Changing Your Perspective

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While I have never reviewed a book before, this one, Personality Isn’t Permanent, by Benjamin Hardy is a gem that belongs in everyone’s library. Too many times I hear statements like, ‘I’d like that, but this is just how I am,’ and ‘I’m too old to change.’ We tend to think that we are stuck in our path because of our past, who we think we are, and now, we’re unwilling to make changes to create the life we really would like to have. Pressure from friends, family and society herds us into believing that you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear because, well, you are how you are! Right?

When I first came across Ben Hardy about four years ago in an online article that he published, I knew that I had found a fellow traveler with similar beliefs, ideas and approaches to living. At the time he was a PhD student in psychology, was the most read contributor on Medium and had just published a book Slipstream; Time Hacking. I was impressed that he used solid science as well as his own experience to support the idea that a change in perspective can change how we view and use the same 1440 minutes that everyone gets each day. I later read Willpower Doesn’t Work, 2018, in which he writes about the need to pull one’s environment and practices into play to create the life one chooses. Willpower alone is not enough to create sustained change in our lives.

Last month, his newest book, Personality Isn’t Permanent was released to immediate best seller status. This book doesn’t disappoint. This book’s 271 pages is jamb-packed with insights and examples of how we can change the limited views we have of ourselves and open up to creating the life we want to live. Examples of include a man who became a Harvard fellow after being in prison for 14 years, another who quit smoking by changing his environment and even Hardy’s own wife who suffered abuse during her first marriage, yet managed to use past trauma to help her to grow and become the woman she always wished to be. If these people were able to overcome the odds and change how they relate to themselves and the world around them, then it must be possible for others to do so as well. We can overcome the tragedies and traumas in our past. We can seek out the self limiting beliefs that keep us trapped. We can make major changes in our lives by changing our perspectives on how we see our world.

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At the core of the book is the belief that many of us maintain that by the time we are twenty, our personality is fixed and can no longer be altered. It goes along with the belief that at the same age, our bodies can produce no more brain cells than what we have then. Fry your brain cells, and they won’t be replaced. Take a personality test at 21 and you know what you will be like for the rest of your life. None of these beliefs is true. Your brain will continue to produce new neurons and develop new pathways for as long as we live.

It’s my belief that if one person can make radical changes in her life, then others can do the same. I know from my own struggles with alcoholism that it is possible. While at one time I couldn’t see my life without alcohol, I now can’t imagine every wanting it as part of my life ever again. If I could do that in one part of my life, why not in other parts?

Ben’s book is easy to read and, he gives practical suggestions on how to apply the solutions that he puts forward to change you and your personality. Each chapter offers questions and exercises to assist the reader in taking the next step forward Indeed, the book merits at least a second read and could be used as a personal development course text.

You are not stuck. You are not your past. Change your perspective and you will see how your history can become the inspiration for a brighter future. You don’t need to be known as that ‘moody’ person, or the ‘jerk who’s got a chip on his shoulder’. I am not ‘stuck’ with who I am. I can make changes and create the life experience that I have always wanted. My personality is not permanent.

Buy any of Ben’s books through Amazon

Check out his blog on Medium.com

(This is an unsolicited, and unremunerated review.)

Essentialism

“When we don’t purposefully and deliberately choose where to focus our energies and time, other people–our bosses, our colleagues, or clients and even our families–will choose for us and before long we’ll have lost sight of everything that is meaningful and important.” Greg McKeown, Essentialism

My life is sometimes not my own. It’s my own fault. I have several apartments that I look after. There is always something that needs to checked on or repaired. Tenants have reasons why the rent is late. The short term stay apartment has to be ready at a moment’s notice. There’s always the pool to vacuum, plants to water, decks to wash. It’s never ending. I can go from one task to the next and not stop. The big maintenance projects, well, they’ll just have to wait for another day. If I don’t watch it, my whole day is consumed with solving little things and not getting to or being too tired to start the things that I really need to do as well as things I want to do.

Life is like that. We go from one thing to the next and one task to the next without really thinking about it: I have to do it. And gradually the day is done and I haven’t accomplished but half of what I wanted to do.  Greg McKeown in his book Essentialism suggests that if we are going to get to do what we really want then we must begin by deciding what is important to us. What is it that I value? What am I trying to accomplish here? What are my goals and where do I want them to take me?

Few people take the time to sit down and make this evaluation. As it often goes, we spend 80% of our time doing things that are not important to us, not essential,  and 20% of our time, if that, doing what is. Everyone will ask us for our time and our talents. There are always going to be little fires to put out here and there. It would probably be a better solution to discover the source of those little fires in the first place.

Essentialism often means saying, ‘No!’ I can’t be everything to everyone. Yes I want to be the nice guy and help out but if it’s not important to me and if it’s not my responsibility, I have to ask myself, just why I am doing this? If it is taking my focus away from my priorities then I can say no to joining yet another committee, or going organizing another office function. And yes, the first time I give a firm no! I may ruffle a few feathers, especially if I have always been the one to say yes. But sticking to the essentials will allow me to use more of my time to on my priorities.

I would rather do one thing well than divide my attention and try to do several things just okay. Perhaps that’s the reason why I am running around trying to solve a whole lot of little problems. Rather than let work, friends, and even family decide where I want to focus my energy, I purposefully and deliberately choose where I will focus my energy.

Essentialism won’t solve all the challenges in life. There will always be things that broadside us when we least expect them. But if we have the majority of our lives organized then the chances of it knocking us of our balance are much less. In the end it will help me to accomplish much more.

What’s important to you?

Success from Failure

It’s not our successes that matter. Rather it’s our failures: here is where we grow.

I don’t remember where I heard this first or who said it, but it hit a chord with me. Fear of failure often stops me from embarking on projects or setting goals because, well, I might fail. However, it is in the act of recovering from failure that I learn and grow. I see that walking the smooth path to get to a destination is all well and good. I can check out the sites along the way. And it’s all nice and good when I arrive at my destination, but I haven’t learned anything.

I’ve aged, but I haven’t grown.

Ask yourself the question: which vacation do you talk about the most? Is it the one where everything went completely as planned or the one where everything went wrong? It’s the unplanned events that happen in a vacation that make it memorable: the trip to the local emergency ward, the flat tire in the middle of a river, even the visit to the police station to report a robbery. It’s the out of the ordinary things, the unpredictable, the ‘failures’ that give us the stories of our lives.

In failing, I learn. By falling I learn how to get back up again. By being road blocked, I seek another way around. This is where the growth happens. By learning what doesn’t work I am one step closer to learning what does work. And once I have learned what does work, I don’t have to repeat the lesson the next time I am passing through a similar situation. I can learn from my missteps and mistakes. I am a different person from when I started out.

It’s still a struggle for me. I don’t want to fail. I don’t like to fail. Sometimes I don’t even attempt things because I fear I might fail. That’s the perfectionist in me coming out. So I push myself to try new things, to go new places and meet new people. I am not satisfied in maintaining the status quo: I want to move forward. And part of that includes trying things that don’t or won’t work.  So I am working on changing my perception of failure, one day at a time, one step at a time.

Actor Will Smith gives us his take on Failure in the following video: Fail Forward