Break Free from Self-Limiting Beliefs and Rewrite Your Story

A client recently gave me a copy of the book Personality Isn’t Permanent. This client thought that I might have a lot in common with the teachings of the author, Benjamin Hardy, Ph.D. I may not have picked this up on my own because of the subtitle, Break Free from Self-limiting Beliefs and Rewrite your Story. The subtitle reeked of this being another self-help guru using campy phrases to sell books to the masses. That is just not my client base.

Dr. Hardy’s style is approachable and straightforward, and he backs up his theory with actual science that will appeal to the masses. The theory itself is simple, and is the title of the book. Personality is not permanent because it can and does develop over time. It is frequently altered by our experiences and our our intentions, and our plans to carry out those intentions. Hardy believes, as do I, that we can become anything that we want to be. Change requires a vision of your future self and setting goals that align to that vision. Strategies are also necessary to help achieve goals, as well as actions that will enable you to execute the strategy. This concept is precisely the same as the strategic planning process we teach to our clients.

The Truth About Personality Tests

Another interesting concept is that the personality tests we all love are not based on science. In fact, the mother-daughter team of Katherine Briggs and Isabel Meyers created the most famous of these, The Myers-Briggs Personality Test, in 1942. Neither of these ladies was trained in psychology or testing methodologies.

So why then, does the Myers-Briggs Personality Test capture me so clearly? According to Hardy, the answer is that this is a self-report test. It makes sense that the report comes back and agrees with who you believe you are. This is because you are the one answering the questions about how you see yourself.

Personalities isn’t permanent, it is conditional. We act in different ways in different situations. For instance, I would consistently score as an extrovert, or E, on the Meyers-Briggs test. I am probably viewed that way by others in most situations.  However, if you put me in a new situation where I do not know anybody, say a party or a bar, I instantly become an introvert. I am an extrovert in my element, but a clear introvert when I am not.

Myths About Personality

I also appreciated the myth-breaking in the first chapter of this book. Benjamin Hardy lists several myths and describes why he believes them to be wrong:

  • #1-Personality can be categorized by types
  • #2-Personality is innate and fixed
  • #3-Personality comes from your past
  • #4-Personality must be discovered
  • #5-Personality is your true and authentic self

Dr. Hardy’s point is that we should not limit ourselves to what we have been conditioned to believe or who we think we are. Because personality isn’t permanent, we can explore who we want to be. Develop a plan around that future self, and live as though you are the future self you envision. That’s easier said than done for most of us. Hardy has a line in his book that I love.  He describes how we should allow ourselves to reject past behaviors that have created a self that we no longer want to be. He writes about commitment to the future self, saying it is easier to commit 100% than it is to be 98% committed.

Define your Commitment

It’s crucial to define your commitment. I don’t have a cheat day when I am 100% committed to my diet. I won’t second-guess the things to which I will, or will not, fall prey. The concept takes willpower out of the equation. A strong commitment allows me to easily say No to things that don’t align with my vision, and Yes to those that do. Benjamin Hardy believes your personality should be created by your goals.  This also means that your personality does not define your goals. We must ask ourselves, “What is it you really want?” “Who do you really want to be?” Being defined by your personality is the limiting belief described in the subtitle of the book.

Trauma Isn’t Permanent

Hardy writes about the effects of trauma on people and their personalities. While Myth 3 does have some merit, he stresses the significance of overcoming traumatic events that have shaped our lives and our reactions. This is an important section. We all know that we need to work through traumatic events, and we can be frustrated when others tell us that we should “get over it.” It’s just not that easy. The people who tell us to “get over it,” do not know the depths of our pain. While Dr. Benjamin Hardy recommends a few techniques, including journaling, the most powerful is finding an empathetic witness. An empathetic witness is someone who will hear our story, listen to understand, withhold judgment, and limit the advice they provide.

Conclusion | Read Personality Isn’t Permanent

I will hold off on more details of the book because this is mean to be a review, and not a summary. I will say that Hardy asks the reader to work through several helpful exercises. In each section he asks you to write out the answers to some thoughtful, probing questions. I loved these exercises. The questions really made me think, which is exactly what a good book should do. Overall, I do recommend this book. It is easy to read and can be challenging to work through, which is precisely how good coaching works. They create easy lessons that make you dig deep come up with your own answers, and create the life you want to live.