Can People Change?
How many relationships have hinged on this question?
Can addicts stop using, mean people become nice, a conservative a liberal or vice versa, an atheist a believer, an extrovert an introvert, a couch potato athletic, a follower a leader, a bad negotiator a good one? Can people become a Pathfinder?
Neuroscience and Psychology, along with a lot of anecdotes, say yes.
The more difficult question and important question: should you want to?
Neuroplasticity: The Neuroscience Perspective
Neuroplasticity, a key concept in neuroscience, suggests the human brain’s capacity to reshape and reorganize itself throughout an individual’s lifespan.
This inherent adaptability indicates the potential for altering our preferences, behaviors, and even deeply ingrained habits.
However, this process is not spontaneous and requires repetition and consistency. Consistent experiences or practices can eventually lead to the brain forming new neural pathways, contributing to significant changes in personal behaviors and attitudes.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): The Psychological Perspective
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), a psychological method, argues that thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interlinked and can influence one another.
CBT suggests that individuals can effectively manage and alter their feelings and behaviors by consciously regulating their thoughts.
Regular practice of reframing thoughts can, over time, lead to substantial changes in emotional responses and behaviors, highlighting another avenue for personal change.
Simple, right? Hardly.
Wanting to start flossing regularly is vastly different from trying to become an extrovert, which is radically different from giving up bad habits.
Environmental factors play a huge role in your ability to change. If you want to quit eating ice cream but have it in your freezer all the time, good luck. If you work in a cutthroat work environment, it’s not going to help your efforts to be more kind.
A critical part of change is having a structure and an environment that supports your efforts. This could be a personal coach, a support group, a therapist, a workbook, a workout buddy, joining a class, or something as simple as putting things in your calendar.
Two other critical factors: you have to want to change, and it needs to be for the right reasons that align with your values.
Through our online assessment at The Right Five and The Pathfinder Company, we identify people that have the deep skills of a Pathfinder.
Pathfinders’ characteristics include:
- A strong ability to deal with ambiguity. When in situations without precedent, Pathfinders need to be agile and not just deal with ambiguity but actually find a way to thrive within it.
- Not being told what to do and operating without a playbook of any kind, the Pathfinder also needs to be self-directed. Specifically, Pathfinders are able to fully engage in tasks/roles largely, or even entirely, motivated by meeting a need. Broadly, Pathfinders see a need and jump in and figure things out as they go.
- A curiosity that allows for creative solutions. This is critical when a lot of latitude is provided to find new solutions, products, or markets.
- A hunger motivated by something quite different to many career climbers. We’d characterize this motivation as intrinsic rather than extrinsic. They are looking for something that is deeper and has a personal meaning for them.
When someone who takes the assessment isn’t identified as a Pathfinder, we are often asked, “Can I change to develop those deep skills?”
Change starts with awareness. Through our proprietary tool, we deliver that awareness.
Each one of the founders of our company has gone through personal journeys where we have changed personally and professionally for the better. Based on our personal experience, and the science listed above, the answer is yes.
The remaining question is should you want to? If the deep skills in the Pathfinder results are aligned with things that you want to improve like “curiosity,” then go for it. However, if you don’t think you want to “thrive in ambiguity,” as there are a lot of good reasons not to want to do that, then don’t.
One of the major factors impacting a person’s ability to change is if that change aligns with your values. If it doesn’t, but you feel you should have that skill, it will be incredibly difficult to change, and you might not be fulfilled by the process.
Want to find your organization’s or team’s Pathfinders? We offer that online assessment through The Pathfinder Company. Individual’s can sign up to take the assessment directly, organisations can sign up for our private beta here.
If you are looking for your first sales hire of a B2B tech startup, The Right Five covers both the deep and vocational skills required to be successful. You can watch a demo here.