Dr. Benjamin Hardy is the Organizational Psychologist, the Writer against Willpower, and the Advocate for a Future Self. He is the AntiFool.
Have you ever taken a personality test? Like the Myers-Briggs Personality Test, or the Enneagram? What element are you? Are you fire or wood? (I think I’m water)
There are tons of personality tests out there that give you an idea of what kind of person you are and that’s fun. But it does lead to something dark: These tests create a narrative FOR us instead of us creating that for ourselves. We are that power away to tests found on Facebook or somewhere else to try to understand ourselves better.
Who better to take a deep dive into reframing our past and heading towards the future than Organizational Psychologist, Dr. Benjamin Hardy.
Dr. Benjamin Hardy is an organizational psychologist and bestselling author of Willpower Doesn’t Work. His blogs have been read by over 100 million people and are featured on Forbes, Fortune, CNBC, Cheddar, Big Think, and many others. He is a regular contributor to Inc. and Psychology Today and from 2015-2018, he was the No. 1 writer, in the world, on Medium.com. He and his wife Lauren adopted three children through the foster system in February 2018 and, one month later, Lauren became pregnant with twins, who were born in December of 2018. They live in Orlando.
His latest book Personality Isn’t Permanent debunks the myths of personality that have captured pop culture. Like tests like Myers-Briggs, and all that is not only psychologically destructive but are no more scientific than horoscopes.
So to shed some clarity on the meaning of personality that changes over time, I had a chat with Ben about:
- How he came from a traumatic childhood of divorce, addiction, and much more to becoming the number one writer in the world on medium.
- On why willpower doesn’t work for addiction and what works instead
- The meaning of a fixed personality and why we frame our past in certain ways.
- Trauma and how you can accept the past to reach the ideal future of your choosing.
- How to be the scribe of your identity narrative
- 5:22 Ben’s childhood: divorced parents, extreme drug addiction and no purpose
- 7:01 How reconnecting with his faith to gain purpose
- 8:36 Why choose writing?
- 9:33 “I was learning a lot from my own writing…introspection, a lot of clarity and insight” The choice to be a writer
- 10:35 Why willpower doesn’t work, and why sobriety is not the opposite of addiction
- 12:04 “The ability of the average person could be doubled if the situation demanded it” – William Durant
- 14:17 Foster parenting, and Ben’s reasons for adopting 3 kids
- 17:10 “We did have future versions of ourselves that gave us purpose” on having 6 kids and a purpose
- 18:35 Why do we have an obsession with personality tests?
- 21:42 “It takes courage to make decisions” Why it’s hard for someone to define a future version of themselves
- 25:47 Benjamin Hardy’s definition of a trauma
- 26:42 “Trauma shatters hope, and hope is essential for happiness”
- 28:58 How to find the courage to face your trauma and overcome it
- 33:52 A hero, a best friend: What Benjamin Hardy’s father means to him
- 38:04 Accepting the past version of yourself: This is how Benjamin Hardy did it
- 42:07 Who is the future version of Dr. Benjamin Hardy?
- 45:53 Benjamin Hardy’s memento
- 47:08 Benjamin Hardy’s walkaway wisdom
- 48:37 What Ben wishes future Ben would say to him
- Personality Isn’t Permanent on Amazon
- Personality isn’t Permanent on Penguin Random House
- Benjamin Hardy’s Website
- Man Searches for Meaning by Victor Frankl
- It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden
Norman Chella: [00:00:00] That’s the norm.com. Dr. Benjamin Hardy is the organizational psychologist, the writer against willpower and the advocate for a future self, he is the AntiFool. Welcome to the anti fool podcast. This is where we deconstruct the wisdom of people from all fields, backgrounds, and walks of life. My role is simple.
I play the fool, I asked the questions and you get the answers. Our guest is the Antifool, the source of wisdom, who we will learn from today. I’m on a mission to create the antidote to foolishness so we can understand the world and ourselves better, wonderful stuff. Right. So shall we hello there norm here, your favorite fool.
Welcome to the show. I just want to ask you a quick question. Have you ever taken a personality test? You know, like the Myers Briggs personality test or the Enneagram or the elements? What element are you? Are you a fire or a wood? I’m like, Oh, I think I’m a water.
But the point is that there are tons of personality tests out there that really give you an idea of just what kind of person you are and that’s fun and it can be pleasurable, but it does lead to some dark sides. And these tests, deep personality tests are set out to essentially create a narrative for us instead of us creating that for ourselves. We are essentially giving our choice away to these things that we find on Facebook or on somewhere else to try to understand ourselves better, but we should get the power back to ourselves.
And who better to talk to, to take a deep dive into reframing our past and heading towards the future than organizational psychologist, dr. Benjamin Hardy.
Dr. Benjamin or Ben is an organizational psychologist and bestselling author of Willpower Doesn’t Work. His blogs have been read by over a hundred million people and are featured on Forbes, fortune, CNBC, big think, and many others. He’s a regular contributor to Inc and Psychology Today, and from 2015 to 2018, he was the number one writer in the world on Medium.
His latest book Personality Isn’t Permanent debunks the myths of personality that have captured pop culture. Like tests like Myers-Briggs, and all that are not only psychologically destructive, but are no more scientific than horoscopes.
This book provides science-based strategies for reframing your past memories, becoming describe of your identity narrative, upgrading your subconscious and redesigning your environment. When you know the truth of your personality desired personal change can be directed. And when you don’t personality is something you seek to discover rather than create.
So to shed some clarity on the meaning of personality that changes over time, I had a chat with Ben about his origin story, how he came from a traumatic childhood of divorce, addiction, and much more from the loved ones around him to recovering and becoming the number one writer in the world on medium.
To willpower doesn’t work and to his latest book Personality Isn’t Permanent. the meaning of personality and why do we frame our past in certain ways. Trauma and how you look at yourself right now, and how to accept the past in order to look forward to an ideal intended future of your choosing. This is good to touch on quite a number of deep issues.
And Ben himself has shared quite a vulnerable amount of his story in this conversation. So I hope that you are ready for a deep and powerful conversation because Ben is a living example of being able to live towards a future of his own choosing and making sure that his personality changes over time with intent for the better
And without further ado let’s play the fool and learn from the wise, by diving into my chat with dr. Benjamin Hardy, the author of Personality Isn’t Permanent.
Mr. Ben Hardy, welcome to the show. How are you doing?
Benjamin Hardy: [00:04:23] I’m really happy to be here man.
Norman Chella: [00:04:26] Also excited to have this chat with you because we’ve just had this quick chat right before, uh, on your new book, uh, personality isn’t permanent, which should be coming up as we are having this chat out there.
And I’m really excited because I finished it in. Literally five days, like four to five days straight, so many notes handwritten. And I do want to take a deep dive into the title itself. Why you think personality is permanent, but before we even get to that point, Ben. I know that you have a very interesting backstory.
Tell us about your origin story, how did you go from being addicted to gaming in high school to becoming the number one writer on medium in the world?
Benjamin Hardy: [00:05:11] Yeah, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a great story. Uh, and obviously I think that the principles in the book kind of teach how I did it and hopefully teach how anyone can do such changes in their lives.
Yeah. Basically I grew up in Utah, Salt Lake city, Utah in the United States. And I think the biggest kind of starting point of my origin story is when my parents got divorced and we kind of grew up in a religious household, to be honest with you. And all of a sudden the divorce just shattered all that.
Like my father became an extreme drug addict. Uh, you know, just like religion seems to be an aspect of our life. It was really interesting, but like my parents just went totally different ways. They became totally different people from who they were. They weren’t the person that I thought they were. And that was kind of my life from all through junior high and high school from age about 11 to 20 was just kind of in chaos mode.
You know, I just, no stability. I was the oldest of three boys. And ultimately I somehow graduated from high school. No clue how I did it. Looking back, like I was snowboarding all the time, skateboarding playing video games. Like I, I definitely don’t remember a single, I don’t remember being in class much. Let’s just say that.
I missed, I missed a great deal of class, but yeah, basically about a year after high school, I was playing World of Warcraft all day, doing nothing with myself. I actually had attempted community college. I tried a class or two. And dropped out after about a week, because I remember trying to read a textbook and just it being too much for my brain to comprehend.
I had no purpose. And if you don’t have purpose, then you know, the present becomes quite meaningless. It’s too much to bear. That’s one thing that Victor Frankl talks a lot about. I don’t know if you’ve read Frankl’s work.
Norman Chella: [00:06:45] I have. Yes.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:06:47] Yeah. Yeah. It’s big. It’s big. Like if you don’t have a purpose for your future, the present, it’s just too much to bear, but that’s kind of where I was.
I had no future, no pres uh, I was just kind of enduring and ultimately I decided to kind of go back to my roots. I decided to kind of reconnect with my faith. To some degree, I ended up serving a church mission for a few years. I felt like I just needed to get out. My younger brother actually ended up joining the military.
He, he wanted to, you know, get out and kind of see the world. And I wanted to go off and do something that would give my life some sense of purpose that I could actually get moving in a direction. Like from a motivation standpoint, you kind of have to have a goal to have motivation, but you also have to have like a path to get there.
And so for me, my path to getting to the better life, at least from my former perspective was I got to go on this mission. That was like the best thing I could think of. And it ended up actually being very transformational for me. Like I ended up spending two years in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania doing service.
Read tons of books, did tons of journaling. Got great leaders to help me through all of my trauma from the past. And that’s what led me to becoming a psychologist. And, you know, then I ended up coming home going through eight or nine years of college, getting married and, uh, you know, having foster kids, I mean, all sorts of crazy stuff while I was going to school.
Norman Chella: [00:07:59] It’s a wild ride, uh, going from suddenly getting purpose, um, uh, going on missions, coming back and all of a sudden you’re focusing on psychology with a PhD.
Congratulations on that by the way, from like last year, um, I.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:08:15] Thank you, dude.
Norman Chella: [00:08:16] Yeah, no worries. Uh, I’ve read your articles on medium since like years ago. So it was pretty fascinating for me to see that. Now you have the amazing doctor title up behind you, but there’s something that I’d ask in between this wild rollercoaster
Ask anything you want,
Benjamin Hardy: [00:08:33] man.
Norman Chella: [00:08:34] All right. Okay. Getting right into it. You’ve read a lot of books. You have, um, interacted with a ton of leaders and you focused on psychology. Why writing? What, what was it about writing that made you realize that? Oh, I found my calling here. This is how I will help the world through my words. Why, why writing?
Benjamin Hardy: [00:08:54] Yeah. Uh, well, when I was on that mission experience, I read so many books and I was being mind blown just by everything I was reading. And also I was journaling probably around 30 to 60 minutes every day. I was writing about the experiences I was having. Cause I was just in a unique situation doing like missionary work really different from anything I’d ever experienced.
So I was writing a lot, but I was also getting into kind of, kind of a stream of consciousness, way of writing, where I would write about my thoughts, write about my ideas, write about my future. And so I, I got to the point where I was just writing pages and pages and pages of thoughts. It was nothing that anyone would like to read on Medium.
It was very, just like in my own head. But what I was finding was that I was learning a lot from my own writing. Like I was getting a lot of introspection, a lot of clarity and also a lot of just insight. And so I just fell in love with the idea of writing and I also just liked books. And so I decided that would be a really good avenue to go.
I was blown away by the books I had read and so I just decided on my mission that I would he’s someone who wrote books. Sure. I didn’t actually have clear goals at that point on what that would look like. I don’t know if I’d be writing like spiritual books. Didn’t know if I’d be writing, what kind of books have you writing business books?
Self-improvement books. Didn’t have that in my mind. But I said I will be writing books and who knows what else I’ll be doing, but that’s something I really want to be doing.
Norman Chella: [00:10:12] And as you were talking along on these articles and actually learning how to craft and write. Such viral articles that are going around media, you stumbled upon the idea of willpower doesn’t work, which is your first book.
And before personality, isn’t permanent. Just a quick question on that, how did you get across the idea of why willpower doesn’t work?
Benjamin Hardy: [00:10:33] So, like, as I said before, my family is huge in addiction. Addiction is a big part of my background. Yeah. Uh, I’ve, I myself have had my own challenges with various addictions, my younger brother, the one who joined the military, he has struggled with addictions for, you know, ever since like my parents got divorced, he was like nine, 10 years old, you know?
And so like he’s now 30 years old, we actually recently took him to a treatment facility. Like I took him to a treatment facility here in Florida, like three weeks ago. And. When you’re thinking about addiction, willpower is gotta be the dumbest way to try to overcome an addiction. Like it just doesn’t work.
Like basically what they say in addiction circles is that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection, human connection. You actually need to, in a lot of ways to overcome an addiction, you have to own that you can’t do it by yourself and that you need help. You need support, you need encouragement, you need.
And so from an addiction standpoint, willpower is the, is a terrible way to make progress. And it’s more about cultivating, like an environment around you and opening up about your own need for support. But I also then just extended that concept further. Like I actually wrote the book because I was so not frustrated, but yeah, a lot of ways sad for my younger brother, because he’s someone who you know, he’s got so much potential.
He could do whatever he wants. He has a genuine desire to change, but he just stays stuck because he won’t get out of his situation. And then he tries to do it all by himself and he falls on his face over and over and over again. So I just felt like I needed to write the book that explained how, how this works, but there was other elements as well.
Like, becoming a foster parent of three kids. You know, basically our three kids in their, in their former situation had very limited potential. Their parents were high on drugs. They were out in the middle of nowhere in a trailer watching TV all day, not getting taken to school. Like it doesn’t matter how much potential these kids have, or how much hard work they give in that situation. They’re just not a lot of options. And so you put them in our situation and all of a sudden their potential immediately transforms.
And, um, you give three kids to us who have never been parents before and immediately we’re forced to, to figure things out that we’ve never even thought we’d have to figure out, behavioral challenges and stuff.
And so, um, there’s a quote from William Durant, which I share in the book that the ability of the average person could be doubled. If the situation demanded it. And that’s kind of how I felt like when I became a foster parent, three kids, all of a sudden I was demanded to do things that like I had never even thought of.
I had to like handle. And so the book is really about situations and environments and in context about how you should be focused on that first versus putting all the pressure on yourself. As an individual to change, it’s a lot more of a contextual perspective, which is more how psychologists view the world.
Norman Chella: [00:13:10] Yeah. On the connection between essentially designing the circumstances or the environment around you that will have an effect, or that will actually create the desired effect that you are trying to attempt with say, internalizing something within yourself, saying like, Oh, I’m going to change like this.
And just thinking about it. Thinking that it will work. But, uh, no, and I, I realized that as I was reading your book, that I feel like it’s your, you’re trying to tell me to reframe how, if I were to try to change myself for the better or towards a more intentional, uh, image of myself, this is how I should do it.
And it’s not about what’s internal, it’s a mix. It’s a, both external and internal. Uh, but, but before actually the, on the foster parent thing, you stumbled upon this, these three kids. They were in an environment where their potential is limited. You said, you said you, the, both of you weren’t parents before, what made you decide to want to adopt them?
Was it out of like an altruistic reason or was it purely because you’ve heard about their environment that you’re like, okay, I, I do want to save them or…
Benjamin Hardy: [00:14:17] yeah. So foster parenting is interesting, cause it’s not like you pick the kids, like it’s not like adoption, like you just registered to become a foster parent and then you don’t know who the heck you’re getting.
You don’t know if we’re getting one, can you put on there, like what you’re willing to do? So it’s like, are you willing to just take one? What are the age range? And we were very much like. We’ll take whatever we get. Like we were that open. Um, we could have gotten like an arsonist who is like a 14 year old kid who’s high on drugs that can, you just never know what you’re going to get with foster kids. Mmm.
But the reason we did it is because my wife grew up with foster kids in her home. So like she, she, when she was young, her parents did what’s called therapeutic foster care, which is short term where teenagers who have extreme problems come for a short period of time.
Maybe like a month to three months. And so while my wife was growing up, she had maybe 30 or 40 teenage girls come to their house and, you know, they were there for a short bit of time and some of them. Her family are still in touch with like 15, 20 years later where like, some of them have not, you know, are still struggling.
And some of them they’ve totally turned her whole, their whole life around. And our, what I would call a transitional character, like a transitional character is someone who, you know, becomes, you know, basically doesn’t repeat the problems of the former generation, but so she was always interested in foster parenting.
So when we got married, she was like, we want to, no, this is something I want to do. I was on board. I was totally flexible to the situation. And so when we moved out to Clemson, we felt like that was the time to start. Clemson’s where I did the PhD. So that’s, that’s when we got registered for it. And then we just, these were the three kids we got and, uh, they were all siblings.
And so we just, from the get go, just, I thought, if this can turn into adoption, we’re going to totally go for it. And, and we probably would have said that about any kid we got, you know, but we’re, you know, and so then we just went to the court battles of trying to adopt the kids and it took three years.
And then in 2018, Bang. We were able to get the kids. And then obviously literally a month later, Lauren got pregnant with twins. So it was kind of a pretty crazy journey.
Norman Chella: [00:16:12] Well, congratulations on achieving that adoption. That must be a, been a long three year battle.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:16:19] A lot of time in court, dude.
Yeah. Thank you. Thank you. Yeah. Yeah. It was interesting.
Norman Chella: [00:16:24] Yeah. I can’t even imagine. I’m not a, I’m not ever in that position yet, but I can’t imagine the, uh, the burden, the struggles. I’m sure that it is a worth it, because I guess through the methods in this book, you already have this future version of yourself that is capable of handling um, Kids, or you must have thought this beforehand that, you know, you can, you’re flexible enough to maintain it. So, uh, I do want to dive into that. Seeing is how you’re able to handle five kids in the house, um, write a bestseller.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:16:58] And a sixth on the way, dude, six, all the way.
That’s going to be our last one, bro. She’s like 12 weeks along, but I will say, you know, Not only is it crucial and we’ll go deep into this. However you want. Not only is it crucial to have a future self that you believe that gives it purpose again, back to Frankl gives purpose to anything that you have to go through in the middle.
But so like we did have future versions of ourselves that gave us purpose that we wanted to be those kind of people, but also reframing the past and saying. All of that garbage that happened to me is actually the absolute fuel I need to be able to handle anything. And so it’s also choosing better meanings for the past so that you can actually use it to help you go forward.
Norman Chella: [00:17:40] Yeah. That combination of having a future self guide you towards an intended place, as well as the acceptance of your past self. And I’ve read through the, the anecdotes, uh, throughout the book from. From yourself and from Tucker max, and, uh, from a few others who have gone through tons of stuff that, you know, for the average person will be very hard to accept or to be very hard to, shall we say, even confront in the first place, uh, which I do want to ask about traumas.
Cause that’s a big thing. Uh, but on the title Personality isn’t Permanent, your preface is already pretty interesting because you immediately talked about personality tests and you said, well, I’m going to paraphrase here. You said that they just don’t work or they suck or something along those lines.
Right? And I sort of have a problem with that and I would love for you to, you know, convince me. So I’m going to play the fool here. Okay. I’m going to be an idiot. I’m going to be like Ben. I’m doing, I’ve been doing personality tests, like for all my life. Okay. I know my Enneagram. I know my MBPT. I know my elements, right.
I’m like a water and wind or something. Right. They all encompass whoever I am. Okay. Why do we, as people have an obsession with personality tests, why is it really satisfying?
Benjamin Hardy: [00:19:00] Um, because we really want to understand are we want, we want an identity at the end of the day, identity and personality are two different things.
Identity is how you define yourself. And so these tests give you that they give you, you know, you just said, I’m a water. I know, you know, I’m an, I’m a six or whatever you are, you know, like. And having an identity is really important because it allows you to explain yourself to other people. It allows you to connect with other people.
And so these tests give you a sense of identity. They give you a story that you can now use to explain yourself. And I think that for a lot of people, that’s really big. If you haven’t taken the time to. Know, do the deep work of reframing your past, choosing how you describe, because identity is all about narrative, you know?
And so it’s like, if you haven’t chosen how you define your past in a meaningful way, and if you don’t have a future self, that is something you’re excited about and has a deep sense of purpose for then you’re going to spend a lot of time trying to figure out who you are today. from my perspective and from a psychological perspective.
Is where does this may sound? It doesn’t really matter who you are today. Um, there’s actually a really good book. It’s called, It’s not How Good you are, it’s how good you want to be. Um, but these, you know, so, so that’s why people like them so that, you know, they help you to understand yourself. If that’s, if that’s an answer to your question, I will also say that comes with a lot of baggage, but, you know, that’s, that’s, that’s why, that’s why people like them.
Norman Chella: [00:20:16] Yeah, I’m sure. And also, I feel like on the baggage point, it might be because the burden of having to define who we are, who we will be, is so great that we would rather, I don’t want to say outsource,
Benjamin Hardy: [00:20:30] That’s exactly what it is. Dude, you are outsourcing it. Yeah.
Norman Chella: [00:20:34] We want to outsource our narratives to other places like it and, and I guess we find some kind of pleasure or some kind of satisfaction from that. I’ve always wanted to ask why. And I think when I was reading this book, I think I did the MPTP and I find out I’m an ENFP or whatever that means. And. I’ve given this narrative, right? Someone tells me I’m an ENFP.
Therefore I am a, B, C, D E, and I’m supposed to accept that. And this is who I am like for some reason, this, this text gives me, tells me who I am. I’m really worried about that. I’m really worried about the psychological impact that a test that is external is trying to shape my story for the rest of my life.
Could you tell me, maybe from your perspective. Why is it so hard for someone to start defining a future version of themselves?
Because we’ll definitely dive into that further into the book, but I would love to hear your take on if I’m going to choose between doing a test and sitting down, looking at my past, looking at my present and trying to choose a future or trying to decide my own future.
Why is it hard?
Benjamin Hardy: [00:21:42] Yeah, it is hard. It’s freaking hard. First off it takes guts. It takes courage to make decisions. It also takes confidence to make decisions, you know, and, and like basically what, you know, there’s that whole idea that the number one death bed regret is that people didn’t have the courage to be the person they wanted to be.
Instead they lived up to the expectations of those around them. So people have a need to be consistent. We have, we’ve been a certain way for a long period of time. We’ve got friends who expect us to be a certain way. You have an environment around you that, is has been cultivated around your present self and also your current narratives, the way you describe yourself.
So obviously to choose a different version of yourself, the person you really want to be, or to think about circumstances beyond what you currently have. You’d have to, you’d have to actually be honest, not only with yourself, but with those around you. All progress starts by telling the truth. It takes courage to be honest, not only about your past and how to change it, but also about what you genuinely want.
Uh, there’s implications choices require consequences, right? And so like, obviously if you’re going to make any choice, you’re gonna have to deal with all sorts of uncertainty and, you know, your comfort zone and your personality are from my perspective, the exact same thing. Like. Do you know, you stick within your comfort zone, you stick with what’s normal, or, you know, to go outside of that, to do something different than who you are.
And you then have to deal with uncertainty. You don’t know what’s going to actually happen. And so people avoid that, you know, they avoid going out of their comfort zone, they avoid pursuing something and frankly, they may not even have the confidence that they could do it. And so they just convinced themselves that they’d rather just stick with something that seems a little bit more certain.
And so they limit their goals. You know, because choosing a future self and then pursuing it, you’ve got to first off, you have to have the confidence to some degree that it’s possible, or at least the courage to try. But then it would require you to stop being so consistent with who you’ve been. You’ve got to then start to change yourself to become more in alignment with the future version of you, that you want, the future circumstances and the situation you want.
You can’t do what these tests allow you to do, and you can’t justify yourself based on some score. I, you know, if I wanted to become a professional writer, I couldn’t justify my lack of progress by saying, well, maybe I’m just, I don’t have that skill. You can’t justify your future by your present. And I think a lot of people prefer to just justify where they’re at right now.
And say, that’s just not who I am. I don’t have writing capability or I don’t, I’m not that good at, I’m an introvert, so I could never actually do that. Um, it’s a lot easier to just justify your presence, self versus have the humility to say, this is what I actually genuinely freaking want, and I’m going to go for it.
And I don’t know if I’m going to make it, but I’m going to give it a shot and I’m gonna try.
Norman Chella: [00:24:18] And I, I liked that. The humility of realizing where your present self is and that realizing that the future self hasn’t existed yet. So it’s ready to be molded into something that of your choosing. And it’s just a matter of putting, putting in the extra effort.
Like how far are you willing to reach to become that future version of yourself? Because it’s not, it’s not like you’re trying to be somebody else. It’s just you in later on in the future with the certain sets of skills, these capabilities, these ambitions, these freedoms, these values, um, the more that you try to shape that, I guess that the more of a burden or declared obstacle it is you’re trying to go over and maybe that can scare some people. So you’re put into this comfort zone because you’re like, Oh, I know how this is. It’s not an unknown place. I’ll be fine. I want to dive into that because I think you did mention in the book that that is related to different traumas that has appeared, uh, different life experiences that has defined your current narrative.
And it has been stuck in your mind for over time. And I think you had the story of the person who, Oh, uh, the Rosalie, I think that’s her name who can’t draw children’s art, I believe. Uh, just because of one traumatic moment. Could you tell me what’s, what’s your definition of a trauma, right? Like I can think of many different large shocking traumas, like maybe seeing a dead body or something like that, but Ben let’s hear your take. What’s a trauma?
Benjamin Hardy: [00:25:47] Yeah. Um, it’s basically any, any negative emotional experience that shapes you as a person, you know, so it was like, you have a negative experience seeing that body, as an example, could freak you out, you know, and like you often get this weird fear of death and like, you know, like lead to all sorts of weird behaviors, but.
You know, trauma essentially as any negative experience that you’ve attached to in some way. And then it informs your identity. It informs your goals. It informs how you see the world and how you operate in the world. From an emotional perspective, we all have primary and secondary emotions with trauma.
You have an initial gut reaction, you know, it’s freaky, but then you don’t choose to reframe the meaning of that experience. You don’t choose to handle it. And so, because it was emotionally difficult, it then leads to. I never want to experience that ever again. And so, you know, like I’m not going to deal with that.
And then you stopped dealing with it, you know? So like with Rosalie as an example, she had a hard, negative, emotional experience where a private tutor overly corrected her in front of everyone. And then she got the idea because she was corrected in public. I’m not very good at drawing. And so she never wanted to experience that again.
And so she chose not to have a future as someone who could be someone who would go through the emotional and developmental process of learning of deliberate practice and of becoming someone who could draw. Instead, she said, I don’t want to experience that again. And so therefore I’m no longer going to have that future version of myself.
I’m just going to just choose different goals because I’m not going to deal with anymore. Trauma shatters hope. You know, and hope is essential for happiness as weird does that sounds, you can’t have hope. You can’t have joy in the moment without having hope and anticipation for your future.
Hope is also required for motivation. Like you would not be motivated to try something if you didn’t hope you could succeed. Like you would, there would be no reason to be motivated. And so what trauma does, is it shatters your hope. In a future, it shatters imagination that things could be different.
And it leads you to being radically non flexible, basically rigid. Like if you’re thinking about comfort zone and personality, you become, you almost build a wall around your comfort zone so that nothing could come in because you don’t, you don’t want to deal with that. And so you ended up becoming defined by the past and your narrative becomes based on the past, in the past is really the thing that explains you.
And there’s nothing to be different in the future because you lost that hope and that flexibility.
Norman Chella: [00:28:09] This is when it’s going to get hard, because if you are stuck in that rut, you are stuck in that, that mindset where you have this trauma, essentially telling you to react this way, if you’re ever to face that ever again.
So for example, in the case of Rosalie, can’t draw art anymore because of all the shame and being corrected in front of everybody has. You know, affected her all these years. Let’s take her as an example. How can she find the courage to face her trauma and maybe overcome that? Just as it’s hard to face, say traumas and obstacles that where we have to try to reframe the past in maybe her case, or maybe somebody else that you might know, how can we find that courage. Do we find it from somebody else? Do we find it from our spouses or partners, or is it more of just hard focusing on a future version?
Benjamin Hardy: [00:28:58] Like in this case, she actually doesn’t believe that that future version of her could exist because she chose, you know, basically trauma creates a fixed mindset.
And so for her, she’s defined by the now or the past. One of the things you already said earlier is, you know yet, not yet, you know, and actually Carol Dweck talks a lot about that. The Power of Yet. Yet takes you away from the tyranny of now, you know? Um, but anyways, I think with Rosalie as an example, in this case, Well, the thing that she would have to come to the conclusion of, which would require openness on her part, humility on her part.
Um, even with our kids, what I find, and this goes back to the idea of being so overly convinced of your present perspective. You know, I love the quote from Stephen Covey. We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. So like we don’t see the world objectively Rosalie. Her, her interpretation of that experience is entirely subjective.
You know, she was in an art class, she got corrected. She felt a lot of negative emotions and she created a meaning. The meaning of her in her case was I’m not good at drawing. Now, if you want, the key to moving forward from traumas is actually to get to the point where you allow yourself to, to realize the meaning you gave to an experience in the past doesn’t have to be the same meaning you give to that experience today. You know, and that’s actually what emotional regulation is, is is you have a gut experience. You know, someone punches you in the face and it doesn’t feel good, but then the next step is how do I want to feel about this? What am I going to choose to think about this?
So, you have to have some, some humility to say that was how I felt. But that’s not actually true. That was just, that was just how I felt. And I don’t have to feel that way. And, and maybe even, I don’t even have to think that way. I shouldn’t think the same way. I used to think about things. And so that requires humility, humility to say the former version of this story, wasn’t the best version of the story for me and for my goals.
And so for her case, She would have to change the meaning of that story. And, and part of that is journaling about it, writing about how it impacted her, but also talking with people who can help her. Like this is why I’m a big fan of either therapy or coaching is cause you can, like, what Frankl says actually is, is that emotions which are suffering seems to be suffering when you give them a clear picture.
You know, and also, you know, Mr. Rogers says that anything that is human is mentionable on anything that is mentionable can become more manageable. Basically when you start sharing your experiences, you can manage them. You can realize like they can stop hurting so much. And a final quote, which I know it’s in the big, big one in the book, which is trauma isn’t what happens to you, it’s what you hold inside in the absence of an empathetic witness. Right. And so it’s like, but basically it’s to say, I did it. You need, you often you do need someone outside of you to help you see that. See the, see the situation from a different perspective, because context matters more than content, you know, in context is about getting different perspectives, additional views.
And so. For Rosalie, I would, you know, if she was open to the conversation. Yeah. And that’s the crucial thing is are you willing to be open to the idea that the past isn’t the be all end all? Is it possible for you to look at this a different way? And if so, then you’ve got a lot of hope and that’s why I really like addiction is because addiction, you know, someone’s getting, getting ready to overcome an addiction.
When they say, look, this is what’s been going on for a long time. This is the story I’ve been telling. This is what I’ve been doing. It’s no longer helping me. I’m ready to go forward into a new, a new story and I’m going and ready to change into a new, and so for Rosalie, the key here is, is that she has to give that, that episode different meaning and in the meaning is, yeah, I had a bad experience.
And as a result, I took it personally and it actually genuinely did limit my goals. That’s why I liked the idea at all. Progress starts by telling the truth, and then she could change the meaning that maybe that, you know, that I opened, that I took the thing too seriously. that I did let it stunt my growth.
Like she would have to choose a different meaning. It could be one of a million different meanings, but she would have to choose a new explanation and story for framing that event. So that then she could say, I’m not going to let that stop me anymore. I’m now going to go back to being defined by my future self and my goals.
And that’s something I’ve learned a lot from, so I don’t have to repeat the past.
Norman Chella: [00:33:07] Yeah. That, that ability to reframe such a trauma, not only having the guts and the, having the, shall we say the courage to speak the truth and share it with others, maybe with a counselor, maybe a coach, maybe with someone like, like what you mentioned the empathetic witness, because there was quite an extensive explanation on that, which is quite fascinating to me because it’s, I’ve seen it in a few other books, namely centered around altruism, the ability to try to understand someone’s situation and provide another perspective, um, asking them simple questions that probe and ask to let out the truth over time and let them know that it is comfortable.
To share what’s up or what’s wrong or what’s happening. And then you can actually allow the transition to happen. The transition to go from someone who is defined by their past to someone who is looking forward to their future unhindered by their past. It’s huge. It’s huge and another thing that I do want to ask, because you, you go quite personally to this book, uh, you not only talk about your own past story, you talk about the acceptance of your own life and how you reframed your past. So I’m going to ask for a little moment of vulnerability and maybe just ask you directly, what does your father mean to you?
Benjamin Hardy: [00:34:28] Oh, lots, dude. Hero, hero. Someone I love, I mean, he’s, he’s amazing. Yeah. I mean, to give context, when I was on that missionary experience at age 20, he overcame most of his addictions.
I mean, we’ve done so many workouts together and stuff. I mean, he’s amazing. And, uh, you know, he’s one of my best friends. And I’ve watched, watched him change a lot, huge admiration. Also, one of the things that I had to do for writing this book, was, I felt like cause context shapes the meaning of content, you know, just as an example, just so that people can get that idea.
During COVID-19, I sent an email out to my email list and I used the word viral in it. I said, you think this article is going viral? And I had several people email me and say, you know, we do not use the word viral right now, like given COVID. And I was like, totally understanding. I’m like, that’s totally, totally chill. I won’t use that word or no, but like had that word been used six months ago, it wouldn’t have been a trigger.
Right. And so context shaped the meaning of that word. Right. That word meant something different in this situation. And so that’s the idea of context determines the meaning of content, but. So in order for me to better understand the content of my past, I needed more context. And so I actually asked my dad, I asked him, will you just break it down for me?
I mean, I just ask them all sorts of questions. Will you explain to me what led you to the choices you made, how it felt to watch me and my brothers? Cause we had ended up having to abandon him. The situation got so tough. Just lay it all out for me. And he gave me so much more context than I could have ever expected.
He told me all about his past, about being bullied in school. I mean, about how, you know, like about so many elements of him, him and my mom’s relationship and the unexpected nature of the divorce and how it just threw him off and about how he was. Suicidal, you know, and like all these things. And I’m like, you know, the goal with broader perspective is empathy.
You know, it’s that altruism where like you stop being so judgmental, you stop. Yep. You know, in psychology we call it the fundamental attribution error. So like if someone cuts you off on the road and you, you attribute it to their character, You’re like, that’s just a bad person. That’s called the fundamental attribution.
Or usually if you have better understanding of their situation, you’ll know why they’re acting the way they are. And you’ll maybe explain it more by situational factors versus just them as a person. And so when you understand the situation a little bit more, you can have more empathy and understanding, but also it allows you to have more empathy towards your former self.
I mean the 11 year old version of Ben Hardy couldn’t have understood what I understand today about that situation. So I don’t need to be mad at the former version of myself for defining the meanings of my life, the way I did back then. Like I’m not the same guy I was before. And also I can give my former self an extreme benefit of the doubt and be proud of them or just, you know, just accept as you said, accept him.
Norman Chella: [00:37:10] That’s great. It really lifts a burden off of you. Um, not, not only from a psychological standpoint, but yeah. On a personal point. Like, I feel a certain sense of calm from at least how you’re explaining it to hear such, such a wild part of your life and, you know, 11 year old, you going through such things. I can’t even imagine. What kind of thoughts 11 year old Ben would be going through?
Benjamin Hardy: [00:37:36] Um, lots. Yeah. I’m sure
Norman Chella: [00:37:39] to have, you know, family members and, you know, your pillars of support, uh, breaking down at that time. So it must’ve been. A huge burden to overcome. Do you happen to have any advice for those who may have had similar experiences in the past, some kind of large defining trauma that has affected their personal narrative right now, currently?
What was your first step in trying to accept that past version of yourself?
Benjamin Hardy: [00:38:10] Yeah, I think at some point, like for me, I was 19 years old and I was incongruent with my life. I knew that I was in a place where like I was struggling with school, playing video games all day. Like that was the path that this life experience was taking me down.
And I was very much, I wanted something better for myself. And so I think for anyone listening, if you want something better for yourself than you feel life has given you, then you have to. You, you, you have to get to the point where you stopped being so, you, you stopped giving your, your current story about the past so much power over you.
Cause right now it is, yeah. Your, your current story about the past is the thing defining you. And it’s the thing that’s leading you to still being the person you are today, the past is happening to you. And so I think that it goes back to that courage thing. Yeah. You said it takes courage to own the truth.
One of the things that I actually did before I left on that mission is I reconnected with my dad. You know, and I actually started going to lunch with them a few times. He actually encouraged me to go on that mission, but I forgave him, you know, I, I, I let it go. You know, that’s, that’s hard to do, you know, where you just, you just, you just let you just forgive and you just say, this isn’t really helping me, you know, like this isn’t helping my future self.
And so like, I think you have to decide. Do you want your life to go down the path? It is, or do you want something better for yourself? And it’s a hundred percent possible that you can have something incredibly better for yourself. In fact, the current version of you actually has no clue what’s possible because in the future, your future self will have completely different perspectives that you have zero comprehension of right now.
The 19 year old version of me, I would have never predicted the worldview I have today and the goals that I have today or that I would have five kids. Like, so your future self is going to be in a place that can think about things and do things that you have zero perspective of right now. Yeah. You can put yourself into an amazing situation where you can create the life you want, but in order to do that, you’re going to have to be courageous enough to try to solve the past, you know.
And obviously then get moving forward, you know, putting yourself in new situations, around new people, putting yourself in a place where you can start building confidence towards your goals, but you’ve got to put the ego of your story away, you know, because the story is something that you can really use to justify yourself, but also maybe to kind of be a wedge between you and other people.
And you’ve got to put the ego of that story away and you’ve got to be humble enough to say. That’s no longer the thing that’s going to dictate my life, you know, and that’s what I had to do. You know, open up with my dad. I no longer wanted to be defined by those few experiences. They were extremely terrible. I just didn’t want that to be the defining feature of my life.
I wanted my goal, my future to be what defined me and the future experiences that I wanted to create as a person. And so if you’re willing to let go of that, And if you’re willing to face it, maybe even have awkward conversations. There’s actually a quote from Tim Ferriss where he says the success of person can have in their life is based on the awkward conversations they’re willing to have.
You know, that’s true of pitching yourself or like asking for a mentorship. That’s also true of forgiving someone or, or asking for more thoughts. And so I would just say, pull out the journal, start writing about it. And if you’re open to it going, having conversations open and empathetic conversations with the people in your life that have had a big impact.
In my case, it was my dad. Mmm. And then moving forward, you’ll be shocked at how fast you’ll get a burden lifted off your shoulder, just by either writing about it or by going and having those conversations and changing the relationship, you know, forgiving them and letting it go and realizing Holy cow, I don’t have to think that way anymore.
Stuff changes. I mean, it does take time and it takes a lot courage, but stuff changes pretty fast as well.
Norman Chella: [00:41:41] It’s worth it. It really is because, you know, to be able to do that, it’s, it’s such a, such a superpower and everyone is capable of doing so even if the trauma has already happened, that’s the thing it has already happened.
Nothing more. It is up to us to really carry it with us into the future. And that’s what makes designing our own future selves much more fascinating and interesting and great to look forward to. So Ben, could I ask, uh, maybe you could share a little bit about this with the sixth kid on the way, and you’ve got six kids, you know, running, going in the house.
Could you give me an idea or a visualization of what is your future self? What have you designed, how have you designed your future self? Who is Dr. Benjamin Hardy, three, five years later down the line.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:42:30] Yeah, this might surprise you a little bit, man, but so I will continue to be writing books in this realm, but I’m actually going to be making a pretty huge pivot in about two or three years from now where I’m going to be spending like, so the mission experience that I talked about, which was so pivotal for me, I want to do more of that.
The reason I actually got the PhD, one of the, one of the important things to realize about people is, is that you, understand some process that actually understanding their goals. A lot of people have actually wondered why I got the PhD in organizational psychology. Especially cause like halfway through my PhD, I was blowing up as a writer.
People are like, why are you finishing up then you don’t need it. Mmm. But I always wanted to go back and do work in the missionary realm, but as a leader, and for various positions. Mmm. I needed a PhD to do that. And so I see myself making a huge transition about two or three years from now, once I’m in a financial and otherwise place, that I can essentially do what I want fully with my time.
And I make great money, but like, I still do a lot of entrepreneurial things that take my time and I enjoy it. But I would say I’m in the place that 20, 15 and 16, you know, The 2016 version of me in 2016. I’m definitely already at that place where my future self is like I’m sitting here where I was imagining myself, like three or four years ago.
Yeah. I want to transition and go back to doing more like spiritual style stuff. I’ll still write general self-help and business books and things like that. I love writing, but I’m going to stop doing all the entrepreneurial things. So it’s possible we could move, but I’m going to be spending almost all my time outside of being with my family doing more of that style of work in more of a leadership perspective.
And then obviously just really enjoying my family, you know, like for me, I like simplicity. And so I’ll be focusing on that. I’ll be writing, exercising a lot, but spending a huge amount of time invested in my kids. Huge amounts of time being simple, eating good food, traveling.
We’re big on traveling and just eating good food and just simple experiences. Just, I mean, I just like being with my kids more and more, my perspective has changed a lot where it’s just like, I want to, and, you know, I see every episode with my kids as an investment where it’s like, if I’m going to go swimming with Logan as an example, this is an investment in my future relationship with him.
So it’s like just really enjoying that simple life.
Norman Chella: [00:44:39] That’s great. Like having this transition from a really strong entrepreneurial spirit, writing these books and like doing all these kinds of things to just going offline, experiencing, right? Like family life, like something much more simplistic.
I feel like you, your future version feels like they have much more time, like time to just explore and wander and, you know, be with loved ones much more.
And I liked that. I like that. All the best. Right. I’m sure. Uh, If I ever like email you or call you again to the two or three years that you might be too busy because you are, you know, doing something with Logan.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:45:17] I won’t be too busy with you. I would be swimming with him though.
Norman Chella: [00:45:23] Of course. And, uh, we are coming up on time, but I’ve got a couple of, uh, segments at the end. If you don’t mind entertaining me with this, one’s is called. Sure, sure. One is called mementos. Do you have a memento that represents who you are?
Benjamin Hardy: [00:45:40] Like memento being like a physical object?
Norman Chella: [00:45:43] It can be physical, but it can also be whatever your definition of a memento can be. It can be a memory. It can be an activity. It can be physical as well.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:45:53] My memento is probably my journal, honestly, like that thing there’s so much attachment as far as like where there’s so much identity there that I’ve placed within my ability to go there and open it up like the cave of wonders, you know, as far as what’s possible and journaling.
So I think journaling is probably the thing that. You know, if you’ve been following me, like if he followed me around with like, as a fly on the wall, the last 10 years, the journal thing is probably the thing I’m carrying around with me most. And I, and I foresee that into the future.
Norman Chella: [00:46:25] Of course, I don’t think I could ever imagine you without a journal. The very activity of it is what inspired you to start writing in the first place. So I can see that being like a core part of your identity. So it is awesome. And your journal being your memento and the next one is called walkaway wisdom.
So say we walk away from this conversation right now and I meet someone. I become friends with them. And in that process, I deepened my relationship with them and we get vulnerable. And I tell them a part of my life. And part of that part of my life is this conversation right now. Is there a piece of wisdom that I can tell them that represents who you are?
Benjamin Hardy: [00:47:05] Who I am? Yes. Uh, I would say, you know, someone who’s not defined by my past, but defined by my future and that. Yeah, just that your future is the thing that could and should predict who you’re being rather than your past. And that there’s, but it’s completely possible. There’s a lot of liberation in it and that that’s really the way to live intentionally and purposefully every single day.
Like you can’t actually live positively and purposefully today without having a future that you’re striving for. So I would just say Ben Hardy. And hopefully the wisdom that comes from that is, is that you’re not defined by your past. Your past doesn’t have to predict your future and that you can get to the point where your future is the thing, predicting everything about your life and that that’s your choice.
And that’s really how you can build confidence and flexibility as a person. And that it’s absolutely my invitation for you to do that.
Norman Chella: [00:47:58] Awesome. Invited by Ben Hardy himself. I also got one more unique question for you since you have been focusing on your future self and that you’ve also described who future Ben Hardy will be in two or three years or five, most likely three, right?
It’s spending more time with your family spending more time with your kids and experiencing all kinds of things off of the entrepreneurial industry, whatever, right? From all the different things that you’ve been trying and slowing down and feeling all the love from your family. The question is if you could meet your future self, what do you hope or wish future Ben Hardy would say to you?
Benjamin Hardy: [00:48:37] I think I would love just like we all need, you know, sometimes it would even be to speak to your former self having that conversation. But yeah, what I would love for my future self to say is that it’s gonna all work out, obviously, you know, that I don’t need to worry so much about things.
Cause when you’re thinking about the future, there is that uncertainty which stops people from you know, and there’s an unnecessary worry, you know? And so I think I would just let my future self to just tell me confidently, you know, it’s going to work out, you’re going to love it. You know, it’s gonna be different and better than you expect.
Norman Chella: [00:49:09] Awesome. And of course you are going to love it and make sure that you keep this answer near and close to you because you will get there if you are that sure. And clear on who your future self is. Ben, thank you so much for coming onto the show and I will talk to you soon. Oh wait, wait, wait, wait, wait.
Before, before I take you off the show. If we want to reach out to you, or if we want to find out more about Personality Isn’t Permanent. Uh, where can we find you? Do you have any special links, et cetera, et cetera.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:49:41] You’re awesome, dude. I’ve loved talking to you, dude. You’re freaking awesome. I would love to hang out with you.
Um, yeah, dude. You’re awesome. I’m a huge fan of this conversation. Yeah. Personality isn’t Permanent is a book you can get anywhere. Not sure if you can see this, but I’m pulling up the book, but anyways, get the book anywhere, Amazon Kindle. If you want to listen to it on audible, check that out. If you go to Benjaminhardy.com, that’s my website.
You can read my blog posts. There’s also all sorts of free, epic online courses for anyone who buys the book. So go to Benjaminhardy.com, learn more. And, uh, I hope you enjoy personalities and permanent.
Norman Chella: [00:50:13] Personality isn’t permanent and Benjamin hardy.com will be in the show notes as well as links to anything that we talked about in this conversation, especially all the quotes, because I will try to compile all of that, um, with the transcripts, et cetera. And Ben, thank you so much once again. Uh, I will talk to you soon.
Benjamin Hardy: [00:50:29] Thanks man.
Norman Chella: [00:50:31] And that is it. My chat with dr. Benjamin Hardy with five kids and the sixth one on the way and a future version of himself. Spending much more time with them trying out all kinds of experiences, traveling, eating good food, and just living the great calm life.
Ben is a great person to talk to when it comes to defining a future self and making sure that the past does not influenced who you are presently and the past does not also affect your journey to try to reach to your intended future because that’s what it is, right. It’s just reframing the narrative that you currently have on who you are, who you were changing that in order to become who you want to be.
And if you have more questions on that, I’m sure that Ben can help you. All of this can be found at benjaminhardy.com. And links of course will be into show notes. Traumas are very difficult. I know I have a few of them personally, and they have internalized in me in a way where I sort of have a certain narrative that I am not as proud of, but slowly and surely it is changing over time.
And after reading this book, I feel a lot more calmer that I know that I am well on the way there. It’s there’s a matter of accepting. All the things that have happened in the last few years, the last few decades, I hope this conversation and the wisdom that you can find in it can help you with yours if you have any.
And if it does, I’m happy for you. All is well, stay warm, stay lovely. And I will see you in the next episode, your foolish friend, Norm.
Thank you for listening to the show. AntiFool is hosted, produced and edited by me. Norman Chella, you can find out more about the show at thatsthenorm.com/antifool. It’s where I host all my other podcasts shows and more live music and sound effects come from zapsplatt.com. If you have any questions. Recommendations for guests and more hit me up on Twitter, @normanchella or on LinkedIn as well. There is only one of me in the world. I’m sure you can find me there. I love connecting with people and having warm, meaningful conversations. Don’t be foolish.