This is an important book. Benjamin Hardy takes us on a rich exploration into personality and challenges the dangerous assumption that we are fixed types. This book argues powerfully that we are never merely the sum of our past.
Hardy’s key argument is this: “[Successful people] become who they want to be by orienting their life toward their goals, not as a repeat of the past; by active bravely as their future selves, not by perpetuating who they formerly were.” (p. 9)
I’m a coach and I have used DISC, Enneagram, and Myers-Briggs assessment to help clients grow themselves and their teams. I’ve seen myself grow so I’ve always been careful not to coach people as though they are “stuck” wherever they find themselves.
This is where Hardy’s work is so important because he writes as an expert in organizational psychology. His work provides compelling teaching on the limitations and dangers of using assessments to categorize people in ways that limit them.
There is always a fear that each of us is merely whatever our “type” is as though we are limited and defined by a self-reported score at a given moment in our history. I had a friend who was denied a promotion in a company simply because he didn’t have the DISC profile of a leader.
Hardy helpfully dispels the myth of innate or determined personality. These tests may give us insights into our preferences or even provide a snapshot of where we are in a given moment, but it is a grave error to believe that any person is limited because they score X on a personality assessment.
Moreover Hardy presents research that demonstrates that our present and future self is not caused by our past. Or as he says in opposition to Shakespeare: the past is not prologue or at least it doesn’t have to be. Hardy writes for a reader who desires to make changes to her or his life. The good news according to Hardy’s research is that we are not limited by our past experiences. In fact, the key to a new future is our ability as humans to choose a new future and make decisions about what our past means.
Here are the the promises that Hardy makes to his reader (p. 10):
-Discover the myths of personality that limit most people’s potential
-Decide for yourself the life you want to live, regardless of how different it is from your past or present
-Become emotionally flexible so your past no longer defines you
-Reframe your trauma to believe and live like everything in your life has happened for you and not to you
-Become confident enough to define your own life’s purpose
-Create a network of “empathetic witnesses” who actively encourage your to continue moving forward through your highs and lows
-Enhance your subconscious to overcome addictions and limiting pattters
-Redesign your environment to pull you toward your future rather than keep you stuck in the past
Readers of leadership and self-improvement books will detect some of the standard coaching ingredients in the above list. But Hardy adds a key element lacking in much of the literature–his work is research based. Hardy is a recent Ph.D. graduate from a major research university (Clemson). He understands rigorous research.
He is in a unique space because in addition to his academic credentials, he has worked hard at the craft of writing. His prose style is easy to read and substantive. Moreover he is an entrepreneur with a successful seven figure business.
But it wasn’t always this way for Benjamin Hardy. He had a traumatizing upbringing. But he found a way forward. He has “skin in the game.” His book is a roadmap to his own journey from humble beginnings to a successful marriage, family, and business.
In other words, Dr. Hardy is a voice worth investing the time required to give Personality isn’t Permanent a careful read.
The chapters build slowly and methodically. I appreciated the illustrations of persons who moved from positions of struggle to success. As Hardy guides us, he includes questions that help us apply the lessons immediately and directly to our life so that we can move forward.
Dr. Hardy delivers on his promises.
Key takeaways for me:
(1) We need to create labels for ourselves in light of our goals and not limit our goals to a label given us on an assessment
(2) Our personality is dependent on the environment in which we find ourselves. This book challenges us to put ourselves in environments that enhance and support our goals and not merely one’s that reinforce limiting and fixed beliefs.
(3) Personality tests “are fast food for the soul” (55). They give easy answers to explain why a person is or isn’t successful. In other words, they can serve as an excuse for taking true growth, assuming responsibility, and taking action to achieve one’s deep goals.
(4) I’m challenged anew to ask: “What do I really want? What is my highest purpose? Have I found a massive goal that will pull me out of bed everyday with purpose and passion?
(5) Need to focus on one massive goal rather than on a collection of smaller goals. Play big.
(6) Reinforced the essential role that journaling plays in growth by keeping our goals on the front burner and creating intentional space daily for deep reflection and visualization of our preferred future. Hardy provides a map for deep journaling by filling each chapter with questions for reflection.
(7) Critical role that associations play in life. Refuse to be the “smartest guy in the room” and put self in an environment for growth. Build a team of “empathetic” witnesses and encouragers around myself and be that person for others. This is what I’d call “being known by love and serving as a voice of hope for others.”
(8) Be aware of the danger of initial success and achieving a certain level of status. These can kill off future growth. WE move from goal achievement to status/income/image management/protection.
(9) When pondering the meaning of our past experience (good and bad), remember Sean Stephenson’s final words: “This happened for me, not to me.” (146)
(10) Recognize the physiological effects of suppressing emotions and painful experiences.
(11) Absolute necessity of new challenges, meeting new people, and learning to thrive in new environments. Refuse to be stale.
Who do you desire to be and become? What is preventing you right now from moving toward a bigger, richer, better, and more profound future? If this question raises doubts in your heart, perhaps Personality isn’t Permanent may be just what you need today to forward.