If You Think of Yourself as Flexible, You Will Do Much Better in Life
Who you are is determined by your relationship with yourself
Your own theories about who you are influence your actions. And those perceptions dictate your experiences, which are literally rearranging your brain’s wiring.
Many people view their habits, traits, and characteristics as permanent. If you view your personality as mutable instead of permanent, you’re inclined to work on it and improve in your life and career. Stanford psychologist Lee Ross says:
“People’s inflated belief in the importance of personality traits and dispositions, together with their failure to recognize the importance of situational factors in affecting behaviour, has been termed the ‘fundamental attribution error.’”
People who consistently view their traits as unchangeable and inherent have a rigid sense of self and do little to improve them. This mindset creates mental traps that make it difficult to grow.
People with permanent mindsets react to information differently. They easily get discouraged by setbacks, because an obstacle dents their belief in their abilities. They tend to become uninterested and give up.
Everything won’t go as planned in life. If you’re unwilling to adapt to uncertain events in life, you’ll always be disappointed. Leo Babauta from Zen Habits says:
“The root cause of frustration, irritation, anger, sadness is an inflexible mind — one that wants to hold onto the way we wish things were, the ideas we’re comfortable with.”
Bringing Flexibility Into Your Life
Psychologists believe that the stories we tell ourselves and what we believe to be true about our traits not only affect our future prospects, but they may also impact our work experiences and total well-being.
In his book, “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma,” Bessel van der Kolk, M.D. explains that traumatic experiences can “freeze” a person’s personality. If you experience pain, anxiety, and traumatic stress at an early age, you’ll have a difficult time “disassociating” yourself from that experience. This can easily become the only way of life you know.
“Being traumatized means continuing to organize your life as if the trauma were still going on — unchanged and immutable — as every new encounter or event is contaminated by the past,” Van der Kolk says.
People with established mindsets from the past stop looking forward. They stop integrating new memories in — they’re still living in the past. They have a very difficult time fully embracing new mindsets, mental models, and life principles. It’s also hard for them to allow present healthy experiences to continue shaping their personality.
Past experiences and traumas can trap you in unhealthy attitudes and behaviours, but there’s always a way out — if you’re ready to learn more about yourself and are open to improving beyond your current circumstances.
There’s more flexibility to who we are than we might assume.
Flexibility is your willingness to adapt. It’s your attitude.
It allows us to examine our personal beliefs and prejudices. It also allows us to open up to new ways of viewing the world around us.
You’re not trapped by your own character traits. When you think of yourself as fluid or open-minded, you’ll open yourself up to new and better experiences that can create normal, healthy memories.
What you need is a new lens, worldview, or perspective. A shift in how you see yourself changes everything. Brian R. Little, author of “Who Are You, Really?: The Surprising Puzzle of Personality,” explains:
“The essential idea behind personal construct theory is this: All individuals are essentially scientists erecting and testing hypotheses about the world and revising them in the light of their experience. Those hypotheses are called personal constructs, and they are the conceptual goggles through which we view the world.”
What mental constructs and theories about yourself have you built from your past that are still influencing and limiting your personal growth today?
The world we live in is the same for all of us, but the way we experience it is different for everyone because of a mixture of nature and nurture.
The good news is, you’re always evolving. And you can change your negative perceptions about yourself to live an abundant life.
What Got You Here Won’t Get You There
“Our path is not about what we have done or where we have been; it is about where we are going and what we are becoming.” — Reyna Aburto
Defining yourself by your past attitudes can damage your potential to grow.
An attitude aimed at personal and career growth is exactly what you need. When in doubt, assume that you have something more to learn and that you can improve and develop at any stage of your life and career.
Never stop evolving.
With time, you can change your internal narrative, override past behaviours, and adopt new habits to make real progress in life.
If your past experience has altered your authentic self, it’s not too late. You can override your past fixed memory about who you are.
Spanish philosopher Jose Ortega y Gasset once said, “I am, plus my circumstances.”
Who you are is a series of shifting models, concepts, and mindsets that establish themselves as you relate to others and things around you — it’s created by and appears within the framework of your interactions.
Life would be better if you didn’t think of you as a fixed concept. Spare a thought for what you would like to change about yourself.
“I can’t help myself” is not a valid excuse.
Your experience in life is your responsibility, so keep an open mind and start to relate to life in a way that enhances your own happiness. It will take time. Your mind may not be easy to change, but it’s pliable.
An adaptable mindset will give you a richer sense of who you are, what you stand for, and how you want to move forward.