For me, one of the most frustrating aspects of psychology and “common knowledge” is the ridiculous belief that our personalities are somehow set in stone at birth, never to be changed or changeable.
Many studies in the past few decades have found evidence to the contrary, proving this belief to be completely incorrect.
New research reveals that changing your character or some personality trait, can greatly increase life satisfaction, even more than increases in income or career status.
A new study published in the March issue of Social Indicators Research investigated how evolving character traits relate to life satisfaction. Subjects age 15 to 93 were measured four years apart in the “Big Five” personality traits of openness to experience, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism, while also tracking fluctuations in the subjects’ lives like marital status, income and employment status.
The data revealed that participants’ character changed during those four years at least as much as demographic factors, and those small personality shifts were closely tied to life satisfaction shifts. For example, those who became more open-minded, reported greater contentment.
A few personality changes were observed. For example, the ability to maintain stronger relationships led to increased conscientiousness, agreeableness and extroversion. For women, divorce increased extro- version and openness. Remarriage led to decreased neuroticism in men.
The lead researcher, psychologist Christopher Boyce said, “Not only does personality change occur, but it is an important influence and a possible route to greater well-being.”