The big themes of personality—whether you are shy or outgoing, relaxed or a worrywart—seem to be scripted at a very young age. But personality isn’t necessarily set in stone,
the ornery and bleak can reshape their temperaments and passion into their lives. Most of these things can be changed. It’s not easy and requires going against your own grain.
One way to start is with the 24 character strengths that have been identified —familiar qualities we admire, such as integrity, loyalty, kindness, vitality. Many of these qualities amount to habitual ways of responding to the world—habits that can be learned by looking more closely at the smaller ways we can and do change.
Eventually, the new way of being can come to feel like second nature. Inherently introverted, a university professor realized early on in his career as an academic that his reticence would prove disastrous in the lecture hall. So he learned to be more outgoing, to crack jokes, and to entertain big classes full of psychology students. “Do I still have an introverted temperament? Yes, if I’m in a big crowd, I get anxious, but my behavior is consistently extroverted, because I’ve worked to make it that way. Now, it’s very spontaneous.” Whether his personality has truly changed is beside the point. He may not be an extrovert, but he behaves like one, and is treated like one.
Tweaking the way you interpret and react to the world can be a transformative experience, freeing you up to act in new ways. At first, it feels awkward, even bizarre. But with new behaviors come new experiences, creating a feedback loop that, over time, reinforces the transition.
Try paying more attention to your mind-set. Are you concentrating on avoiding failure or looking forward to an opportunity to do something well? The protection mode—focusing on being safe—might get in the way of your reaching your goals. For example, are you hoping to get through a business lunch without embarrassing yourself, or are you thinking about how riveting the conversation might be? That slight difference in mentality, changes how you think, how you feel, what parts of the brain light up. It subtly inflects your interactions with the world, and is one simple way to have more fun with what you already do. Learn to get better at seeing the good in things.
Some sought-after qualities are easier to develop than others. Courage, joy, passion, and optimism are among the more amenable to cultivation, but each requires mastering a different—and sometimes surprising—set of skills. Cultivating these characteristics puts you on the road to that blend of happiness, satisfaction, and purpose that is the height of human functioning, what positive psychologists call “the good life”.
Learning to think like an optimist, it turns out, is less important than acting like one. They suffer less and recover quicker. They’re healthier and better-liked and have stronger marriages and more fun. These qualities stem from cognitive habits that can be learned.The key to increasing optimism lies in understanding its true nature. It’s not relentless cheer or “positive thinking.” It has more to do with how you behave, an optimistic outlook can be cultivated, but it’s even better to cultivate optimistic behavior—engagement and persistence toward one’s goals. Anticipating a better future, an optimist takes the steps necessary to create it.
Pessimists are skeptical that their own actions can lead to good results and tend to overlook positive outcomes when they do occur. To overcome this stumbling block, that you train yourself to pay attention to good fortune. Keep a log in which you write down three positive things that come about each day. This will help you convince yourself that favorable outcomes actually happen all the time, making it easier to begin taking action.
Keep a journal, too, but don’t write down your darkest thoughts and fears. Instead, envision a future that you desire and describe how it could evolve out of your present circumstances. By clarifying exactly what you’ll need to do to get what you want, you can create your own map to a more hopeful state of mind. it is easier to make small moves that lead to gratifying results, building further enthusiasm that will protect you from setbacks.
Passion Taking the plunge
You know it when you see it. Someone who is fully engaged, deeply involved, totally dedicated—a person brimming with passion. But finding a pursuit that pushes your buttons can infuse anyone with sudden zeal for life. The secret about consuming passions, though, is that while they appear effortless, they require discipline and ability. If they were easy, they wouldn’t be so rewarding. Moments of “flow,” when you are so absorbed in what you’re doing that you lose yourself. This, in turn, generates feelings of mastery, well-being, and enduring satisfaction.
Many people have at least one such passion. But for those who are seeking this sense of fulfillment, there are a few tricks. The first step is to commit to learning a bit about a subject. Passions don’t arrive like bolts out of the blue. They build slowly, through the process of gradual mastery. Passion and interest, come out of practice and expertise. The thing that scares you the most tends to be the most fulfilling.
Joy – The art of loving life.
To bring more joy and passion into your life, you must paradoxically be more open to experiencing sadness, anxiety, and fear. Live more fully in the present moment, and to look for the joy in everything, including failure, disappointment, and sickness. Joy is often quiet and reflective rather than loud and exuberant. Feel all your feelings more deeply, and take pleasure even from sadness. Joy can also be held back by rigidity. Scrutinize the prohibitions and barriers that structure your life. The way to living a more zestful life is to be guided and flexible rather than governed.
“Savoring” is the art of managing positive feelings. Whereas coping well means dealing successfully with problems and setbacks, savoring—glorying in what goes right—is an equally crucial emotional competence. If all you’re doing is trying to get by, trying to avoid the bad, you’re missing half of life. Although people tend to think that taking pleasure in good things comes naturally, it’s really a skill.
To heighten joy in life, when something good happens, make time to pay attention to it. Share the experience: the happiest people celebrate triumphs with others. Take a “mental photograph” in which you describe the positive event and its circumstances to yourself in great detail.
Courage – Do the right thing.
Day-to-day courage might involve confronting a bullying boss. It could mean stepping up to take responsibility for a mistake, speaking out against something you think is wrong. And being courageous has nothing to do with how afraid you are, It’s a matter of how strongly you feel about your goals.