It’s an age-old question – how much can a person truly change, deep down? In my book, Be Who You Want (£14.99, Hachette), I looked for an answer from the fascinating world of personality psychology. I read widely to discover what contemporary psychology considers to be the fundamental traits that make us who we are, and most exciting, whether we can choose to change them.
The following seven books I drew on will help you better understand who you are now, and who you might become.
Read more about personality change:
7 of the best psychology books
The Art And Science Of Personality Development
Dan P McAdams
Contemporary scientific psychology views human personality as made up of five key traits: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. In his book from 2015, the US psychology professor Dan P McAdams introduces readers to these traits, explains their relative stability and their powerful consequences for our lives.
Crucially, however, McAdams explains that there is more to who you are than your basic traits – you are also defined by your goals and by the stories you tell about your own life. What I found especially inspiring was his exploration of how these elements of your identity can interact with your basic traits – suggesting that, by changing your goals and your personal story, you can begin to transform who you are.
An argument I make in my book is that before embarking on a journey of deliberate personality change, you must make an honest and realistic assessment of the kind of person you are today. Similarly, in her book from 2017, the US business psychologist Eurich argues that self-understanding is the “meta-skill” of the 21st Century.
Of course, there are various personality tests you can take online, and it makes sense to ask trusted friends and relatives to score you on those tests too (after all, we all have various blindspots about our own traits).
However, beyond those basic tests, Eurich offers various fun and creative ways to find out more about yourself and how you’d like to change, such as by asking yourself the so-called “miracle question” – if a miracle occurred overnight and a change occurred to …….