconscious inferences about our character in order to explain our behavior and predict what we may do next. These intuitive evaluations may be inaccurate, but they are still self-fulfilling. With time, we morph into the person others think we are; their prejudiced and fantasized representation of us turns real and becomes ingrained in our identity.”
There are ways to produce legitimate, long lasting, positive change and it’s simple, but not easy. We must first practice self-awareness and we can do this by attaining honest/critical feedback from others. This can be the hardest part for most, as most of us have a hard time being objective and confronting the reality of our current position.
Finally we must come with a plan and stay dedicated to it.
In short, we are not fated by our shortcomings, but must remain realistic about the task of overcoming them. We must go beyond our natural inclinations and recognize that lasting change requires “intentionality along with vulnerability and surrender.”