I was recently participating in a family event. As I was walking by I heard someone saying: “well what can you do about it… That’s her character, and people can’t change.” The fact that people believe that character and attitude can’t be changed always surprises me. I keep hearing this from people who are considered educated yet with all those university degrees, it feels like some very basic truths are missed.
Everything is either growing or disintegrating
Everything in our world is either growing or disintegrating, including our bodies and minds. Likewise a person’s character or attitude is continuously changing. The reason many people think they can’t change is because of habits. A habit is an action that requires no conscious mental effort. This action is so ingrained in us, that we don’t give any thought of whether or not to perform it.
For example, did you have to decide whether to get dressed this morning? Since habits help us manage the data load of our everyday lives, we are usually inclined to make more of them. We become so accustomed to them, that we think they control our lives. That’s why most people think they can’t change. They believe that their habits are stronger than they are. The truth is that our habits are as strong as the power we give them.
Changing our habits is something that requires a big enough reward to do so. If we feel the reward for changing our behavior is big enough, then it would have more power than the habit. So how can you change your attitude?
Here are 3 ways that will help you change yourself and your attitude:
1. Construct a new habit
If habits are ingrained in our behavior it’s only logical that changing them will change our attitude. Choose a habit you wish to change. For example: arriving late for meetings. Start working on it. Be there 20 minutes before the meeting, and then do it again and again. You might think that a new habit takes 21-30 days to form. This is probably not true and originates in a mix of study and folklore.
The more recent studies show that habits take anywhere between 18-254 days to become fully automated. This is not to discourage you from trying out a new habit, but rather so you know that changing habits takes time. So if you slip up on adopting your new habit it’s completely okay, don’t beat yourself up for it.
“Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Shaw
2. Think different thoughts
Our thoughts are vibrations in certain frequencies that we send out. Whatever we send out, the universe returns back. Just think of a radio station that is tuned to a certain station. Each station is a different frequency, and in order to receive a different broadcast, we simply change the tuned frequency.
This is the same with our thoughts. Once we change the frequency of our thoughts, we would receive different results. So negative (low-frequency) thoughts will bring negative results, and high-frequency thoughts will bring positive results.
Use the below exercise to change your thoughts:
Choose any object. It could be a person or an inanimate object that has some relation to yourself. For 5 minutes, think about all the good things this object/person brings into your life. How does that object/person make your life easier or more enjoyable? Then, focus on acknowledging the good and give thanks for having that object/person in your life. This exercise immediately switches the vibration you are currently on into a more positive one. It is actually possible to feel the change of feeling when we give thanks for the good in our life.
3. Adopt a new perspective
The way we look at things affects our thoughts about them. Everything just is. We are the ones that give meaning to it based on the way we perceive it. So changing our behavior can be achieved by changing the way we perceive things.
Let’s say that you didn’t manage to complete your daily tasks one day. One perspective could be that there aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything. However, shifting the perspective could mean that we could look at the situation as if you are simply prolific. You are simply a very fruitful person. Feels better, right?
One exercise to help shift your perspective is to write down whatever bothers you on a piece paper. Then sit a table where you can see the paper. Choose 2-3 people you respect and think highly of. They could be someone you personally know, or even historical figures (my favorite is Churchill).
Then sit at the table with the paper in front and say out loud everything that bothers you about the written subject. Once you finish, move to a different place at the table and imagine what one of the people you chose think about the situation. What would he have to say? Act as that person, and say his thoughts out loud.
Do that a few times while switching chairs and people, so you’d have a range of perspectives to choose from. Then adopt the perspective that you like best.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates
Our attitude towards things is comprised of our thoughts, feelings and actions. These three are inseparable. Just as if you have a cake, which has ingredients that construct the whole, so does our attitude and it is constructed of these 3 parts.
We can change the minute we decide to. Our attitude is plastic, and can change at any point in life. It only requires us to decide we want to change, commit to our decision and keep at it until we feel the shift. After that, repeating the new pattern would make it our new nature. So next time you hear someone say that people can’t change, tell them how you did.