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Has one of the oldest questions about personality now been answered?

Can someone’s personality really change? For many years psychologists gave the same answer as any pessimist: no, people’s personalities don’t change.

This was even more true once they got to 30-years-old. By that time, it was thought that it was pretty much set in stone, if people preferred their own company or were always worried about something, they tended to stay that way.

In the last 15 years though, this view has changed. Instead of personality being set in stone by the age of 30, now evidence is emerging that there is some scope for change.

To settle this you’ve got to look at a large group of people over a long period of time.

This is exactly what Boyce et al. (2013) looked at in some recent research. He studied the ‘big five’ aspects of personality: extroversion, agreeableness, openness-to-experience, conscientiousness and neuroticism. What they wanted to see was whether these changed over time and if changes translated into changes in well-being.

They surveyed 8,625 people over two years. What kind of difference had two years made to their lives? Had their personalities changed? And if so, had their satisfaction with life changed with it?

Firstly, they confirmed that personality was the strongest predictor of satisfaction with life. This is well-established and helps explain why some people have everything and are never satisfied and some people have next-to-nothing and seem quite happy with life. It’s not just what you have that makes you satisfied (or not), it’s how you think about it. And those habits of thought are heavily influenced by personality.

Secondly, they confirmed that people’s personalities had shifted over the two-year period. Indeed the degree of personality change in those two years was equivalent to changes in other demographic variables such as marital status, employment and income.

They also found that these changes in personality were associated with significant shifts in satisfaction with life. The strength of the effect was about twice that for all the other aspects of circumstances combined. In other words, the typical shift in personality has a greater effect on your satisfaction with life than all the typical changes in circumstances, like income or marital status, all added up together.

This shows quite convincingly that not only do people change over time, but that these shifts in personality can have significant effects on how we experience our lives. Even better news, we now know that people can take deliberate steps to make constructive positive changes to how they think about their situations and how they deal with the challenges that life throws at them, resulting in becoming more motivated and more resilient.

So, we’ve taken the best researched, most scientifically proven techniques for doing this and applied them to help sales people to be even more successful. Our clients report fantastic results with this approach to developing their sales people, making them more motivated, resilient and successful.

If you’d like to know more just get in touch