You are listening to the Take A Break podcast with Rachel Hart, episode 88.
Welcome to the Take A Break podcast with Rachel Hart. If you are an alcoholic or an addict, this is not the show for you, but if you are someone who has a highly functioning life, doing very well, but just drinking a bit too much and wants to take a break, then welcome to the show. Let’s get started.
Welcome back everybody. Today I’m going to be talking to you guys about personality versus mindset. I love this topic. It really shifted a lot of things for me. I watch it shift so many things for so many other people that I work with, and it really is a new and different way of considering who you are.
Because I hear from clients all the time when they are working on changing a habit and they are learning about the think-feel-act cycle and I am really challenging them, I’m really asking them to question and change their thinking, I’ll hear them say to me, “Well, that’s just who I am. That’s just my personality. I can’t change it. I’m just someone who has no impulse control when it comes to drinking. I’m just someone who always procrastinates. I’m just someone who is all or nothing in everything I do. I’m just someone who is really sensitive.”
The list goes on. People love I’m just someone who, and you know what? I used to describe myself in these terms too. I found really everything that was wrong with me and my brain kind of turned it into a personality trait. So I would say, “Oh, I’m just someone who eats too fast. I’m just someone who’s uncomfortable in social settings. I’m just someone who wants everything to be perfect.” I really saw this as my personality. And there is a big roadblock when you get stuck in this kind of thinking.
So that’s what I want to talk to you about today. About how being attached to a story about who you are and a story about your personality actually prevents you from knowing yourself, from growing, and most importantly, from changing the habits that you want to change.
Now, I do believe that people have different personalities, but I don’t think that all of our characteristics are immutable and unchangable. And I really see that that is how so many people approach, usually things that are – they deem wrong with themselves. They’ll just say, “Well, I’m just someone who…” So really remember how the think-feel-act cycle works. How you act, whatever you do or don’t do depends on what you are feeling, whatever emotions you are having. And what you are feeling is created by your thoughts.
And I think that most people are unknowingly describing their “personality” when really what they are talking about are a set of thoughts that they have unconsciously had and unconsciously acted out over and over again, and the more they think them, the more you think something like, “Well, I’m just someone who needs everything to be perfect, I’m just someone who always procrastinates, I’m just someone who drinks too much,” the more you will prove these thoughts to be true.
And that’s why this is such a stumbling block when it comes to changing a habit. Because when you want to change a habit, any habit, it is so easy to get stuck into this trap. “Well, this is just who I am. I’m just wired this way.” And when you tell yourself this, when you think these thoughts, “This is just who I am, I’m just wired this way,” you stop change dead in its tracks. You’re not going to take action because you’re so certain that this is just who you are.
So I want to today tell you a little bit about me and a little bit around how the work of learning how to manage my mind, learning these tools, learning about the think-feel-act cycle really helped shift my own view of my personality. Because as I said, I was someone who was very, very good at taking kind of all the things I thought were wrong with me and just deciding that they were part of my personality.
So I’m sure a lot of you have heard of the Myers-Briggs personality test. I think that I took it for the very first time in college. Myers-Briggs is a test that was created in the 1940s to help sort people into the right kind of jobs and what it does is it categorizes people based on four different areas. Basically, you answer a series of questions to determine whether or not you prefer to deal with certain things.
So you can prefer to deal with people and things, that’s one choice, or information and ideas. Or you can prefer to deal with facts and reality versus possibilities and potential. Logic and truth versus values and relationship. Or you can prefer a well-structured lifestyle versus one that goes with the flow.
And based on your preferences, you will get different letters. So if you prefer people and things, you get a label of E for extroversion. If you prefer ideas and information, you get a letter I for introversion. If you prefer facts and reality, you get a letter S for sensing, versus if you have a preference for possibilities and potential you get a letter N for intuition. I don’t really understand how some of them – they came up with some of these letters.
If you have a love of logic and truth, you’ll get a T for thinking. On the other hand, if you have a love for values and relationships, you’ll get an F for feeling. And finally, you’ll get a J for judgment if you prefer a well-structured lifestyle or a P for perception if you prefer a lifestyle that goes with the flow.
So basically, you can get any number of different four letter codes based on your different preferences. And this according to Myers-Briggs is your personality type. So when I took this test in college, I was labeled ISTJ, meaning I preferred ideas and information, facts and realities, logic and truth, and a well-structured lifestyle. And I remember taking the test and getting my results and thinking, “Yeah, that kind of sounds like me.”
Now, it’s interesting because it’s a self-reported test, right? Someone’s not assessing you. You’re assessing yourself, which when you think about it, well, if you have all these thoughts about yourself that you replay over and over, yeah, you’re probably going to get a result and think, “Yeah, this sounds like me.”
Now, but here’s the other thing: each four letter code that a person could potentially get, then you can read a bunch of descriptions about the profile. So for ISTJ, you would find a description like this: ISTJ, always by the book. ISTJs believe that things work best with clearly defined rules but this makes them reluctant to bend those rules or try new things even when the downside is minimal. Truly unstructured environments leave ISTJs all but paralyzed.
So you get to read little descriptions like that about yourself and then you also get to read the best jobs for your personality type combination. And my best jobs are professions like an officer in the military, a lawyer, a judge, a police officer, an accountant, an auditor, data analyst, or a financial manager. So I do kind of find it funny to read these out loud because I am a life coach. I am not an officer in the military or an auditor. And not only am I a life coach, but I have my own business so I’m also an entrepreneur.
And if you go by Myers-Briggs, you would find that I am not suited to do this at all. Actually, according to their test, especially for entrepreneurs, you need to prefer things like intuition and perceiving. In other words, you need to have the letters N and P in your profile. I don’t have either of those because those people, according to Myers-Briggs have a higher orientation for creativity and risk taking and impulsivity and autonomy. And those things apparently go well with entrepreneurship and I am apparently the exact opposite.
So why am I telling you all of this? Because here’s the thing: if I were to base my decisions on this self-reported personality test that I took, I’m totally not the right match for what I am doing. And I do think that sometimes this is what happens with personality. We become so fixated on this is who I am and who I am is unchangeable that we can’t kind of see beyond what is possible for this.
Because I want you to consider, who cares? Who cares what you think your personality is? Who cares what my personality type is? I really think when I consider the work that I have embarked on, this is what I want to do, this is my passion. And you know what? If I want to take action towards anything in life, I just need to pay attention to my thoughts. Both the thoughts that will get me there and the thoughts that are standing in the way.
And this is so true when it comes to changing habits. I want you to consider when you think about the think-feel-act cycle and when you consider the idea that by changing your thoughts you can change how you feel, the very first obstacle you will probably run up against is a thought like, “It’s too hard to change my thoughts. How can I change who I am? This is just how I think. This is how I’ve always thought. This is just the kind of person that I am.”
Do you see all of these thoughts, plug them into the cycle, what are they going to create for you? You’re going to be stuck. You’re going to be sure that change is impossible. You won’t take any action. This kind of thinking will keep you stuck. If you are so latched onto the idea that your personality is unchangeable and that your thoughts make up your personality, well then you’re going to have a very difficult time changing any habit, including the habit of drinking.
I want you to consider instead that your personality is just a story that you have about yourself. And that story was created by all your unconscious thinking and all of that unconscious thinking was made stronger every time the cycle played out unknowingly. But it is just a story and the story can be rewritten.
So when you think about how this connects to drinking, it really does. Drinking is an action. It is in that A line of the think-feel-act cycle. You got to understand both the feeling and the thought driving it. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard people say, “Well, I’m just not someone who’s very talkative unless I’m drinking,” or, “I’m just someone who has no impulse control. I’m just the kind of person who likes to rebel and go out and get drunk. I’m just the kind of person who drinks too much. I do everything too much.”
I mean really, I hear these thoughts and it’s as if they are written in stone. As if, oh, that’s just who I am so what are you going to do? But when you are stuck in this idea that your personality is getting in the way of change, it will be impossible to change. And that is why you can focus either on your so-called personality or you can focus on developing and cultivating a new mindset.
You can practice new beliefs about yourself, new beliefs about your ability to change, new beliefs about your ability to respond to an urge, new beliefs about who you can be in a social situation and how you can have fun and how you can unwind and how you can relax. You can do that if you focus on the mindset piece rather than being stuck in this is just who I am.
Now, your brain’s going to hesitate to do this because the brain likes to be efficient, and it is really, really efficient to just belief all the thoughts that you already have about your personality and not question them. And so you will run up against your brain, but that’s okay. That’s why you’re doing the work of learning how to manage your mind.
I’ll tell you, I watch people hang on to their “personality” for dear life as if letting go of who they think they are would mean disaster. And you know what? I kind of did this too for a long time. But the truth is you must let go of so much of your thinking and your thoughts about yourself if you’re going to create sustainable change. Because I will tell you, if I had kept thoughts like, “Oh, well I’m just an awkward person.” I love that thought. I had that thought for a long time. I’m just an awkward person, as if that was like, a piece of my personality. That’s why I needed drink.
If I had kept the thought, “Well, I’m just someone who doesn’t have any impulse control, just always been like that, born that way,” if I had kept the thought, “I just can’t be myself without a drink, I can’t loosen up, I can’t relax, I can’t be social without a drink,” if I had kept any of these thoughts, the habit would never have changed. I would have stayed stuck forever.
And I did stay stuck for a very long time because all of these thoughts were phrased as if it was just my personality. I had to start doing the mindset piece. I had to start believing that I could practice and cultivate new beliefs about myself and my ability to change, that it was possible that maybe I wasn’t just born awkward. Maybe I didn’t come out of the womb that way, that it was possible that yes, in fact, there were plenty of areas of my life where I did have impulse control because you know what? I wasn’t drinking as soon as I woke up in the morning. I wasn’t drinking at work. In fact, many times I wasn’t drinking depending on who I was around.
So I did have impulse control. And the other thing that I really had to learn was this thought, “I can’t be myself without a drink.” Because the truth was I was myself a lot of the time without a drink. I just had taught my brain in so many situations, oh, this is how you loosen up, this is how you relax, this is how you have fun. I had to change, I had to be open to possibility that all of these thoughts I had about my personality were wrong.
And so here’s what I want you to do today. I want you to write down the personality traits that you think you have that you make it difficult to change your drinking. You can write down as many as you want. And once you’ve written down those traits, I want you to look at them and I want you to ask yourself, are all of these personality traits, are they fixed? Are they unchangeable? Or is it possible that you could start to shift them?
Then I want you to really ask yourself, okay, so what would I need to think differently about myself if I was going to change these parts of myself? How would my mindset need to be different? And then finally, just ask yourself this, will I be able to change the habit of drinking if I keep believing that these personality traits that my brain is sure is making it hard to change the habit are fixed and unmovable?
The shift from personality to mindset is everything. Whenever you catch yourself saying, “Well, I’m just the kind of person who,” “I’m just wired this way,” “This is just who I am,” you really have to stop. You really have to question those thoughts because those thoughts are killer. They do not lead to positive action in the cycle.
Alright, do this work. Write it down. I know some of you are doing it in your head. It is always, always, always better on paper. If you’ve got any questions about today’s episode or you want to hear me talk about something on the podcast, just send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Otherwise, I will see you next week.
Hey guys, if you’re finding this podcast helpful, and I really hope you are, I would love if you head on over to iTunes and leave a review. And as a special thank you, I’ve updated and expanded my free urge meditation giveaway. I’ve created two audio meditations plus a brand new workbook that will teach you a different way to respond to the urge to drink. The meditations are super simple. All it takes is five minutes and a pair of headphones. And each one now comes with a follow-up exercise in the workbook to help you dig deeper and really retrain your brain when it comes to the habit of drinking. So after you leave a review on iTunes, all you need to do is head on over to rachelhart.com/urge, input your information, and I’ll make sure you get a copy of both meditations plus the workbook in your inbox.
Thanks for listening to this episode of Take A Break From Drinking. If you like what was offered in today’s show and want more, please come over to www.rachelhart.com where you can sign up for weekly updates to learn more about the tools that will help you take a break.