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One Size Does Not Fit All

By Linda Sapadin, Ph.D

If you've tried to overcome a self-defeating pattern (i.e. procrastinating, overeating, laziness) with little or no success, you may be feeling discouraged. Perhaps you think it's all in your DNA. Give up this foolish idea of change. Why torture yourself thinking change is even possible?

Hold on there! The difficulty may be in what you've tried. Most advice highlights the development of one or two essential skills. An example: To beat procrastination, many programs emphasize becoming better organized, better systematized. Those are good skills to learn. But they are not enough. Why? Because many of our habits - including procrastination - are fueled in large part by personality traits.

A helpful analogy: If you want to lose weight and you know nothing about nutrition, it's a good idea to become educated about calories, fat content, food groups, etc. However, if you're so knowledgeable in this area that you could teach a course on nutrition - yet you're still overweight - your failure and frustration has nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with personality traits.

Perhaps you have trouble tolerating frustration so you feel you must satisfy your desire to eat the moment you feel it. Or maybe you're a pleaser desperate to fit into the social scene, so if friends are having pizza that's what you're having too. Or perhaps you make promises to yourself in one emotional state (when you're stuffed) ignoring how you behave when you're in another emotional state (when you're starved).

If you want to beat any self-defeating pattern of behavior, it's essential (and enjoyable) to become more aware of your personality style: who you are, how you think, what you say, how you behave.

One size does not fit all. If you're following generic advice, it may be just the opposite of what will work. For instance, if your personality is fueled by a perpetual pursuit of perfection, it's essential that you pay less attention to details. Excessive focus on details can stop you in your tracks, inhibiting your optimism and forward advancement. But if your personality is fueled by a perpetual pursuit of visionary dreams that rarely reach fruition, it's essential that you pay more attention to details. Insufficient focus on details thwarts your progress as you disregard actions you need to take to make your dream a reality.

If a one-size-fits-all program isn't doing it for you, don't give up on yourself. Instead, find a program that doesn't insist that you fit into a mold that's 'not you'. No need for a personality makeover. After all, there are lots of good things about you. You just want to develop the improved, upgraded, enriched version of YOU!

To do so, begin by:

  • Knowing your personality style
  • Understanding what fuels your self-defeating behavior
  • Appreciating your strengths
  • Igniting your potential
  • Doing it now (for if not now, when?)

Copyright © 2009: Linda Sapadin, Ph.D
Linda Sapadin is a psychologist and personal coach in private practice who specializes in helping people enrich their lives, enhance their relationships and overcome self-defeating patterns of behavior. For more information about her work, contact her by email or visit her website at PsychWisdom.

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