How Much Can You Change Yourself? | Scott H Young - Deepstash
How Much Can You Change Yourself? | Scott H Young

How Much Can You Change Yourself? | Scott H Young

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How Much Can You Change Yourself? | Scott H Young

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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

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

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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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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