A lot of incoming freshman come into college seeking to change their lives. Usually, this means reinventing yourself as a person.
This is fantastic and should extend beyond college.
I can hear the chorus of naysayers.
“But you should just be yourself!”
“Don’t change who you are, that’s not keeping it real!”
“It can’t be done!”
This is all nonsense and comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of human beings: who we are is consistent, but what we do, how we look and the actions we take is not.
In other words, while it is true that parts of us cannot be changed, most of our behaviors and actions can.
This is because human beings are creatures of habit. Well over 90% of the things that we do every day are predictable and do not change from day to day.
The way we socialize is habitual. The way we do our work is habitual. The way we walk is habitual. The way we breathe is habitual.
We get our habits by acting in the same way over and over again, oftentimes for years.
Biologists and psychologists go a step further and claim that a lot of our habits are programmed, including our personality traits. Read up on Myers-Briggs if you don’t believe me.
The good news is that while you might naturally programmed to be a certain way, you have the power to override that programming.
For example, if you are naturally a person who prefers solitude , you can become a person who prefers socializing.
If you are a person who feels the need to logically think about something before taking action, you can become a person who is more spontaneous and goes with the flow.
If you are someone who feels uncomfortable vibing with someone else, that can most definitely change.
Now, in my opinion, it is best to develop yourself on all levels. For example, you should be perfectly comfortable both when you are by yourself reading a book AND in a crazy nightclub. I think going overboard with one or the other makes you a pretty shallow person.
Anyway, making changes to yourself requires you to change your habits. This is tough because your body and mind will resist furiously.
If you are a shy guy and you want to become more social, you will feel anxiety when you go and talk to people. Why is this? Because you are going against a habit of not being social that has been reinforced for years!
Luckily, you are a human being who is not a slave to her instincts. You have willpower. You can override that shit.
Unfortunately, willpower burns up quickly.
As anyone who has tried to go to the gym knows, it is much easier to go to the gym the first week when you are all excited than it is the second week when that enthusiasm wanes and rubbish thoughts start to appear…
“I’ll skip today. One day won’t hurt right?”
“Oh, I didn’t eat my pre-workout meal, so I won’t be able to work very hard.”
“Oh, it’s raining outside. Maybe I should just stay in.”
“It’s just not me.”
More often than not, those thoughts win out and you stay the exact same, non-fit person you were before.
Instead of relying entirely on your willpower to change a habit, it is usually better to use your willpower to create systems that force you to do the things needed to change the habit. This article goes into this in more detail.
Using the workout example, you would leave yourself no other option than to show up to the gym. Perhaps you have a training partner pick you up at a certain time everyday. Perhaps you tell a friend to cash a $500 check if you skip a day.
Those rubbish thoughts suddenly have no power over you.
Fundamentally, this is why most college students fail to make positive changes to themselves: they allow themselves to be overwhelmed by their minds telling them not to do the things required to change themsleves.
I mean, 80% of the battle is usually just showing up.
If you want to improve your social skills, 80% of your success will come from just getting yourself to talk to people.
If you want to improve your grades, 80% of your success will come from opening your textbook.
If you want to get a boyfriend, 80% of the battle is showing up to places where there are guys swirling around.
Here is the take home lesson:
1. Figure out what changes you want in your life.
2. Figure out the person you need to become to have those changes happen.
3. Force yourself to become that person by doing the work necessary to change your old habits.
Make yourself the person you know you can be.