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How much we can change ourselves can be explored by looking at the extremes.
We live in neither of these realities. Obviously, we are not completely rigid nor entirely malleable. If our nature is fixed, self-discovery is essential. If our nature is malleable, self-improvement is needed.
Studies involving identical and fraternal twins (even reared apart) showed that most parts of our nature are partly heritable. Intelligence may be as high as 80% heritable, but 50% is the standard number of many of the domains, including personality.
However, being heritable isn't the same as being fixed. There might be a difference between inheriting different capabilities versus different preferences.
While genetic research stands out in favour of rigidity, there is contrary evidence.
We live between rigidity and malleability. It means that both self-discovery and self-improvement matter.
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Goal-setting is required to decide what you want and planning how to get there. Just having an idea of what you want to achieve is usually not enough. Setting a goal needs to be paired with plans, systems, or habits to make it achievable.
Goal-setting should be SMART (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.) However, some people argue for being completely process-oriented and ignoring outcomes.
Systems organize your behavior and decisions with formal rules. They are often built off of concepts of scientific management and organizational theory, but it is applied to your personal life.
A productivity system is one type of system that is aimed at helping you get work done by organizing the things that need doing and telling you when to do them.
There are a few different ways you can go about setting a goal or creating a new habit.
Minimum targeting works well for establishing long-term habits.
A goal of, for instance, doing fifty push-ups every day might not be ideal for fitness, but doing something is better than doing nothing.
Another reason to focus on the minimum is that it assumes the difficulty is in starting. To start a process can often be the hardest. Then you want to set a lower threshold to make starting as easy as possible.
Focusing on the average makes sense when you're hoping to sustain something, even if it is not always a perfectly easy and consistent output.
It works when you are already putting in a bit of effort, but want to improve that effort over the long-term.