Why do people behave the way they do?

For centuries, philosophers and psychologists have debated personal identity, and what makes a person. And although today we know a lot more about what it takes for a person to persist in time, we certainly don’t know everything.

Anaïs Nin, the great French-born novelist, once wrote: “Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.”

Since you were born, you have encountered innumerable people, experiences, books, films, and cultures that have continuously shaped your perception, cognition, memory, knowledge, etc. Even though you the same person, it is indisputable that you have evolved over the years.

Change isn’t simply an important aspect of life — it’s life itself. Your mind and body are changing every second of every day.

Daniel Gilbert writes in his book, Stumbling on Happiness, “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’ve ever been. The one constant in our lives is change.”

All of our experiences are constantly changing us.

Your natural personality (e.g, introvert/extrovert, and character traits) may not significantly change. A major personality change usually isn’t part of this evolving process.

“Although a person’s behaviour may change under different circumstances, personality is fairly stable and not easily altered,” says Dr Michele Leno, DML Psychological Services, PLLC.

But your worldview or reality about life and living it keeps changing to shape you into who you think you should become. You don’t possess the same consciousness as your younger self.

Many people today still believe that who they are now is pretty much who they will be forever, according to research:

After examining the responses of more than 19,000 people gathered over four months in 2011 and 2012, the researchers — Daniel Gilbert, a professor of psychology at Harvard University and author of the book Stumbling on Happiness, Jordi Quoidbach, of the National Fund for Scientific Research in Belgium, and University of Virginia psychologist Timothy Wilson — discovered that even though most people acknowledge that their lives have changed over the past decade, they don’t believe change is constant.

How you think and everything you consider to make informed decisions about your life and career is still evolving.

If you are a life-long learner, you evolve rapidly than you realise because of the different mental models, ideas, and life principles you learn about every day.

The reality is, we are constantly changing, evolving, and being changed by everything around us. You are either becoming a better version of yourself or worse version of yourself if you are not open to growth.

“Recognising that we are constantly working to evolve ourselves…is critical to success,” says leadership development expert Liz Bentley.

She calls this process “stepping into your power.”

Your consciousness (and the physical body) is in a perpetual state of reassembly, always becoming with or without your consent.

For millions of people, emotional struggles sabotage their ability to demand the best of themselves as they evolve. So they end up living the realities and expectations of others.

To take complete control of your evolving process, and move closer to the best life you want for yourself, you need to improve your self-knowledge and notice when your environment or people around are drawing you to their perceptions and whether that’s what you want for your future self. Adjusting your self-conception to account for this truth may be profoundly liberating.

The French philosophical giant, Michel Foucault, once said:

“I don’t feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning.”

In life, we never cease to become, even when you pursue happiness, marriage, or a better retirement, and ultimately get what you want, that new reality changes what you want about life, and has an effect on your worldview going forward.

Our environment, our relationships, and our perspectives will remain in continuous change, and with this change will arise new difficulties, new directions, new understanding.

As we evolve, we take pride in the accomplishments of each passing stage of life, but time will demand that we continue to roll and change.

The important thing to remember as you evolving is to aim to become better than who you were yesterday and not to hang on to who you were and limit your potential growth. Be careful of the natural temptation to hold tightly onto the past.

“To latch onto and aim to maintain a particular state or stage of life is an untenable fantasy and a deliberate rejection of potential metamorphoses. Whether we wish it or not, existence is always interfacing with and altering us, as we are it. To accept this truth is to reorient oneself away from delusions of destination. To deny it is to reject the opportunities offered by change, to yield to what Nin calls “death”,” writes Jordan Bates.

To change is to vacate the past and move ever-closer to a better end.

But careful you don’t become anything. The possibilities are endless and exciting. Your future reality and what you become should be a choice you alone should make. Beware of the influences around you.

R. Buckminster Fuller, a renowned 20th-century inventor, systems theorist, author, designer, and futurist once said:

“I live on Earth at present, and I don’t know what I am. I know that I am not a category. I am not a thing — a noun. I seem to be a verb, an evolutionary process — an integral function of the universe.”

Integrating this idea into my own life has been a gradual and ongoing process. I endeavor to immerse myself in my chosen experiences and open myself up to new and better transformational experiences.

And the more I’m able to do this, the more I feel that, though changing, I am precisely where I need to be — not stressing too much about the past, or worrying endlessly about the future but making the most of the activities and environments available to me presently.

Closing thoughts

You cannot stop change, you can shape it.

You are constantly changing — on a journey you have no choice but to take — embrace the inevitable and shape it to your advantage.

Personality traits are fairly stable for everyone, but different perceptions, worldview, and exposure to diverse environments and culture are changing our minds about life and living it.

You and I are in the processes of becoming, and choosing to see ourselves in this light can have a big impact on your understanding of human transformation.

Originally published on Medium

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