July 14

WHAT ABOUT OURSELVES CAN WE CHANGE…AND WHAT WE CANNOT CHANGE

Online there are many quizzes that will tell us what type of person we are.

Introvert or Extrovert?

Questioner or Upholder?  (Thanks Gretchen Rubin)

Batman or Superman?

Cat or dog?

Even before the internet happened, we as humans were looking for ways to understand ourselves better using categorizations.

What’s your sign? Scorpio? Aries?

Blood type A, B, AB, or O?

Pitta, Kapha, or Vata?

And of course,

Organizing by identity “Where are you from?” Or the occasional follow-up, “But where are you from from?”

(race, ethnicity, gender… not so immutable as we once thought)

Or by team colors…

But the reality is that these are just markers, temporary bookmarks, most of which can be changed.

There are only a few more permanent qualities that we have, that cannot be changed. And even those, still in some ways mutable, if we decide to mutate them and have the resources of time, money, or will to do so.

Part of us as humans, as animals really, is that we look for categorization – of others and of ourselves. It’s built into our brains, for adaptive reasons. The quicker we can categorize someone as friend or enemy, as group member or not – these are evolutionary tools of survival, even if they are often misused. Stereotyping – of others, and also of ourselves – is limiting, but it’s also baked into how we move through the world. It derives from our neurological wiring, it’s that much a part of us.

What’s also a part of us — as humans that is, and only a few other animals have this special thing — is a separate part of our brains that can do the critical thinking, the reevaluating that is in opposition to all the categorizing and stereotyping done by the more automatic part. It is not just a separate function, it’s a separate organ. Your cat does not have this part. It’s the ability to rethink and reframe the categorizations made by the other part.

When we identify ourselves, “I’m this kind of person” and leave it at that, we put ourselves in that box.

I’m not a Virgo. For years I just assumed there would be no way to get really organized. Because the Virgos all trumpet that: “I’m Virgo so I’m super organized!”

Whew, I’m off the hook.

Since my birthdate is one thing I cannot change, I took myself off the hook on that one — for myself at least.

But now I can hire a Virgo, and thereby fill in the gaps.

We can upgrade ourselves by partnering with others who fill in our gaps. In doing so, we may appear to take on their qualities.

We may not see a way forward to change, if we put ourselves in a box, and there may be a good reason for that.

It’s scary to change. It feels less solid. We all need a certain amount of solidity, and it has been said also that a rolling stone gathers no moss. That can be a good thing, to be open to change, but if moss for example represents money, or a body of accomplishments… then it will benefit us to slow that stone down.

I liked my answer on an online work-personality quiz I took recently… so I’m reluctant to retake that quiz. What if I get a different personality? I prefer to hold the cards I drew.

Ayurveda divides constitutional types into Pitta, Vata, and Kapha. Before you think, Oh, but that’s only in India, it doesn’t apply to me…Think again. Consider that Western medical typology also recognizes three main constitutional types (Endomorph, Ectomorph, Mesomorph). We just don’t hear about them very much. But in Ayurvedic medicine, these types are very important. A Pitta type who catches a cold will be given a different treatment from what the Kapha type gets. So our constitutional type defines us, but it doesn’t define us completely. A Kapha type with a Vata imbalance will look different from a Vata type with a Kapha imbalance. If you look close, that is.

If almost everything is mutable, malleable, then we can try on a different “mindhat” (that’s my word for a mindset you can change), incredibly easily in fact. We don’t have to change anything about our physical appearance even. We don’t have to lose weight. We don’t have to get ripped! We don’t need to change our hair or our skin.

It’s true though, that we might need support, help, to maintain a new mindhat on our heads. Swapping out your mindhat is easy to say, and it’s especially easy for me to say, for you. “Just change your mindhat!” So the key is, how can you make it easier to maintain that new mindhat in place, without an errant breeze blowing it off your head? What are the tools you need to keep it in place for now (because it’s not permanent either, remember that — just something you are trying on. It might become your signature hat. Or maybe it’s just the look of the month. What will help you keep it in place for now?

For me, I can’t get a big task done for my business unless I report to someone. If there is no deadline, and better, a series of deadlines, it just might not happen. I might forget, even for something important to me. What does get me going is the prospect of getting to a finish line reward. I’ve always been goal-driven, and sometimes for very superficial reasons, like wanting to get an A+ on my exam. But those superficial reasons kept me doing my work… and gave me a very high GPA too. As an adult without “grades,” I was not as successful. I really should have changed my grade goals to money goals early on. I didn’t do it early enough, but I finally figured it out. I needed to set goals there too, tangible number goals. For getting my work done, I needed to have an assistant whose job it was to check up on me for each micro-deadline I set. It wasn’t enough to set one deadline of what I needed to get to her. There had to be another deadline for the next stage, and then another, and another. Because that’s how I get things done…not left to my own devices, but rather with a carrot dangling from a stick, something for me to chase.

I decided instead of procrastinating all day long sitting over one task I wanted to get done, that I’d separate it into a short task that I could do in a hurry, like, whatever gets done in the next half hour, that’s what will be submitted. And lo and behold I became much more productive. Because I wasn’t spending the whole day trying to get that first task done. I’d leave it till the end and then bust it out, or I’d seriously limit my time to do it, and then say GEMO! – good enough, move on.

I didn’t change, fundamentally. If I took away the assistant with the carrot, and the micro deadlines and timers, I’d likely revert to lying around on the sofa browsing Facebook and mulling over what high-end chocolate I should order. Oh, am I being hard on myself? Nope, just realistic, because it’s happened before!

But on the outside, with my supports in place, I have changed. I have become the apparently productive and apparently organized person that I still don’t feel I am, deep down, and that maybe I never will be. I’m not going to wait for my insides to change. Changing the outside is sometimes more important.

HABIT – (from habitus – latin) – condition, demeanor, appearance, dress – – putting on a habit – how about a personality habit?

Like a hat?

A “mindhat”?


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