DNA is not Destiny
Your personality traits are not set in stone — far from it! Psychology researcher Carol Dweck, of Stanford University, has shown that when college students were given a course on how to fit in with their peers, they became more resilient and motivated than students who didn’t learn these strategies.
Dweck explains, “Something that seems like a small intervention can have cascading effects on things we think of as stable or fixed, including extroversion, openness to new experience, and resilience” – all of which are thought to be partly genetic. “More and more research is suggesting that, far from being simply encoded in the genes, much of personality is a flexible and dynamic thing that changes over the life span and is shaped by experience.”*
This research reinforces the idea that we are in charge of creating our success and well-being. Yes, we are all born with certain personalities, and we’ve each had to face our own coming-of-age experiences, but in the end, it comes down to taking responsibility for choosing those interventions that can have powerful effects on our lives.
If you are not yet convinced, consider this: the belief that personality cannot change may be self-fulfilling. “Whether you believe that your core traits, such as intelligence, are fixed, or are things you can develop, matters a great deal,” says Dweck. “Beliefs about yourself play a causal role in how likely you are to seek out challenges, and in how resilient you are. If you change beliefs, you can change broad traits that many people think of as stable, including openness to experience, conscientiousness, and sociability. Beliefs can be changed, and when they are, so is personality.”*
I’m more convinced than ever that optimism can be learned, that we are not destined by our genes or our past experiences, and that we can each take the steps needed to live life on an upward spiral. How about you?
*Newsweek, December 1, 2008, p. 14.