Dr. Small to WSJ: Your Personality Can Change for Better

Dr. Small to WSJ: Your Personality Can Change for Better


A groundbreaking Wall Street Journal interview with best-selling author Gary Small, a psychiatrist and director of UCLA’s Longevity Center, challenges the increasingly controversial notion a person’s personality is indelibly fixed in childhood.

“It’s never too late to change our personalities in order to live happier lives,” declares Dr. Small.

The Wall Street Journal was so intrigued by Dr. Small’s latest bestseller, “SNAP! Change Your Personality in 30 Days,” it sat down with Small and co-author Gigi Vorgan to discuss his extraordinary revelation people can alter their fundamental character traits at almost any age.

Small says the extensive research he studied on “personality improvement” led him to the inescapable conclusion people who are really motivated only need about a month to change their own personalities, provided they have the right guidance.

And they can make major without ever leaning back on a psychiatrist’s couch, too.

“These results confirmed that we can change our personalities if we choose to, and meaningful change can be achieved in a quickly as 30 days,” he told the Journal. “And because a variety of self-help therapies work, personality gains don’t necessarily require the help of a trained professional.”

Small, who also serves as editor of the Mind Health Report, explains how to modify core personality traits once believed to be immutable after childhood.

According to Small’s book, “SNAP!” each individual’s character is determined by where they fall on the spectrum of five core personality traits: extraversion, openness, emotional stability, agreeableness, and conscientiousness.

Small says tweaking any of these core characteristics involves a four-step process: Considering, planning, acting, and sustaining. The book uses the stories of people who experience real-life challenges to illustrate how those four steps can be used to effectively modify anyone’s personality. The improvement often occurs in just a few weeks’ time, Small and other experts say.

In the interview, Small says knowing how to tweak your own personality can bestow transformational benefits, including:

Greater emotional stability and control.
Improved relationships and deeper social networks.
A cheerful outlook in the face of empty-nester syndrome.
Reduced social isolation and less emotional stress.
Comfort in getting with the program and following your doctor’s recommendations.
Adopting healthier lifestyle choices that reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s, heart disease, or diabetes.
Many people, Small says, wrongly assume personality changes take months or years to achieve.

In the interview with the Journal he explains: “We emphasized the message that change can happen in 30 days because it upends the assumption that psychotherapy has to take several years to have an impact on people’s lives. This incorrect belief discourages many individuals from getting the help they need.”

Perhaps most encouraging, according to Small: Members of the fast-retiring Baby Boomer generation are much more open to considering self-help options than were their predecessors.

“The baby boomers are beginning to reach age 65 and older, and this generation has more positive views about psychotherapy and other mental-health treatments,” he said. “Also, seniors comprise a very heterogeneous group, and many have benefited from the psychotherapies and self-help approaches describe in our book.”

Small, who also wrote the bestselling book “2 Weeks to a Younger Brain: An Innovative Program for a Better Memory and Sharper Mind,” says your personality can even affect how long you live.

His approach and book have gotten high-level endorsements, including from Dr. Mehmet Oz and CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

He tells the Journal: “People who are extroverted and agreeable enjoy stronger social support, which lowers their stress levels. Emotionally stable individuals also experience less stress in their lives, which is good because stress increases risk for, and exacerbates, many physical and mental illnesses. These positive personality traits not only improve health but also extend life expectancy.”

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