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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Break Room

The Scientific Answer to "Can I Change My Personality for the Better?"

Have you ever tried, and failed, to be someone you’re not? Maybe you went to a huge networking event in the hopes of meeting new people, only to stand in the corner and leave an hour after it started. Or, maybe you created checklists, and downloaded apps, and tried every strategy to become more organized, only for every system to fall apart within a few days.

You told yourself, you know, I’m just born to be an introvert, or this is who I am, I can’t change now. And that made it easy to accept the inevitable.

But is it possible to fight against your personality?

What science says, according to a recent article by The Atlantic, is that our patterns of behavior create our character, and “With enough adjustments to these patterns over time, it seems that people can change who they are.”

It also acknowledges that our personalities aren’t stagnant regardless—a.k.a., you’re not only what your Myers-Briggs test says you are. Factors like getting older, getting married, or investing in your job all contribute to the person you will, and could, turn into.

But, that’s obvious right? The article, instead, was interested in how we can intentionally choose to alter our personalities. Just as you threw yourself headfirst into that networking event or new organization plan, many people purposefully participate in activities that’ll make them different or “better.” And one study on college students suggests that with specific goals and a set plan, you can actually improve on things like emotional stability and extraversion.

So, as the article states, “change is possible.” However, it’s fairly trivial. With practice, you may be able to become a more outgoing person than you once were, but you probably won’t ever be known for being a social butterfly. You may be able to keep your desk clean, but you’ll probably still leave clothes on your bedroom floor. And that’s OK—these qualities are what make you who you are.

But, having the freedom to be the driver of your own destiny and identity is a pretty cool thing, too—and definitely something worth thinking about if you really want to change something about yourself.

Photo of woman on bed courtesy of All images by Bettina Bhandari/Getty Images.