Is a Character Flaw Permanent? Can People Change or Are We Doomed for Cycles of Misery?
I had a conversation with my sister a few years back that is as vivid as if it happened yesterday. I was telling her about a bad choice that a mutual friend of ours had made, and she was so put off by it that she dismissed the whole thing and said, “That’s a character flaw.” And I knew that she had dismissed this person entirely in her mind. Now, I agreed that our friend had made a bad decision (a really bad decision). But I tend to be a lot more forgiving of people. I think it’s because I make so many mistakes. I screw up quite a few times before I get things right. So I thought calling something a character flaw was so permanent, so unforgiving. All these years later, I still find the term “character flaw” fascinating. It seems to apply quite well to the world of personal finance. Is living beyond your means a character flaw? It definitely catches up to you in the long run, but is it a permanent, static character flaw that runs through your pig-headed veins like so much stubborn blood? God, I hope not. Maybe we all have some character flaws but one characteristic we all possess is the ability to change ourselves. It is not easy. On the surface, I would much prefer to live a life where I don’t think too hard and I buy shiny things regularly. But when I think about that idea just a little, I know it’s not for me. I crave new ideas, business ventures, meeting lots of people and trying something new everyday. Shopping and consumerism don’t feed my soul and I’ve always known that. I just didn’t know any other way to be. There’s an interesting book called “The Transformative Way” by Scott Sherman (contact me if you want a copy) and it’s based on the idea of positive psychology. I thought positive psychology was New Age, The Secret-style BS, but it has some legitimate research behind it. It’s easy to mock because it’s studying “achievement, happiness and how people achieve their best”. But as you read a little more into the subject, you realize, “What’s wrong with that?” Why are we afraid to think about what makes human beings happy? Why don’t we study more about how we can compel radical change, transform organizations, governments or ourselves? Positive psychology wants to show people that change is possible and maybe it’s easy to mock it when we don’t see any change likely in ourselves or the world around us.
In The Transformative Way, the author claims that 90% of the time, people don’t change, even when they want or need to (like changing a diet for serious health reasons). The statistics say that 90% of the people reading this article won’t make the changes in their life that they need to in order to improve their lives. But statistics aren’t always accurate. And statistics can always change from month to month, year to year. Can you?