Our choices define us, not our personality. We are what we choose to make happen, and how we choose to respond to whatever may happen to us.
Hello everyone and welcome to episode 113. If you’ve listened to this program for any length of time you know I say at the end of each episode that I would appreciate hearing back from listeners with any reaction they have to that week’s episode. Up until just recently, the response has been very positive. This streak, however, came to an end with episode 107 from a few weeks ago, Seeing is Believing. Or is it?
This was the program about the quote from Jesus that a prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown. I talked about the reaction of the people from Nazareth to Jesus, based on the assumptions they made about him because of his family.
Then in passing, I mentioned to avoid making assumptions about people, we need to “stay away from personality tests like the Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram. They create self-fulling prophecies and they microwave our understanding of people.”
When my wife Janet heard this she told me, “You’re going to get in trouble for that comment.” And boy was she right. Keep listening to hear about the strong reaction I got from a listener, how I processed it, and how it leads into the topic of today’s program.
A negative response from a listener
The negative response I got was actually from a good friend of mine, by the name of Randy. We’ve been friends for a long time. We used to go to the same church until he moved to Pittsburgh for a job change. Randy sent me a strongly worded email saying he found great value in the Myers-Briggs and Enneagram personality tests because they helped him understand himself and others better.
His email deserved a conversation, not another email. So we arranged a time to talk, and he gave me a chance to explain myself. I shared a couple of stories about how I was marginalized in two separate situations by people in leadership based solely on how I scored on their favorite personality test. Thoughts I had about an issue were discounted because, as in one instance, I was told, “Oh, you’re an INFJ and that’s how you think.” The merits of my input were never considered. My test score shut down any further dialog.
Randy and I talked more about where each of us was coming from, and he shared a story of when a group leader marginalized him, too. So we had that connection. I don’t think either of our minds were changed, but we now understood each other much better. It wasn’t long before we transitioned into getting caught up on each other’s lives about other things. After hanging up on the call, I so appreciated having a friendship with someone where we could challenge each other’s points of view and still remain friends. I hope you have relationships like this.
All this to say, my conversation with Randy prompted me to share with you in a review of an interesting book I think any regular listener to this podcast would enjoy. Even Randy.
The name of the book is Personality Isn’t Permanent – Breaking Free From Self-Limiting Beliefs and Rewrite Your Story. It’s by Dr. Benjamin Hardy, an organizational psychologist. He is also a blogger and a regular contributor to Inc. Magazine and Psychology Today. The book came out last year in June of 2020. It's about how our choices define us, not our personality.
Who the book is for
- People fond of personality tests like the Myers-Briggs, Enneagram, DISC, etc. The book may very well change your mind about these instruments.
- As the author puts it, “If you’re someone who’s tried making big changes in your life but feels stuck or discouraged, then this book is for you.”
- People with a painful past. Those coming out of a dysfunctional family. Trauma survivors. The author himself comes from a broken home and his life was a big hot mess until going on a church mission turned his life around (I think he must be a Mormon)
- People with self-limiting beliefs, who feel trapped or stuck
- Caregivers and people helpers, especially those who interact with others who have a victim mindset
- People interested in the psychology of human behavior
- Those who resonate with the concept that our choices define us, not our personality
Structure of the Book
- 7 chapters, 230 pages, plus acknowledgments, 10 pages of footnotes, and a 6-page index
- An introduction, entitled “A Personality Test Almost Ruined Life.”
- The author cites quite a few research studies to support his points, and he includes interesting stories to illustrate them.
- An easy read, yet one I found myself underlining the key points he is making in the book.
- Interesting quotes and one-liners sprinkled throughout the book like,
“People become old far too fast,” p.202
“A mistake repeated more than once is a decision,” p. 97
“Always make your future bigger than your past,” p.141
“Never mind searching for who you are. Search for the person you aspire to be,” p. 174
The cover of the book is ingenious. It encapsulates the premise of the book. There’s a large yellow pencil on the left-hand side and eraser filings on the top as a background for part of the title. It’s a masterful illustration of the title, Personality Isn’t Permanent.
Premise of the book
It is so much more than a book about personality. It's more about how our choices define us. I’ll quote from page four of the introduction:
“The argument of this book is that your ‘personality' doesn’t matter. Even more, your personality is not the most fundamental aspect of who you are. Instead, your personality is surface-level, transitory, and a by-product of something much deeper.
“The most fundamental aspect of your humanity is your ability to make choices and stand by those choices, what Viktor Frankel called the last of human freedoms, ‘To choose one’s own way.’ Choosing your own way has at least two key meanings: making decisions about what you want to happen and choosing how you respond to what does happen. Choosing one’s own way is what makes one human – and the more you own the power of your own decision-making, the more your life and outcomes will be in your control.”
Take-aways from the book
- It’s a rich combination of research, theory, and practical application of principles, especially how our choices define us.
- The book is full of hope that we can all be better versions of ourselves, if we want to be.
- He talks a lot about focusing on our future self, about making decisions that will be consistent with the person we want to be, not necessarily the person we are now.
- The author extols the practices of fasting and tithing. He tells the story of George in the “Enhance Your Subconscious” chapter who tithed on 10% of what he intended to earn in the future, not what he already earned. [read from p. 193]
- So many rich concepts in the book. Here are just a few, which I will quote verbatim
Quotes from the author
You become who you choose to be. p.5
There is no such thing as a personality type. Personality types are social or mental constructions, not actual realities. There is no science behind the idea of personality types, and most of the popular personality quizzes were created by people who had no business trying to define people. p. 26
We overemphasize the importance of the past, which leads us to become increasingly narrow in how we view ourselves and the world. p. 37
How we describe, interpret, and identify with our past has far more to do with where we are here and now, than it does with our actual past, p. 48
“Authenticity” these days is usually another way of saying “I have a fixed mindset.’ I am a certain way and shouldn’t be expected to do anything but what comes immediately naturally and easy for me. I shouldn’t have to do anything but what feels good right now.” p. 62
Every behavior has a reason. Realizing why you’re engaging in a specific behavior is fundamental to becoming a conscious human being. p. 74.
On pages 128-135 he talks about being an “empathetic witness.” How we need these kinds of people in our lives, and how we can be an empathetic witness to others. It’s all about caring for others.
Advice for getting the most out of life
A quote from T.S. Eliot about reframing our past, “What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we begin from.” p. 166
The author talks about the importance of expressing one’s emotions to trusted “empathetic witnesses” in the chapter on “Enhance Your Subconscious.”
“Rather than being defined by your former behaviors, you can and should be defined by your future behaviors.” p, 195.
In chapter 6, “Redesign Your Environment” he cites a 1979 research study. [Read from pages 197-198].
“Putting yourself in new environments, around new people, and taking on new roles is one of the quickest ways to change your personality, for better or worse. Fully take on roles you assume and you’ll change from the outside in.” p. 199
Pages 227- 229 is the story of Melissa who experienced several devastating tragedies in life. She wrote about them in journals. The author describes how she processed these tragedies: “While reading through her journals, and while journaling and praying at length, she had a paradigm shift. She began to see her past differently. For most of her life she had felt like a victim. She had felt she was cursed by God. But while reading those old journals and reflecting on her experiences she saw her experiences differently. Rather than curses, she saw compliments. Her's is a great example of how our choices define us, and that we don't have to live life as a victim.
“God really trusts you,” she thought to herself. “Everything I’ve gone through is a gigantic compliment from God not only for what I can handle but for what he wants me to do.”
Why It’s Worth Reading
- It’s consistent with biblical principles of living
- It’s a great application of Romans 12: 2, “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God’s will is for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”
- It’s a great application of Philippians 1: 6, “…being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”
- I found it inspiring to think more about the diminishing amount of future I have each day and how to make it the best it can be in ways that bring out the best in me and blesses others.
Amazon Reviews of the Book
- 1551 reviews at the time of this writing of the show notes, 85% of which are 5-star reviews
- The few negative reviews said there’s nothing new here. I respectfully disagree. Not many other authors are criticizing personality tests, or touting the benefits of taking a mission, tithing, or fasting.
He talks about some common themes of daily life, but often from a unique perspective
Then there’s always comments like, “He didn’t write about this; he didn’t write about that.” In other words, because he didn’t write about what I wanted to read, it’s not that great a book.
“The book was life-changing” was a common theme in the many positive reviews
So what does all this mean for YOU?
Read the book. Get it from your library or buy a copy. If it resonates with you, put into practice what the author suggests.
It will take wisdom and guidance from the Holy Spirit to individualize personal applications of the book.
Ask a few people if they’d like to go through the book as a group. Form a little book club. Practice the principles mentioned in the book as a group. It would be a great summer read.
Have your teenagers read the book!
If you lead a group of people in your job, church, or organization, read the book as a group and discuss it. It would be a great way for the people you lead to learn how to care for each other by learning how to listen better.
If you forget everything else, here’s the one thing I hope you remember from today’s episode.
Our personality doesn’t define us. Our choices define us. What we choose to make happen, and our choices in responding to whatever may happens to us. This is what defines us.
I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode, just like Randy shared his thoughts about a prior episode
I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to both reflect and to act. So that you will find the joy God intends for you through your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.
Well, that’s all for today. I look forward to connecting with you again next week. Now go out and get the book. Goodbye for now.
You Were Made for This is sponsored by Caring for Others, a missionary care ministry. We depend upon the generosity of donors to pay our bills. If you'd like to support what we do with a secure tax-deductible donation, please click here. We'd be so grateful if you did.
Resources mentioned in today’s show
Episode 107, Seeing is Believing. Or is it?
Personality Isn’t Permanent – Breaking Free From Self-Limiting Beliefs and Rewrite Your Story. by Benjamin Hardy, Ph.D.