This post is Part 29 of a series of posts on the psychological and practical benefits of daily practice. In this series, I’ll explore the elements of daily practice, varieties of daily practice, challenges to daily practice, and strategies for meeting those challenges. Please join me in learning more about this important subject! Complete information can be found in The Power of Daily Practice.
Kirism provides a simple but robust model of personality. We see personality as made up of three constituent parts, original personality, formed personality, and available personality
Original personality is who we are when we come into the world. Formed personality is who we become over time. Available personality is our remaining freedom to be who we want to be. This simple model helps explain why change is so very difficult and also why change is possible. It is difficult because our formed personality is a rigid thing. It is possible because we retain some freedom to upgrade our personality and become our desired self.
Most people are aware of their pressing need for self-improvement. They really need to be calmer, or more heroic, or more focused, or less impulsive. They need to stop repeating the same mistakes over and over again, or to do a better job of eliminating thoughts that don’t serve them, or to find the strength to deal with the ongoing tyranny of their authoritarian parents. I’m sure that you too can generate a list of personality upgrades you’d love to see happen. With a snap of the fingers, of course.
There’s the rub. We may be clear on the personality upgrade we’d love to see occur but have no stomach for the work involved in making that change happen. That’s both typical and natural. It’s natural because our formed personality, made up of all of those repetitive ways of being, all those habits, all those hardened opinions, is rather more like concrete than modeling clay. Who, given their day-to-day realities and their human limitations, has any energy for dealing with concrete? Few of us do.
That’s where the power of daily practice comes in. Daily practice is a powerful tool with the ability to crack concrete. Maybe it only chips away at that concrete on a given day, as a writer may only add a sentence to her novel on a given day. But one chip after another chip leads to real, permanent change, just as it leads to completed novels. If you focus on daily practice rather than on making progress, achieving outcomes, or anything else in the family of results, you will achieve those results.
Take Frederick. Frederick had one of those great baritone voices that come along only so often. He’d parlayed his voice into an excellent operatic career that, however, was marred by frequent flare-ups, personality clashes, bitter breakups, marketplace divorces, and so many dramas that you had to believe that Frederick actually enjoyed them. He claimed, however, not to.
“I’m completely undisciplined,” he lamented, “and just ridiculously reactive. And look at my weight!” He ticked off his foibles. “I have anger issues. I’m aN. I’m grandiose. What should I do with myself? Box my ears?”
I had to laugh. “Well, you could change,” I said.
“You don’t believe that change is possible?”
“OK. Then let’s forget about change. Let’s focus on practice instead. You sing every day?”
“Of course not! I should, but I’m too undisciplined!”
“Ah, yes. But you understand the idea of singing every day?”
“Do you know that Leonard Cohen song? About the gods of song?”
“Do you believe in the gods of song?”
“You’re joking, right?”
“I am. Let me rephrase. Are you devoted to anything?”
That made him pause. He sat for a long time.
“No,” he finally said.
“OK.” I nodded. “Then let’s make that the focus of a new daily practice. Devotion.”
“Devotion to what?”
“Not to begin with.”
He thought about that.
“I’ve never understood why I don’t sing every day,” he said after a while. “Or why I eat so many crackers when I don’t like them and they aren’t good for my voice. Or why I’ll binge watch season after season of a show with bad morals. I don’t understand any of that.”
“So, a daily practice with a focus on devotion?”
He nodded. “But I don’t know what that means. I get the idea, sort of. But what am I actually doing? What’s the … object of devotion?”
“It really doesn’t matter. But let’s pick one personality upgrade. Where do you want to be a better you?”
“Fewer crackers. I could spend 30 minutes a day not eating crackers.”
“OK. This comes completely from left field.” He paused. “I want to be less afraid of my father.”
That made me pause, too. “OK,” I said after a moment. “What would that look like? What would a daily practice devoted to being less afraid of your father look like?”
“It would look like … ” He stared off. “It would look like me singing every day.”
I smiled. “I’m sure you’re clear on the connection there.”
“I am.” He brightened. “It would also mean me mentoring young singers. Mentoring them, not bullying them. Maybe … it would mean giving a few master classes. Not yet … maybe next year.”
“OK.” I paused to summarize. “So, you’ll institute a daily ‘personality upgrade’ practice whose focus is devotion and whose practice is daily singing?”
“Yes.” He made a face. “But isn’t that just me being more devoted to me? Isn’t that just more narcissism?”
“Nope,” I laughed. “Devotion to your best self is the antithesis of narcissism.”
Maybe you’ll introduce a primary personality upgrade practice into your life, because you know that upgrading your personality is a priority in your life. Or maybe you’ll add a personality upgrade practice as a second or secondary practice, maybe to help with your creativity, your recovery, or some other primary practice. Either way, do give the matter some serious thought. Most of us could use a daily personality upgrade practice. Could you?
Follow all of Eric Maisel’s posts here: authory.com/EricMaisel
In this series, I intend to explain the elements of daily practice, the varieties of daily practice available to you, and what to can deal with the challenges to daily practice that inevitably arise. If you’d like to learn more about the psychological and practical benefits of daily practice and better understand the great power of daily practice, I invite you to get acquainted with The Power of Daily Practice.
This post was previously published on Psychologytoday.com.
If you believe in the work we are doing here at The Good Men Project and want a deeper connection with our community, please join us as a Premium Member today.
Premium Members get to view The Good Men Project with NO ADS. Need more info? A complete list of benefits is here.
Photo credit: iStock