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How Much Can You Change Yourself? | Scott H Young

https://www.scotthyoung.com/blog/2020/10/20/change-yourself/

scotthyoung.com

How Much Can You Change Yourself? | Scott H Young
How much can you improve your life? Does it depend more on self-discovery or self-improvement? What can you change and what is fixed?

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Rigid Vs Malleable: Exploring the Ability to Change Ourselves

Rigid Vs Malleable: Exploring the Ability to Change Ourselves

How much we can change ourselves can be explored by looking at the extremes.

  • At one extreme (Rigidland ), our nature is fixed and unchanging. No amount of effort or experience will change your intelligence, personality, and talents. Change is only possible in superficial ways, such as your knowledge and highly-specific skills.
  • At the other extreme ( Malleabiliverse), everything can be moulded, not just things like acquired skills and knowledge, but whether you're an introvert, how clever you are, or what music you like.

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.

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Arguments in Favor of Rigidity

Arguments in Favor of Rigidity

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.

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Arguments in Favor of Malleability

Arguments in Favor of Malleability

While genetic research stands out in favour of rigidity, there is contrary evidence.

  • One is that most psychology studies are done using Western undergraduates. This means that while we think we measure universal human functioning, we may be measuring culturally-specific ones.
  • If our abilities were fixed, then the amount of work required to get good is greatly reduced.
  • Positive feedback increases motivation and confidence. This means that if you started with a fixed advantage towards math, for example, it might increase as you gain more confidence and make you much, much better at math than you would have been without motivation and confidence.

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Self-Improvement And Self-Discovery Work Together

We live between rigidity and malleability. It means that both self-discovery and self-improvement matter.

  • Self-discovery matters because the goals you set, and the life philosophy you hold, needs to be informed by the parts of yourself that tend to be fixed.
  • Self-improvement is important because we are able to modify many of our traits. Self-improvement also leads to self-discovery. The more you experiment and strive, the more you learn about yourself.

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Be Funny and Interesting

  • Humor: It takes a lot of practice until you can figure out the natural timing and flow of a joke. Practice makes perfect.
  • Interest comes from having an interesting life. You can be interesting by telling stories  or by simply being quick to bring up an interesting fact.

Interest is similar to humor whenever people discover something they didn’t expect.

Tell Great Stories

  • You need to have an interesting point to make it worthwhile.
  • Your most interesting point should be the last thing you say in your story.
  • Keep it short.
  • Keep it personal. People prefer stories about people they know.
  • The more you tell a story the better you get the natural timing and emphasis. 

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Habits

Habits form a core idea in behavior change. It requires that you change your behavior by regularly doing something.

To get fit, you need to have a habit of eating well and exercising. T...

Goal-Setting

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

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.

Ways to improve your life

Ways to improve your life

There are a few different ways you can go about setting a goal or creating a new habit.

  • Target the minimum output. You focus on always doing at least a little bit so t...

When to Focus on the Minimum

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.

When to Target the Average

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.