At some time, everyone wishes to be someone else, whether it’s just polishing a few dull spots in one's personality or fully rewriting the story of one's life, Jay Gatsby-style. Procrastinators may wish to be someone more productive; those inclined to gloominess may hope to be more optimistic; the shy may long to be the life of the party. In fact, at least 78 percent of adults between the ages of 18 and 70 express wanting to change a central feature of their personality. Altering a core personality trait (such as introversion or openness) is difficult; much easier to change is behavior. It's never too late for people to do what they want to do, and with a little sweat and a little luck, it is possible to break out of old patterns and become the person one wants to be.
What Is Personality Change?
Is Personality Fixed?
As challenging as it is to change a core element of personality, people in fact have the capacity to make concrete shifts in their nature. Recent research indicates that the adult personality is more malleable than once believed. How does one begin the process of transformation? The first step is acknowledging that change can be incredibly difficult. The brain craves safe, predictable scenarios, and the uncertainty of new behaviors can trigger feelings of discomfort and anxiety. Change thus requires pushing back against those feelings, or simply accepting them, while recognizing the challenge and the benefit of holding oneself accountable for one's past and future. The next steps is formulation of a plan of change—delineating goals and then dividing each goal into small, incremental, concrete steps. Achieving each step tends to provide motivation for pursuing the next one. With time, energy, support, and self-compassion, individuals can move toward a new future.