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Performing as a Tool for Personal Growth

A pleasant way to try tweaking your personality.

Source: Nehézy László, Wikimedia, CC0
Source: Nehézy László, Wikimedia, CC0

You’re shy or bombastic, too laid-back or too fast paced.

Of course, it’s very difficult to change your core personality, but if you’d like to try tweaking it or adding a persona to your toolkit, one approach is to perform. Why? When we perform, the stakes feel high so we tend to get unusually engaged, as when taking a test compared with just studying the material.

Here's how you might use performing as a tool for personal growth:

Step 1. Pick something to perform that you already know well. For example, if you’re a musician, maybe a no-brainer like Mary Had a Little Lamb. If you’re a comedian, do a joke you know cold.

Step 2. Record yourself performing it waaaay too slow or waaaay too fast, or very hesitantly as a shy person would or very bombastically, whatever is the super-opposite of your baseline personality.

Step 3. Listen to the recording. Chances are that it won’t sound as extreme as you thought. If for example, you’re normally too laid-back, even performing slightly fast may feel superfast to you. That said, if it does sound too extreme, record it again, dialing it back so it feels only moderately too fast, moderately too slow, whatever.

Step 4. Perform it in front of a trusted friend. Do it twice: the first time your normal way, the second time at your new experimental way. Ask for honest feedback: “Which do you like better? Really.”

Step 5: If feasible, perform it in front of a group. Remind yourself that you can survive failure. It wouldn’t be an indictment of you, only of the experiment. Many experiments fail but offer lessons so the next experiment is more likely to be successful.

Step 6: Review. Do you like that persona you tried on? Could you see using it, not just when performing, but in your day-to-day life? Overall or just in certain circumstances?

Step 7: Try out your new persona in a relatively safe context other than in performing: Perhaps it’s when speaking with a friend, at a party, in a meeting of some volunteer activity, or at a low-stakes work meeting.

A personality transplant is not only near-impossible but probably undesirable. But if you’d like to try a low-risk way to modestly modify your pace or assertiveness, performing is an under-considered approach.

I read this aloud on YouTube.

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