Have you ever taken a personality assessment? You know, the Myers-Briggs, DISC, or Enneagram tests that are supposed to tell us about who we are and fit us neatly into a predetermined category?
Well, today’s guest, Dr. Benjamin Hardy, has a very different take on personality testing. In his new book, Personality Isn’t Permanent, he explores why these tests go against science and psychology, shape your identity in dangerous ways, and prevent us from living up to our true potential.
Today, Dr. Hardy joins the podcast to talk about the danger of accepting labels from others, why it’s time to do away with outdated personality tests, and how to stop living in the past and set a foundation for a hopeful future.
- Why personality as a concept doesn’t actually exist in types – and how these labels distort our perceptions and stunt our growth.
- The difference between the growth mindset and the fixed mindset.
- How a personality test almost prevented Ben’s marriage.
- What people can do to process and heal from trauma and escape feelings of passivity and hopelessness.
- Effective, science-based ways to make radical, meaningful change in your life.
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
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- Personality Isn’t Permanent: Break Free from Self-Limiting Beliefs and Rewrite Your Story
- Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success
- Who Not How: The Formula to Achieve Bigger Goals Through Accelerating Teamwork
- The 100 Percent Rule That Will Change Your Life (TEDx Talks)
- Man’s Search for Meaning The Classic Tribute to Hope from the Holocaust
- The Psychology Of Your Future Self (TED Talk)
- The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
Hal Elrod: Dr. Benjamin Hardy, how goes it my friend?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Good. Great to be with you, Hal.
Hal Elrod: It’s great to be with you. I mean, we’re buddies so I call you Ben. Can I call you…?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. Please call me Ben.
Hal Elrod: All right. So, I don’t have to call you Dr. Benjamin Hardy, Ph.D., extraordinaire.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Not at all.
Hal Elrod: All right. Yeah, you’re a good human and you’re really smart. I’m reading your new book right now, Personality Isn’t Permanent, and it is fascinating. I loved your last book, Willpower Doesn’t Work which by the way if anybody’s listening, I did have Ben on this a second time on the show and you can go back and listen to the first interview. It was Episode 216 so go to HalElrod.com/216 to hear that. But, Ben, I love that book and I’m not finished with Personality Isn’t Permanent yet but I’d say you’ve outdone yourself. It may be recency bias but I want to start the conversation today with your take on the various personality assessments that have been become so popular in our culture, and not just recently. I mean, I was taking them 10, 15, 20 years ago when I was in sales and our company like ran by those tests. They determined so much of how we hired, how we manage, so on and so forth.
You say that personality tests like Myers-Briggs and DISC and Enneagram are not only unscientific, they are harmful, which to me goes against the mainstream media. So, why are personality tests like Myers-Briggs and Enneagram, and all those, why do you say that they’re unscientific and harmful?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Well, first off, super good to be with you. Yeah, I love it. So, they’re non-scientific because personality, as a concept doesn’t exist in types. No such thing. The personality is not viewed that way. That’s an oversimplification but it’s also an incorrect view and these tests are just not structured like a scientist or a psychologist would view personality. My major problem with these tests is what they do to people’s identity, and identity and personality are two totally different things, identity being enormously more important. Your identity is how you describe yourself. It’s how you define yourself. And these tests give people an identity, whether it’s ENTJ, D, 6 white, whatever it is. They give you an identity which then becomes your narrative and your view of the world and your way to describe yourself and then if anything is a part of your identity, you seek to defend it and seek to justify it.
Also, when something particularly a label has been adopted, you assume that that label is always true, which it’s not. A lot of research from Ellen Langer at Harvard, she studies mindfulness and what she’s found is that if someone has assumed a label about themselves, whether it’s depressed, whether it’s introvert, whether it’s anything, they tend to believe that the label is always true about themselves. And so, they become mindless to all the times that the label is not true. They just don’t pay attention. It’s kind of like when you buy a car, you’ll see that car everywhere on the road but you don’t pay attention to the other cars on the road. In different situations and circumstances, you’re going to be different. Your personality in a lot of ways is reflected in the role that you’re in. When you’re at home with your kids, a little different than when you’re like on stage, potentially. I could be wrong.
Yeah. And so, what people do when they’ve assumed a label is that they assume that that’s who they’ll always be as well. And so, then they become rigid about their future identity, which stunts their potential for growth. So, these tests are not only an inaccurate view of personality, personality is not in types. It’s more of like you’re somewhere on a spectrum but also it stunts your potential for growth enormously.
Hal Elrod: So, now would you say is there any value in these personality tests? Is there a way to use them within a certain context?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: I would recommend a better person personality test. So, the most well-studied theory on psychology is called the Big Five, breaks personality into five factors like introversion or extroversion, like emotional stability, conscientiousness. And when you take that test, that’s a far more scientific measure. It’s also a lot better structured of a measure. But what you would get from that test is you would get a percentile rank, like where you would rank versus the population on let’s just say extroversion. So, I took that test with my kids recently, just for fun, and by the way, it’s hilarious to watch how your kids take these tests. Like you’re not coaching them through it, like you’re just watching how they answer the questions and it’s super funny. Like my daughter, who we adopted, it’s our eldest kid and she’s got emotional challenges like all of us but she scored herself in the 95th percentile for emotional stability.
Like how I scored myself just an example, I filled out the test. We just did it for fun as a family and before I submitted my response, and anyone can take the Big Five. You just Google Big Five Personality Test. What you’ll notice about the structure of that test, by the way, like in general psychological tests, their questions should be based on what we call Likert scale, where like, let’s just say, I’ll ask you do you get scared on stage, just as a question? It wouldn’t give you four options like a typical personality test where you have to give yourself one answer. What it would say is it would ask you a certain scenario, and then it would give you five to seven options. On one end, it would say, “Absolutely not.” On the other end, it would say, “Absolutely,” or you could have neutral in the middle. And so, you answer on a scale, whereas typical personality tests, they just give you a forced choice. Often the choices don’t matter or none of the choices.
But I let my wife look at my responses before we hit submit. She didn’t tell me to change. She recommended we talked about one of them. And I’m like, “All right, you’re right. I could change that one.” Otherwise, she didn’t tell me to change any of them. We pushed submit. Most of my scores, I was pretty average like I’m in like 55th percentile for extroversion. I’m a little higher on like imagination. But afterwards, we talked about my scores or my responses like how I answered before she hit submit, she said, “I wouldn’t have answered the same way you did like I would have definitely put you more on the extreme in certain areas but I understand that you were just answering for yourself.” Anyways, if people want to take the Big Five, go for it. That one’s the one that’s far more useful and valid.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. I just brought that up for me to check that out.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: The Myers-Briggs, the Enneagrams, the DISCs, I can see why people like them but I personally couldn’t recommend them.
Hal Elrod: Is it because it gives people a sense of certainty like, “Oh, that’s who I am,” right? Like maybe where they’re lost like, “I don’t know who I am,” but then these tests get to kind of do the thinking for them. You think maybe that’s why people…
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: That’s a big part of it. It’s definitely a lazy way of creating an identity. It does create a false sense of consistency and certainty. In my opinion, it’s just not that useful to overly define your present self. Your current self is different from who you were in the past and your future self is going to be different than your present self. And so, like Carol Dweck’s work on growth mindset versus fixed mindset, people with a fixed mindset are very definitive in their present self, whereas people with a growth mindset don’t really care who they are in the present. They’re more focused on what can happen. So, my major concern is that people are super obsessed with today versus what could happen for them in the future.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. Well, tell the story that you opened the book with about how a personality test almost ruined your life, prevented your marriage. I love that story.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. By the way, that almost didn’t go in but Tucker recommended it to be tossed in near the end of the writing process. He edited the book but, yeah, this is a true story and this occurred before I was actually even informed on like the psychological nature of these tests or like the scientific nature. But anyways, yeah, when I was an undergrad, my wife and I were dating and her family really took seriously this test called the Color Code which was just popular in their state or their culture or whatnot. And that test breaks people into four categories. And so, there’s four types of people according to that test. You got your reds which are type A driven by power, people just really go, go, go. You got your blues who are heart-centered, just relationship-based people, whites which are introspective, passive, aloof, more introverted, and then you’ve got your yellows, which are very extroverted people, center of the party type people. That’s how the test breaks people up for those four categories.
And we took the tests just because it was just something to doing. Anyways, when her parents found out that I was a white according to the color code, they were freaked out because they were very concerned about Lauren’s decision-making process. Like why would she consider dating a white but they thought about it because Lauren had been previously married. She was in an incredibly abusive marriage before we got married. She got married at age 19. She was married to a guy who was also a red. By the way, Lauren, at least at the time, it was assumed that she was a red according to color code. That’s what she got. And so, her family was pretty red too or at least that’s how they viewed themselves. And so, yeah, her husband or ex-husband was a red according to color code. He happened to be a super abusive guy and abused her in all forms and fashions, sexual, physical, just, like hit her and stuff like that.
And so, for three years, she became kind of a shell of herself in that terrible situation. She got divorced, traveled the world for a few years. She actually served a church mission herself and didn’t date anyone for like three years after her divorce and I was the first person she like really dated. And so, when her parents found out that I was a white they kind of were like, “Okay. She’s dating a really passive guy so that she’s no longer never controlled again.” But their concern was that they wanted her to marry a real man. Like, “Yeah, we want you to marry someone that’s nice. We don’t want you to marry some abusive guy but you can find a good red like we don’t want you to marry some passive, aloof guy who won’t achieve goals like we need you to marry a real man, Lauren. You’re making a fear-based decision.” And so, like that was her thinking as well as like, “Can I really marry a guy who’s passive aloof and stuff like that?”
Hal Elrod: Wow. Now, was this early on when you guys were first dating? Or were you far along in the relationship?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Well, to be honest with you, we were engaged in two months and got married two months after that.
Hal Elrod: The whole thing was fast.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. The whole thing was fast but we got serious fast but this was like when we were considering engagement. And like were both like it was kind of spiritual like actually, she ended up having to have from her perspective, the spiritual dream that gave her like permission to some degree. Otherwise, she probably would have just said no. I think she was traumatized from the former marriage but it went fast as far as how fast we like connected. And I had I dated a lot of girls before that and so this was new for me. I was like I totally will marry this girl like I was totally on board. But yeah, it was near the beginning but also, we were serious pretty fast. And I got to know their parents and they thought I was a nice guy but they couldn’t see past that label and they couldn’t comprehend, for example, like the enormous mountains that I’d already overcome to get where I was at. They couldn’t see my future. They couldn’t see my commitment to my school or to my, you know, just everything I was doing. And so, they just assumed that the label told the whole story.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. It’s so interesting because the way that you described their concerns, you’re everything that they would hope for, essentially, somebody who is like a master at setting goals and taking care of Lauren. I mean, all of the things. A man among men, I would say
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Well, I don’t know about that but thank you.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. No, I’m joking. Well, man among – well, because you said they thought that you weren’t a real man.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: They did. They said that.
Hal Elrod: I was just trying to build you up in case you’re still suffering, in case you have any wounds or any trauma over that label by them. Yeah, all right. So, it worked out for you, not adhering to the personality test. Now, I want to talk about identity a little bit because I was watching one of your TEDx talks. You’ve got a couple on there. It was the 100% Rule. I was watching that earlier today and it talked a lot about identity and that we create our identity, not only in the moment but we can decide who we’re going to be and who we’re going to become. And to me, in a lot of ways, that’s what life is about is just becoming a better version of yourself every single day, waking up every day and learning, growing, evolving, becoming a better version of that person that you were that went to bed the night before. And if we do that every single day, to me, personality tests or no, there’s really no limit to who we can become and what qualities that we can develop.
So, I want to hear just any thoughts that you have on if someone right now sees themselves as less than, “I’m not as confident as I need to be. I’m not as happy as I’d like to be. I’m not as capable. I’m not as smart,” whatever their identity is worth less than, how would you advise somebody to step into a bigger, better, more beneficial identity for them?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. I think one helpful exercise is to recognize how different they actually already are from their former self just like thinking about all of the ways in which they’ve changed in the past three to five to ten years just looking at who are you now versus who you’ve been like that and actively looking for it. It’s kind of like the whole idea what you focus on expands but it’s like actively look for the things that have improved and changed. Target your focus on that, and where you’re at. And just recognize that you’re not the same person you were in the past and also then recognize that you’re not going to be the same person in the future. And so, the first step is honestly just taking the time to openly imagine, like hope is a crucial concept. Have you ever read the book Man’s Search for Meaning by Frankl?
Hal Elrod: Yeah. It’s one of my favorites.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Yeah, me too. Like what Frankl said is that without hope and purpose for your future, you can’t have meaning in the present and then the present just sucks if you don’t have anything to look forward to or hope towards. And what Frankl said is, is that basically what we need is a freely chosen task, a worthwhile goal. So, from my perspective, purpose in the future isn’t necessarily broad. It’s more a freely-chosen task. Yeah, it can be broad. It can expand beyond this life if you want but I think just pulling it into like two to three years into the future, openly just taking the time to imagine and think about maybe write about in your journal where would you like your life to be. Who would you like to be? What would you like your circumstances to be? What would you like your day-to-day life to be like? What would you like your core relationships to be like? Who would you like to be in a relationship? With just like taking the time to frame out your future self and your future circumstances and what you’re up to and what you’re doing.
There’s a lot of cool research in this realm. First off, Daniel Gilbert, he gave the TED talk to the psychology of your future self. He’s a Harvard psychologist who spent a lot of time studying and he says that the major reason people don’t predict their future is because they don’t spend any time imagining it. Instead, they just spend all their time remembering the past. So, this process is about imagination and imagination creates the foundation for hope, which is really helpful. The second step is viewing your future self as a different person. There’s a psychologist at Harvard, or sorry, not Harvard at UCLA. His name is Hal Hirschfeld. And what he studied is when you view your future self as a different person, you can then make decisions here and now based on what your future self would want, rather than what maybe you want today, because sometimes your own current preferences could actually be to the detriment of your future self. Like, I may want to just sit on the couch and eat doughnuts all day. Not really.
And so, when you view your future self as a different person, and you’ve clarified that, you’ve imagined it and you’ve constructed it, and you’ve given it structure and form, then you can make decisions here and now, intentional decisions based on what your future self would have you to do. That’s I think why I love your book, The Miracle Morning and about affirmation, visualization, journaling, because it’s like, you think about who your future self is and then you put yourself in the frame of mind where you’re moving in that direction and then you can take action, intentional action, rather than being subconscious, on autopilot where you’re just operating. Based on your current situation, you’re actually taking action often courageously or intentionally towards your future self. And that’s how you build confidence.
I guess another really big one, I’d be interested in your take on this one is once you’ve actually defined your future self, and obviously, your future self will change as you expand or as you go through experiences but once you’ve taken the time to define where you want to be in two to three years from now is to openly acknowledging and admitting that to other people. It’s almost like being public but if that’s who you really want to be, at some point or another, you’ve got to stop hiding it. And so, you might as well start telling people about it right now because that can then become your new narrative. When you start telling people who you want to be, you’re not overly defining who you currently are. So, now you’re creating a new opportunity for new behavior.
Hal Elrod: Everybody listening, actually do what he just said. If you need to rewind it, do that or I’ll give you just quick recap. Actually, pull out your journal, your computer if you need to, and schedule 30 minutes to do this today. Do it after you listen to the podcast. Imagine or write out what you want your ideal future self and future circumstances to be like. That’s how you create a better…
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Three years from now.
Hal Elrod: Three years to?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Whatever time frame you want but two to three years is pretty great.
Hal Elrod: Okay. So, two to three years from now and that gives you enough time. There’s little buffer time. One year’s a little bit like, “I’m not in the place where I can change everything within this year,” but if you got a few years, you have that buffer time where it’s like, “Alright. That’s enough time for me to grow, learn, grow, evolve, become better and then start talking about it.” Start talking about it to yourself. That’s why for me, Ben, you mentioned Miracle Morning affirmations for me are the most important practice and they’re not this, “I am great. I am…” I don’t do these cheesy, just feel good in the moment way. But to me, it’s actually where you design a blueprint of the life that you want, who you need to be to create it in terms of the qualities, the characteristics that you need, and what specifically you need to do. And what we focus on becomes our reality. So, when you read that every day, and you affirm that every day, and you feel that every day, and you talk about that every day, all of a sudden, that becomes the new reality.
And like you said, most people are living in their past and seeing themselves as who they are now based on who they were before but if you do the exercise that you just talked about, now, you’re shifting from looking backward to now to looking forward and bringing the future into your present action. So, I love that.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: It’s amazing, dude. Yeah, I mean, the goal is ultimately that your future is the thing predicting your daily behavior, not your past. Unfortunately, what most of the research in psychology has shown us is that the best way to predict a person’s future is by looking at their past because they’re not doing these types of things and they’re not being active about their identity but what you’re doing with affirmations and these morning routines, which I love your work, dude, by the way, and morning routines to me are one of the most fundamental things that a person needs to do if they want to actively create a specific and chosen future because it’s in the morning that you’re literally setting the stage for your identity for the moment and your behavior for the moment. So, I love this.
Hal Elrod: Thank you, buddy. I’ll take it. I’ll take it.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: It’s great work, man.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. Well, I actually saw you at a video a few years ago on morning routines. I didn’t watch it yet but I’m like, “He probably just talks about the Miracle Morning the whole time.”
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Of course, I did.
Hal Elrod: I don’t need to watch it. Alright. Talk about what are some of the other pervasive and let’s say destructive societal myths of personality? Is there anything else in terms of our personality, how society defines it, the myths, what are the things that we should be aware of that we can incorporate into our daily living?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: I mean, the myths are more concepts than actual principles to live but the myths are primarily that it’s hardwired, it’s innate, you can’t change it. It fits in types and categories. It’s something you must discover. That’s something that it’s like the whole passion thing like Cal Newport talks about the whole problem with passion and it’s something that you have to find rather than something you cultivate. And I think people are looking for themselves, rather than choosing a freely chosen task or a freely chosen future selves and actively becoming that, they’re passive and then they take passive measures, like having a personality test give them their identity. So, it’s not something you find and also, I think the other major one is that it comes from your past. And so, a lot of people when they’re trying to understand themselves, they look to the past to try to figure out elements of who they are and that I guess it could be useful to some degree or I’m not really sure.
I mean, people who are advancing in their life, they don’t require the past to dictate their chosen future. But also, there’s something super important about the past and that’s the past actually changes all the time. A lot of people think that the past is the thing causing the present but the reality from a memory perspective is that the present is actually causing the meaning of the past. We always reconstruct our memory in the present moment. And as you grow as a person and as you change your views of former experiences change, and that’s actually super healthy. Like, you’re someone who’s incredibly good at this. You choose very intentionally the meanings that you give to experiences, whether it be car accident or cancer or like you choose to view those in specific ways. You don’t let those events dictate who you are today. You choose how you view those events.
And that’s a really important process of meaning-making is choosing better meanings for traumatic experiences or former experiences or even present experiences that you can choose to re-narrate the past and even choose to remember it differently. And if you still view a former experience the same way you did many years ago, that probably means you haven’t truly updated your perspective too much, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.
Hal Elrod: Well, one of the most overused adages is everything happens for a reason. And when I was in my car accident, I went, “Wait, isn’t it my responsibility to choose the reason?”
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: It is.100%.
Hal Elrod: Like, why did this happen to me? This isn’t fair. Why? I go, “Wait, that doesn’t serve me. I need to choose the most empowering reasons for the challenges that I’m facing.” I think that for all of us, we can’t control a lot of things that happened to us but we can always choose our response and what is the meaning, what is the reason that we give it. I want to ask you about kind of related to what you just talked about with using my car accident cancer as an example. When it comes to trauma, how does trauma negatively impact your personality and limit your future, your being anyone’s?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. Well, I mean, if someone hasn’t actively chosen the reasons for it as you encourage people to do, which literally is psychologically bulletproof. I mean, it’s so good what you’ve described there but, I mean, if you haven’t done that, so there’s two concepts here. In psychology, one is called refractory period, a refractory period is the amount of time it takes to emotionally recover from an event. So, if someone cuts you off on the road and you’re nervous or whatnot, for like a few minutes or even a few seconds, you can recover and get back to your day. But if you’re still not recovered from an event that happened several years ago, if you’re still being impacted by it, then that’s a challenge. That means that you haven’t addressed it and chosen to move on. You haven’t given it a reason or you haven’t chosen what to do with it. It’s still inside you. And so, that’s a challenge.
There’s also another concept and that’s there’s an initial reaction and the initial reaction is not necessarily to be judged like we all have initial reactions to events. And usually, trauma is something negative that happened where you had a negative emotional experience and then you created a meaning that was limited based on who you are. In psychology, we call it a cognitive commitment but you’ve made a commitment. So, like, if someone tells you you’re bad at math or if you fail a test and it sucks or if you fail a speech, whatever it is, and you have a negative experience, then often we create meaning in those events and those meanings impact our identity, and they limit our potential in the future. Because usually with trauma, and trauma, by the way, is any event that’s negative, that impacts your identity. It could be as bad as having cancer or something like that or it can just failing a test and then defining yourself as someone who can’t be good at math or if you’re told you’re ugly.
Any negative experience that shapes who you are and how you see the world is trauma. And there’s a really good book on the subject called The Body Keeps The Score. Basically, what he says in that book is that trauma freezes your personality. It stops you from emotionally developing because personality and comfort zone are pretty similar concepts. And so, what happens is when you get stuck in the past, you become defined by that past and trauma shatters your hope and imagination for the future. It shatters your emotional flexibility. So, instead, you become unwilling to deal with uncertainty. Instead, you become defined by the past, defined by some event in the past, and you become unwilling or unhelpful towards the future and unwilling to handle the emotions. And so, that’s why it stops you. And the only way to deal with it is that you have to actually face it, handle it, deal with it, and choose a new meaning for it but that that’s a courageous and developmental process but you have to ultimately become better with your emotions to move forward as a human being.
Hal Elrod: So, I want to dive into that a little bit more and without going into too much detail, as positive as the meaning that I chose for everything that’s gone on in my life, I recently…
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Can you use the meanings?
Hal Elrod: No. That’s the weird part. I haven’t changed the meanings. I’ve had challenges in the last year with a lot of what you just described, which is anxiety, depression, fear of all of these things. And what’s weird is I don’t understand it because I never once felt sorry for myself over the cancer. I never once wished it didn’t happen. Every day I was like, “God, thank you for this cancer and thank you for the lessons I’m going to learn and the growth I’m going to experience.” I think I might still be in the midst of that growth by going through all of this but I wanted to ask for me and for anybody listening, how can someone move on from trauma? Is there a self-help process? Is it purely, nope, you got to do therapy? What are your thoughts on how somebody can move on from a trauma, whether it’s recent, whether it’s from childhood?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. And I would be interested, maybe less so in your past, Hal, and maybe more what’s going on, and we don’t need to go into this on the episode but like with your anxiety and in your depression, and I’ve faced those in many cases. I’m wondering if there’s either an attachment to either former things that didn’t go the way you wanted, maybe recent failures that you’re at least defining as a failure or even potential fear for the future. I’m interested in what’s creating this and I’m not actually sure if it actually is trauma, although it in your case, it could be. As for myself, recently, I will break down the process but even launching willpower doesn’t work was traumatic for me because I didn’t create the result I wanted. I wanted it to be a New York Times bestseller, I invested all sorts of money into it, I had my identity wrapped up in it. And by the way, our identity is often wrapped up in our goals. And there’s actually nothing wrong with that as long as we’re aware that our goals are the things driving our identity and our behavior.
It took me time to actively choose a better meaning for that and also you can choose meanings for even what you’re going through right now, such as the anxiety and depression and choosing the meaning you give to this experience, and also thinking about why, why you think it’s happening. But as far as the active ways to deal with trauma, there’s a quote from Frankl and many people have said something similar, he says, “Emotions which are suffering cease to be suffering when you give a clear picture to it.” And the way you give a clear picture to something as you turn into a story or a narration, you turn into words. So, like writing about what happened or writing about what is happening and just writing about turning into a story that, “This is what’s going on in my life right now, this is what happened to me five years ago,” and then ultimately talking about it to people is one big step. You may actually need specific help depending on what’s going on.
In your case, I’m not actually, I don’t want to prescribe anything because I’m not that type of psychologist. But I think turning it into a picture and then getting feedback on what’s going on, so telling people about it. So, recently, I gave a talk to Joe’s group, actually, the 100K Group, and I was excited to give the talk because I was hoping that they would help me with the book launch. And I was felt super prepared, and I actually completely blundered the talk and it was really embarrassing. The people who were there were kind of confused by the talk. It didn’t go well. Ultimately, I was embarrassed and because of my embarrassment and frustration, I spent like two days kind of upset and the conclusions that I began to draw from the experience because you start to draw meanings where maybe I’m just done with this group, man, like maybe this group, maybe these people legitimately can’t help me and I can’t help them so there’s no point me being there. And so, I thought that through and I was thinking, how does this thinking shape my future? Like, what are the options if I go down this path?
Usually, the options becoming incredibly more limited, where you force yourself into pigeonholes when you start thinking this way. So, I wrote about what I was feeling. Just by writing about it, I find and I don’t know if this helps you but just by writing about the incident, the event and how I felt and how it impacted me and also what I was thinking about doing as a result, and also just my genuine frustrations and disappointments. Not with only myself but with a group, I was able to feel better about it but then I talked to people about it. I even sent Joe a message and just told him honestly, “Joe, I don’t know if I’m going to be in the group anymore, man, like that was a bad experience for me. And it just proved to me that I’m not actually sure if this group can actually help me anymore or if I can help the group,” then I was able to talk to him about it. And I was able to get his perspectives, realize it wasn’t as bad as I thought, and that there’s still plenty of things we can do, and ultimately, I then had to choose the meaning.
I was able to choose a really great meeting because my mom recently talked to me and she said, like, last month that last, like Mother’s Day was the best Mother’s Day she’s ever had. And I’m like, “Wow, that’s interesting.” My younger brother is in a treatment facility for addiction and stuff and I’m like, “That’s interesting. What made it so great?” She said, “I had a great conversation with my boys and it was just a great day.” And I said, “Well, that’s an amazing meaning that you chose to give to that.” Like, it’s not objectively the best Mother’s Day but that’s how she feels about it. And so, I just decided, I’m going to say the same thing about that meeting. It’s the best meeting I’ve ever been to. And if I learn from it, it’s going to be the best thing for my future. And so, I then sent Joe a message and said, “Joe, it sucked but honestly, it was the best meeting I’ve ever been to and not that the meeting sucked but my experience of it, at least in that moment sucked. And that I’m choosing to view it as the best meeting I’ve ever had because I know that if I actually learn from it, it will be the best meeting I’ve ever had.”
And so, now that’s how I genuinely feel about it. So, it’s about choosing to feel and view it as this happened for me, not to me, and just ultimately working through the process of coming to your own explanation, and then moving forward based on what you actually want, regardless of what you’re feeling. So, what do I actually want? Well, I still do want to sell millions of copies of this book, and I still do want to have a great relationship with those people. So, I should still keep acting as my future self even if in the moment I’m pretty down. And I know that my down in a lot of ways can be due to my own passivity versus being proactive. Depression often does come through passivity.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. Passivity and hopelessness, you talked about earlier, which is that how crucial hope is if you lose hope, then yeah, that causes depression because it’s like, “Well, shoot, what am I doing? There’s no point. Where am I going?”
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Hope is a fundamental need to human functioning like that’s a funny statement but if you don’t have hope and purpose for your future, the present loses context and meaning like hope is a human need.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. And, everybody listening, that’s from Dr. Benjamin Hardy, psychologist. That’s not just some mumbo jumbo.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Hope is like you literally need it like if you don’t have it, there’s no reason for being here.
Hal Elrod: And would you say you generate hope? Like if someone’s listening, they’re like, “Well, but I don’t have hope,” it’s like, okay, well, then generate hope like do the exercise that you talked about earlier where you create your future on paper. And then also like, well, when you put your ideal future on paper and you go, “I’m going to do that,” all of a sudden, you’re generated hope
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Yep. And you can enhance your hope. I mean, you can deepen your belief, your faith in what you’ve got. You can build reasons for hope. You can educate that hope. You know what I mean? You can talk to people about it, you can get support, you can attach it to your faith if you want to as like I’m talking like your bigger faith in like a bigger purpose and a picture. Yeah, I think hope is something that we can absolutely develop and educate. And there are times when that hope gets crushed. When you go through a failure or something unexpected happens and then you’ve got to redevelop and cultivate that and you would cultivate that like you would a garden like you’ve got to develop it. And, yeah, you do it by working yourself towards something that’s meaningful and purposeful, and that gives you something to believe in and have a reason to do so, yeah, having a sense of hope.
And what’s cool is that there’s all sorts of research on grit like from Angela Duckworth and becoming gritty requires hope. You can’t be that gritty if you don’t have hope like you need hope to be persevering. So, that’s a fundamental aspect of becoming gritty is having hope, even in tough times. I mean, when my wife and I had our three foster kids and we’re trying to adopt them, there were plenty of times when there was nothing, no evidence to hope for that we’re going to get those kids. I mean, the system was totally against us but we still prayed about it, we wrote about it, we visualize it. And because we had hope, we were willing to be gritty. We did a lot of things in the present, at least at that point, it was the present. We hired a great attorney like we did all sorts of stuff that we wouldn’t have done if we didn’t have hope. And that obviously built our confidence, and it ultimately helped us create the result we wanted in many ways, and so hope is really useful.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, and I’ll say for anybody listening, to me, the word faith and hope are kind of synonymous, having faith that you can create something or hope you can create something.
Hal Elrod: Yeah. They’re very similar.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, really similar. Just for somebody that I know for me certain words resonate over others.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Yeah, they do. Yeah.
Hal Elrod: So, let’s do this. So, Personality Isn’t Permanent is the book. Obviously, I think most people read a personal development book, self-help book, whatever you want to call it because they want to make a change. One of the things I’d like to kind of close out with, what in your experience, what in your expertise, what are the most effective and science-based ways for making radical meaningful changes in our life?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. I’ll give them in bullets. There’s a lot more to these but one is obviously approaching any unresolved aspect of your past, writing about it, telling people about it, and ultimately actively getting to the point where you can choose a better meaning. As an example for myself, my father was a drug addict when I was young growing up from age 11 to 20. He was an extreme drug addict. It caused a lot of problems in my life. He and I became great friends. And while I was writing this book, I wanted to expand my perspective of the past and so I asked him his view of it and I just wanted to better understand his perspective. And when you expand the context, you change the content. Context always determines the meaning of the content. It’s kind of like just as an example during COVID-19, I sent an email out and I used the word viral. I was talking about an article during COVID-19 and several people emailed me and said, “Please don’t use that word right now.”
Hal Elrod: Really?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. I was alright with it. I was like, “You know what, that’s fine,” because in this context, that word has slightly different meaning. And so, as you expand the context, and so part of it is just actively choosing a better meaning, which often means having a different perspective or context to viewing it. And so, for me, I just had to learn more about the situation but ultimately and proactively choosing better meanings for your past and then beyond that, taking the time, clarify, define your future self, whatever timeframe you want. It could be beyond this life. It could be in 50 years. I choose three years from now, two to three years depending on kind of where you’re at in a goal cycle, then telling people about your goals, telling people about your future self, which then clarifies in many ways your identity because now you’re starting to believe your new story. You’re starting to create an environment that expects it and also an environment which can support it.
Then you would start investing literally money into whatever your future self is, investing in experiences and environments and education and mentoring, if you want. A lot of research on the concept of deliberate practice, practice being like what Malcolm Gladwell would call the 10,000-hour rule but there is no 10,000-hour rule. It’s really about actively and deliberately going through a process that produces a specific result. The more you clarify your future self, the more you can cultivate a specific process for achieving that specific outcome. And so, yeah, if you invest money into education or experiences or just help or training, or even just resources to help you get to your future self, you’ll become more committed but also you’ll have more resources and capability to get there. Then I would, obviously, just recommend everything that Hal teaches with morning, no seriously, with morning and evening routines, like, at the end of the day, your willpower is fried.
And so, for most people, the evening time is a time of consumption where because your willpower is low at night, you generally engage in high dopamine-seeking experiences, whether that be junk food or just social media or whatnot, like you’re seeking short-term dopamine because your willpower is fried, therefore, you can’t make good decisions. So, it’s better to go to bed earlier or just whatever you do, don’t put yourself in those bad situations because that creates a bad ripple for your morning routine. So, one of the aspects of willpower is what’s called decision fatigue, which is just being in a bad situation and trying to make a decision in a bad situation. So, like for example, if your alarm goes off and you haven’t pre-planned what you’re going to do being in bed while the alarm goes off is a bad place to make a decision like create decision fatigue and usually the willpower wouldn’t be enough and the situation would win.
So, the night before if you just made a plan for what you wanted to do the next morning could be as simple as, “I’m going to go to the gym. There’s my gym bag,” then when you wake up you don’t have to make a decision. It’s already been made in a prior better condition. That’s kind of part of the 100% rule but waking up with a purpose and going through the SAVERS process that Hal does to clarify your future self and then just take intentional action towards that will help build your confidence, all the affirmations, everything in that morning routine will help you solidify that future identity, telling people about it, investing in it, removing anything from your environment that’s clearly trying to keep you at your status quo. I mean, all of these things help. I mean, these are the things that you can do on a daily basis to make your future self who you want to be. And then I would just say, throughout the process, being faster and faster at communicating when you’re stuck.
Like when I was writing Who Not How, which is a book I wrote recently with Dan Sullivan, which comes out later this year as well. There were many episodes like when you’re pursuing a future self by very nature, you’re trying things that are beyond your current self. And so, obviously, you’re going to hit obstacles. You’re going to sometimes be over your own head. And there’s a quote that I really like and the quote is that, “We are kept from our goals not by obstacles but by clear path to a lesser goal.” Often when you hit an obstacle, it turns into a trauma because then you can’t get past it. And so, instead, you just choose a clear path to a lesser goal rather than getting help through the obstacle. And so, when I was recently writing this book, there was a time when I became overwhelmed by just the shortness of the timeline and it was a different style book that I’ve written, not entirely.
But rather than openly talking to Tucker Max, who was editing the book, I just figured I could figure it out myself. I’m just like I’ll figure it out and I just stayed stuck and I got more and more stressed and I ultimately became really sick. And it came to the point where I had to tell him that I was stuck because the timeline was getting really close and he hadn’t gotten a document and he’s like, “Dude, why didn’t you tell me this like a month ago?” And so, from there forward, we talked about it. Actually, we came to the conclusion, which is really interesting in being open about your emotions, you can come to the conclusion why you’re stuck, which is usually an incorrect frame. I realized in talking to Tucker, the reason I was stuck is because in that case with that book, I was trying to write a book that Dan Sullivan would like, which is not what I wanted to do. I need to write the book that Ben Hardy wanted to write but it was in talking about why I was stuck that I was able to clarify why I was stuck, and that I was viewing the situation the wrong way.
And then ultimately, together, he encouraged me to just write the book that I genuinely wanted to write, and also to be way more honest faster when I get stuck, and that there’s no shame in getting stuck. And there’s no shame in being wrong. And so, I think while you’re going forward when you have a bad day or when you get stuck or when you’re confused or when things aren’t resonating, be fast and open in your communication with those around you so that you can resolve it faster, clarify the meaning, or just get to a place, get to a resolution so that you can move forward rather than have some obstacle stop you and then you say, “Well, I guess I just can’t be my future self. I guess I can’t achieve my goals. I’ll just take a clear path to a lesser goal.” That’s usually not the case. Usually, it’s just because you didn’t get the emotional help and support that you needed through the process.
Hal Elrod: And so, did you stop picturing Dan Sullivan looking over your shoulder while you’re typing your book?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: What I did is I stopped writing the book that I thought he would like and I just stopped caring.
Hal Elrod: Funny, I do the same thing. We have people in our lives like that we look up to or maybe have criticized us in the past. Like I have different colleagues, friends that have criticized and I’m like, “Oh, what are they going to think of this? They’re going to think this is stupid. This doesn’t sound like the way they would like it.” I’ve totally been there before. And, yeah, it’s like, we’re not being true to ourselves because we’re trying to do something to meet somebody else’s expectations. When you took Tucker’s advice, it sounds like the right book came out.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: I hope so. Yeah. I think it did but also, it allowed me to just forget all that nonsense and just create the result that I wanted.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, absolutely. Well, let me just wrap this up for everybody in terms of the five steps that you just gave. Science-based ways to make change. Everybody who did not write these down, I encourage you to pause this, grab a pen and jot these down. Number one, approach any unresolved aspect of your past and choose an empowering meaning and to do that has been suggest do it in writing, journal it, write it out, or talk about it with someone else or even yourself. And doing that through writing it out, talking about it, you gain heightened levels of clarity that you wouldn’t otherwise have, and then give it a new meaning. How does that experience, how has it served you? How can it serve you? How can it serve other people?
Number two, clarify your ideal future self and circumstances and once again, in writing, and tell people about it. There’s a common theme there in doing this work. Write it out. Don’t just try to think through it.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Write it out is big.
Hal Elrod: Yeah, you’ve got to write it out. And you mentioned that earlier that is something that I’ve been doing for the last month or so is I was journaling in an app on my phone and/or computer for a long time then. And then about a month ago, a buddy of mine convinced me, “Go back to writing by hand, it’s different.” And so, I’ve been free writing. Every morning when I wake up, it’s one of the first parts of my Miracle Morning while my brain is still an alpha, I’m just waking up, and I’ll just start writing and I just go, “Hey, here’s how I feel waking up, here’s what I’m thinking.” And then by the end of it, I always every day, there’s some gem, some nugget that is really valuable. Number three, invest in your future self. So, once you have a clear picture of who you are committed to becoming and being and the life you’re committed to creating, invest in your future self. That could be money. I know, Ben, your 100% talk, you talked a lot about how important it is that when you invest money in something, you tend to take it a lot more seriously and you’re more likely to follow through with the commitments that you’ve made because you’ve invested, there’s money on the line.
If money’s tight right now, invest time. Google. You can find answers to what you need, strategies, people to model, listen to podcast. I mean there’s so many resources available. There’s really no excuse for any of us to not have a plan of action that we either create or adopt from someone else. Number four, practice morning and evening routines, emphasis on morning routines. I can’t recommend that enough. And then number five, and this is big. This is big because I think most of us don’t do this for fear of embarrassment or we don’t know when the right time is but when you’re stuck, reach out for help quickly. Reach out for help quickly and it’s amazing how you can stew over a problem and just bang your head against a wall for weeks, months or even years and one conversation with a friend who might not even qualified to talk. You go, “Nobody knows what I’m going through.” One conversation you go, “Oh my gosh, that’s it. You helped me figure it out.”
So, those five steps are crucial. Actually, do them. Hearing them, learning them does nothing for you. It’s actually scheduling some time to go through and implement those five steps and strategies. Ben, anything else to share before we wrap up this conversation about personality isn’t permanent?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: No, man. I think this is it and I love how you break things down into steps. It’s really cool. That’s how I think when I write articles, and so it’s really cool how you just actively do that as a learner and I think that that’s really awesome. And yeah, I would just encourage people to do it. When your future self is the thing predicting your daily life, you’re going to have a lot more learning and a lot more peak experiences and a lot more you’re just going to have a lot better of a life versus when your past or your current circumstances are the thing driving you right now. I wouldn’t recommend that. So, yeah, thanks for letting me be with you, Hal.
Hal Elrod: Oh, absolutely, man. Where is the best place to get in touch with you and to get the book, Personality Isn’t Permanent?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Book is anywhere and everywhere. The book you can get it Amazon in Kindle, etcetera. My website’s BenjaminHardy.com. You can read all my blog posts there. I am giving away multiple free online courses for anyone who buys the book, deep dive into the course or into the book. The book has about 150 journal prompts throughout it for reframing the past for designing future selves. So, I’ve got a course that walks you through that. I’ve got a journal mastery course which thousands of people have gone through and even a blogging course. I’m kind of teaching my blogging strategy. I’m giving away all that stuff in my website for free for anyone who buys the book.
Hal Elrod: They need to forward their receipt? How do they engage?
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. On my website, I explain it but all they have to do is submit like their order number and their email and then they’ll get access immediately to the free courses.
Hal Elrod: Beautiful, brother. Hey, it’s been a pleasure to be with you too, man. Really appreciate you, Ben, in your work and your friendship and all that you’re doing in the world.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: One thing I have to say for you, Hal, is that your book, The Miracle Equation, has fundamentally shaped my process for launching this book because you said all the podcasts you had gone on and just what you did and that really helped me to clarify my goal. One of the things you actually said and you’re actually quoted in this book, Hal, in my chapter on the truth of personality, Hal Elrod is quoted but when you broke down that you should choose one major goal that shifted my thinking a lot. And so, your work and your process is not only in this book but it’s helping me launch this book. So, I just want to thank you again.
Hal Elrod: That’s awesome, man. You are welcome. And I will give you my address to mail any royalty checks to when we wrap up.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy: You’re welcome. I will.
Hal Elrod: All right. Well, hey, goal achievers, thank you for tuning in. And remember, your personality isn’t permanent. In other words, who you were does not determine who you can choose to be now and who you can choose to become for the rest of your life. And in my opinion and based on all the scientific research done by Dr. Benjamin Hardy, there is no limit to who you can be and who you can become and what you can do and what you can make of your life. Goal achievers, members of the Miracle Morning community, I love you. I’m so grateful for you. Thanks for listening. And I cannot wait to talk to you all next week. Take care.
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