Are you painfully disorganised? Experts say there are ways you can change your personality.

For as long as I can remember, I have always had issues with lateness.

My inability to understand how time works seems to be interwoven with my DNA. In kindergarten, I’d be late getting back to class after recess. As a teenager, I would – no matter what – find myself running to netball (the courts were at the end of my street) as the buzzer for the first quarter sounded. On Saturday night I literally turned up four hours late to a friend’s birthday party.

To be clear, in no way do I think this behaviour is okay. I hate myself because of it. Being late gives me great anxiety, and I am ordinarily a polite and considerate human being. But for some reason, ‘lateness’ seems to be a feature of my personality I cannot change.

"So sorry, I'm just running four hours late." Image via iStock.

Then last week, as I was scrolling through my news feed, I came across an article by The Atlantic entitled "Can Personality Be Changed?"

For a long time, traditional psychology has insisted that personality is somewhat set in stone. From personality tests like Myers-Briggs, to models like the Enneagram, the assumption has been that traits like neuroticism, agreeableness or extroversion are set, and that they shape our emotions and behaviours. Even Susan Cain's best seller "Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking", argues that personality is innate and rigid. According to Cain, we live in a world of extroverts versus introverts.

But what about when a trait becomes debilitating? Are we just to come to accept it, like we might our height?

New research claims that personality can absolutely be changed. It just won't happen overnight (dammit).

Barry Kaufman says "with enough adjustments to these patterns over time, it seems that people can change who they are."

According to Dr. Jonice Webb, there are five key steps to changing a personality trait. She writes:

  1. Believing that it’s possible to change. If you think it’s impossible, then it will be impossible for you.
  2. Seeing and owning the problem. You must want to change badly enough.
  3. Being willing to do the work over an extended period.
  4. Being able to imagine yourself being different.
  5. Being able to continue trying despite failures and setbacks.

Psychologists insist that the last point, resilience in the face of failure, is the most important action in changing a damaging personality trait.

Indeed, for years I've been trying the "make-an-enormous-unattainable-commitment-at-2am-because-it-sounds-like-a-great-idea-and-hope-for-the-best" strategy, and I can confirm with absolute certainty, that it has thus far failed to work.

"I'm only going to be 25 minutes late this time, I promise." Image via NBC.

An additional tip offered by Barry Kaufman, is to change your environment. Whether that be your workplace, living arrangement, or day to day routine, our environment gives way to, and perpetuates, a set of behaviours.

The things successful women do on the daily. Post continues below. 

The self-help industry, worth more than $10 billion in the US alone, will not offer any magic cure. Nor will feeling temporarily inspired by the likes of Tony Robbins. The feeling will fade, and you will be left with the harsh reality that there are no short cuts. Change comes from hard work (eugh).

It turns out that I am not alone in desperately wanting to change a feature of my personality. A 2014 study suggests that as many as 97% of people wish they were more conscientious. Specifically, they would like to be more organised and procrastinate less. 


There is good news for those of us who a) really want to change, and b) deep down are also very lazy. A 2013 Australian study, found that people's personalities seem to naturally change over their life span. Generally, as you get older you become less neurotic and more conscientious.

But being late is something I am very much in a hurry to fix. So, I think I'll go with Dr. Webb's advice.

Remind me to start tomorrow...