Can People Change or Do They Just Modify Their Behavior?
When it comes to change, there are two schools of thought. Some people think we can’t change; people modify their behavior in response to the circumstances they find themselves in. Now, others believe that people can and do change fundamentally. So which is it? Can people change, or do they modify their behavior?
Can People Change Fundamentally?
If you think back to when you were a child, you may remember that you used to have very different beliefs and values. For example, you may have hated broccoli as a child, but now you love it. You may have been shy as a child, but now you’re not. You may have loved playing with dolls, but now you like playing sports. This doesn’t sound like someone who is just modifying their behavior but rather someone who is changing fundamentally. How we change as children and adolescents, but it doesn’t just stop there. We don’t just stop growing and evolving as we get older; we continue to change and transition in response to the world around us.
Is Behavior The Only Thing That Can Change?
It doesn’t only seem like people are changing their behavior but also their beliefs as well. Perhaps behavior is the only thing that can change because we don’t have a way of measuring or observing fundamental change. It’s easy to see the difference between the person who is quiet at the beginning of a conversation and the person who is loud and confident at the end. But what if we went back to that person a week later or a month later, and they were still confident and loud? In this case, we would assume that they have just learned how to behave in that situation, not that they have changed fundamentally. However, this doesn’t mean that they haven’t changed at all. They may have changed, but we don’t have the tools to measure it.
But Can People Change Their Beliefs?
We often think about people changing their beliefs as opposed to their behavior. For example, some people change their political affiliation or their religious beliefs. This can be seen as a fundamental change because it alters their thoughts about the world. What if we went back to these people in twenty years and asked them again about their political affiliation and religious beliefs? Would they still hold the same thoughts? Would they have changed back to what they once were? What if we could travel back in time and observe the people who held these beliefs and see if they changed? This would provide evidence that people are also changing their thoughts.
So How Do We Change Then?
Of course, we can’t travel back in time to observe people and see if they have changed their beliefs, but we can study people in the present day and observe how they are changing. One of the best ways we can see if people are changing their beliefs is through gratitude. When we are grateful, we acknowledge that things aren’t as bad as they could be and that we have received something of value. When we recognize the good in our lives and what we have received, we acknowledge that there are things that are better than what we have. When we believe that things are better than what we have, we recognize that our beliefs could be different.
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