cover image Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change

Be Who You Want: Unlocking the Science of Personality Change

Christian Jarrett. Simon & Schuster, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-1-501-17469-8

“People do change, and... if you want to change yourself, you can,” writes psychologist Jarrett (Great Myths of the Brain) in this enthusiastic guide to changing one’s personality. He begins with an exercise that rates readers on each of the “big five” components of personality—extraversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeability, and conscientiousness—and outlines the elements important to personality formation (a mixture of biology, genes, and life experiences). Exercises to help readers identify and shift their personalities come in each chapter: writing out one’s life experiences, for example, can reveal “fascinating things about your personality and how it has been molded by what you’ve been through,” and memory training exercises can help improve neuroticism. Along the way, he describes how brain injuries can cause personality changes (one woman went from “stern” to easygoing), touches on such disruptors as trauma and substance abuse, and explains the “dark triad” traits—Machiavellism, narcissism, psychopathy—that are thought to be exceedingly difficult to change. Things wrap up with 10 actionable principles “of personal reinvention” that include being honest with oneself and enlisting the help of others. Jarrett’s passion and encouragement will give readers the confidence they need to switch things up. Agent: Nathanial Jacks, Inkwell Management. (May)