Researchers Are Convinced That, Yes, People Can Change

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Researchers Are Convinced That, Yes, People Can Change (But It's Not Easy)

Image by Marija Kovac / Stocksy

When it comes to personality, we've all wondered: Do people really change? New research says yes, but it isn't easy.

We know certain traits can be beneficial in the workplace (like extroversion), with personality cited as an important factor for success. With that in mind, researchers sought to find out if efforts to change personality are a worthwhile way to improve our lives.

They compiled and reviewed existing personality data to answer that question and found through persistence and some big life changes, personalities are not always set in stone.

Traits are malleable.

The research was put together by the Personality Change Consortium, a group of researchers focused on the latest developments in understanding personality changes.

They specifically looked at the traits linked with certain health and happiness outcomes, like neuroticism, extroversion, agreeableness, and openness, hoping to determine whether efforts to change personality could translate into a better life.

Their findings suggest that it is indeed possible to change through continuous effort at the right age. And further, it's possible to improve your life in doing so. 

Christopher Hopwood, a psychology professor at the University of California–Davis and co-author of the paper, says, "Parents, teachers, employers and others have been trying to change personality forever because of their implicit awareness that it is good to make people better people."

"In this paper," adds Wiebke Bleidorn, another paper co-author, "we present the case that traits can serve both as relatively stable predictors of success and actionable targets for policy changes and interventions."

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Why does this matter?

Moving forward, the team wants to apply these findings to questions like, "How do we get children to be kinder and work harder at school?" or "What is the best way to help people age with grace and dignity?"

Knowing that change is possible, personality offers a whole new facet to public health that could hold promise for those willing to make changes (some people are more likely to change than others).

"It would be helpful for public policymakers to think more explicitly about what it takes to change personality to improve personal and public welfare," the researchers say.

After all, we know emotional intelligence is linked with success in academia and better interpersonal relationships; if we have the ability to raise our EQ and better our lives, it's worth a shot! And that's just one trait.

If you're open to changing for the sake of an improved life, check out these steps to building confidence, along with these five tips to help you unlearn what you'd like to change.

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