According to the research in neuropsychology, people can change personality traits. However, it takes a great deal of determination and repetition of the new behavior to do so. For example, if you tend to lose your temper easily when frustrated, it takes a lot of effort to stay calm.
Yet, each time you succeed in repeating your new desired behavior, such as staying calm or generating a good mood, it becomes just a bit easier and quicker to transition into that mood the next time.
The neuroplasticity of the brain allows new neural connections to be formed throughout your life. Every time you repeat a new behavior, the networks in the orbitofrontal cortex become a little more efficient at re-enforcing that behavior—the neural pathways run more quickly, like a road that’s being cleared of obstacles and then paved.
With each repetition, PET scan studies show that the associated brain regions work progressively more rapidly and skillfully. Axons branch out and new synapses are formed, creating greater efficiency and ease for the next attempt to resist the old behavior and employ the new behavior.
So there’s some truth to the old adage that it takes willpower to change a bad habit. The less you lose your temper, the weaker those neural connections responsible for that behavior become, and the less prone you are to lose your temper in the future.
The important thing is to repeat the desired habit, and soon it will become ingrained and quite natural—a new way of being.
We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD