"Change is a door that can only be opened from the inside"

Bill McAneny's picture
Published on Fri, 04/25/2014 - 15:09 by Bill McAneny

Open DoorQuestion: “How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?” Answer: “Only one but the light bulb has to want to change.” Sure it’s not that funny, in fact it’s a serious point. We often hold the metaphoric mirror up to people, show them their flaws; but can we change, and why would we want to?

OK first things first: We can’t really change our personalities. Personality is a result of the interaction between genetic conditions (what’s in our biological data) and environmental conditions (what is fed into us during those first crucial 7-8 years and can be represented this way: P=(GxE). So from quite an early age our personalities are roughly set.

But we can modify our behaviour. Behaviour is a result of the interaction between personality and situation and can be represented in this way: B=(PxS). So change the situation we are all capable of modifying our behaviour. When I teach psychology everyone loves these descriptions until they realise the implications: you really can change if you want to. 

But of course we can’t leave it there. I have worked in organisations across the world, confronted some very senior people with some difficult truths and they sometimes say: “why would I want to change?” So there is another dimension, which is the motivation to change. People are motivated by a variety of reasons and so it’s useful to help them find a reason to do so. Some reasons could be:

  • Altruism (appeal to it being the right thing to do)
  • Improve your stock (you’ll be better thought of)
  • Odd one out (everyone else is progressing and you’re not)
  • Look at her/him (example of tangible benefits in someone else)
  • Cementing (you’ll keep getting the same old results)
  • It will make life easier (appeal to laziness)
  • These are career-limiting behaviours (you won’t progress if you don’t change)

So it is possible for people to change but we have to consider why they would want to. For a deeper understanding of personality and behaviour you might find this helpful: https://www.udemy.com/how-to-get-people-practical-psychology/?couponCode=PCAWEBSITE20

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