Personality Isn't Permanent with Benjamin Hardy, PhD

Andy Proctor   |   June 18, 2020

Who do you intend to become? Are you satisfied with where you are at right now or do you want to witness a positive evolution inside yourself? If you desire a change, this episode is for you. 

I honestly believe that this has to be one of the most life-changing episodes I have ever recorded because it is jam packed. If you’re like me, you’ll want to re-listen to this one and take notes and then go buy the book because today’s guest goes over some amazing principles about how to create real change inside yourself. 

Today’s guest is Dr. Benjamin Hardy who is an organizational psychologist and bestselling author of Willpower Doesn't Work. From 2015-2018, he was the #1 writer in the world on During that time, he grew his email list from 0 to 400,000 without paid advertising. His blogs have been seen by over 100 million people and have been featured on Forbes, Fortune, CNBC, Psychology Today, Cheddar and many others. Ben and his wife Lauren adopted three children from the foster system in February 2018 and one month later, Lauren got pregnant with twins who were born in December of 2018. They live in Orlando.

On a personal note, I had the great opportunity to get to know Ben a little more personally as well and I have witnessed first hand that he is the real deal. He doesn’t just write really amazing blog posts and books and have another life. He lives it. I share a story in the podcast about how Ben’s book Willpower Doesn’t Work changed my life a few years ago and I think that his new book is even more life changing. 

Listen to this episode on your favorite podcast app:

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My Bullet Points From this Episode:

  • Personality tests are no more scientific than a horoscope. 
  • Your identity (how you view yourself and your world) is much more important than your personality. 
  • If you take a personality test and use that label to form a view of your identity, you’ll limit yourself. For example, someone who is given a diagnosis of depression is not “depressed” permanently. People who struggle with depression still feel positive emotions like gratitude, interest, and awe at times. To say they are always depressed because of being labeled “depressed” would be inaccurate. Just like this, labeling yourself according to a personality test is not helpful, nor is it permanent. 
  • If our identity forms our view of the past and can help form our future, why not take control of what helps us to strategically form our own identity instead of letting some test tell us? 
  • “It’s less accurate to say that the past causes the present and it’s more accurate to say that the present causes the past.”
  • Who you are right now and how you view yourself shapes how you view the past
  • What elements and aspects of yourself do you still identify with from 10 years ago? Which do you not? 
  • End of history illusion: We downplay the potential change in the future. Humans are works in progress that think they are finished. We think that who we are is who we actually are.
  • It’s good for decision making to think of your future self as a different person altogether. 
  • You can’t engage in deliberate practice unless you have a future self clearly conceptualized with the skills you’re trying to develop.
  • The future is a more powerful space to begin framing your identity because that’s what you actually have an enormous amount of control over.
  • The future is a great place to begin framing your narrative to talk about who it is you intend to be. 
  • It’s the most authentic thing someone can do - to visualize their future self to form the narrative of their identity. 
  • “If you want to commit to the future, you have to reject the present” - Dan Sullivan
  • Use your imagination and confidence to create a future self that you actually want to become. Psychological flexibility helps you to do this. 
  • Trauma keeps you stuck in the emotions and the identity of your past and it stops you from having confidence and imagination for the future. 
  • Trauma leads to emotional rigidity and black and white thinking. It leads to a fixed mindset rather than being open and seeing new possibilities. 
  • The more extreme the trauma, the less the imagine flexibility for the future, and also the more frozen your personality is in the past. 
  • “You are kept from your goals not by obstacles, but by a clearer path to a lesser goal.”
  • We aren’t willing to go through the obstacles and learning that is involved in becoming our future self. Instead we are just pursuing a lesser goal, because a lesser goal is easier to conceptualize, it’s less complex and it requires less confidence. 
  • Personality for most people is a coping mechanism to avoid dealing with the emotional problems and traumas of their past.   - Gabor Mate
  • If you’re intentional and courageous about actively seeking and becoming that future self then you’re going to have peak experiences.
  • Peak experiences are moments that reframe your identity and perception.
  • Peak experiences allow you to not overly defend your view of yourself and also your view of the world. 
  • You have to unlearn aspects of how you currently see yourself and the world. 
  • Trauma
    • One of the reasons why something is traumatic is because you have internalized it in a certain way and haven’t released it and let it go. 
    • If you expose yourself to something you’re avoiding it stops being emotional and starts being informational. The past is flexible and useful when it is information and not emotion. 
    • Math trauma - someone told you at some point “you’re not good at that” and that hurt you emotionally and you believed it. And then instead of pursuing it through obstacles, you pursue a different path to a lesser goal. 
    • If you have a negative emotional reaction - which is involved in trauma - and you don’t let that out - talk about it and reframe it, then how you view math (or whatever you have trauma about) is going to be from the lens of that experience and the emotion of that experience. This leads you to not wanting to deal with it - to avoiding it. 
    • “Trauma isn’t what happens to you. It’s what you hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness.” - Peter Levine
    • Trauma is the story that you conceptualize about yourself in the absence of an empathetic witness. 
    • You need an empathetic witness to help you reframe it. 
    • “You’re as sick as your secrets.”
    • Trauma is the core cause that leads to addiction. 
    • Addiction is a strategy. It’s a solution to avoiding pain or truths that you don’t want to deal with. 
    • Coaching: You build trust and then you encourage people to do things that are scary. 
    • You want to be around people who can help you be courageous 
    • Trauma stops you because you stop at the level of whatever the trauma was and you stop imagining a future and pursue some future that you may or may not have chosen but that feels less painful. 
    • Most peoples’ stories are reactions to negative experiences. Not intentional emotionally regulated decisions about how we are going to choose to view this thing. 
  • Whatever a person’s goal is, in order for them to get from where they are too where they want to go, they have to have those types of experiences that you just described - they need to have a “subconscious-enhancing experience” The situation was above your confidence level so it required courage. You were striving to act as your future self. 
  • As people age, they become less open to novelty and they become less open to intensity. 
  • Experiences that push us toward our desired future self have these three things: 
    • Novelty
    • Intensity
    • In the direction of your future self
  • “Personality is an effect, it’s not a cause.” The ultimate cause are the goals we set. Those things form our identity and our identity dictates how we see the world and then we act in the world, what we attend to and who we surround ourselves with and those repeated actions and behaviors ultimately reflect what becomes of our personality. 
  • It’s up to you how intentional you want to be about refining the goal and the vision and defining the future self and then the willingness to to go through the emotional rigors of learning 

Books and people mentioned in the episode:

More About Personality Isn't Permanent

Personality Isn’t Permanent debunks the pervasive myths of personality that have captured pop culture. For example, personality tests like Myers-Briggs and Enneagram are not only psychologically destructive but are no more scientific than horoscopes. Personality Isn’t Permanent provides science-based strategies for reframing past memories, becoming the scribe of your identity narrative, upgrading your subconscious, and redesigning your environment. Science proves you are going to change throughout your life. You might as well be intentional about that change.

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