Welcome to the Evolution of Medicine podcast! In this episode, Kristen Brokaw guest-hosts and interviews Benjamin Hardy, PhD, bestselling author and organizational psychologist. His latest book Personality Isn’t Permanent dives into fixed mindsets about who we think we are and how they can hold us back from achieving our goals and realizing our future selves. It was a great conversation, and one that all functional medicine practitioners, no matter where you are on your journey, should listen to—a ton of incredible insight shared. Highlights include:

  • How the ways we explain ourselves can be a detriment to our future selves
  • How labels can be both detrimental and helpful in personal development
  • The concept of “future self” and how to get clear on your goals
  • The difference between experience and learning
  • And so much more!

Resources mentioned in this podcast:

James Maskell: Hello and welcome back to the podcast. This week, we are doing the second in our series called the Business of Functional Medicine, and it is hosted by guest hosts Kristen Brokaw. And she dives into the topic of mindset with Benjamin Hardy, he’s an organizational psychologist, he’s written a number of bestselling books, and has a very popular blog and newsletter. And we just thought this would be a really interesting topic for practitioners this week, because ultimately, he’s talking about setting goals, having dreams, questioning norms, and thinking differently. And that couldn’t be more apt for today and all the things that we have going on in society. So it’s a great interview from Kristen. I think you’ll really enjoy it. Enjoy!
Kristen Brokaw: So I’m so happy to be here with you today, with Dr. Benjamin Hardy. You’ve just written a new book, Personality Isn’t Permanent, and this concept resonated with me because five years ago I was exposed to mold and it affected my eyes, I’m visually impaired, but I went through this whole pity party about, oh, am I going to go blind? I thought, okay, enough of that. So I sought mentorship.
Through this mentorship, I mean, I was hanging out with A players, people that were just going places. I thought, but they’re no smarter than me. They’re really no different than me. What makes them different? It was they had goals. You know, they really did, and huge goals, too. Right? And they were moving towards them.
I realized, I just thought that my life was the way that it was, or I felt like, oh, I’m an extrovert, or I’m these things, and as I started hanging out with these A players, my mindset changed. I really realized this is trainable. I am flexible. I am actually not an extrovert. You know? Like, who knew? Or maybe I’m not even an introvert, right? I realized I got to decide. So I want to dive into this concept of Personality Isn’t Permanent.
Benjamin Hardy: Awesome. Yeah, happy to be with you. Always love talking to you. I’ve been in some of the circles with you, and I consider you quite an A player, personally, from what I’ve understood of you.
Yeah, so I guess we could just start with a few of the little basics. Would that be the first place to start?
Kristen Brokaw: Absolutely. I really like what it made me see, was that it leads to a fixed mindset. That this fixed mindset that I had, here I am, I’m thinking I’m just living life, and how is that actually probably impacting a lot of the doctors that are listening to this podcast, right? This fixed mindset. So let’s start there. How is that impacting us?
Benjamin Hardy: Well, it’s really easy to think you know who you are. We, as people, we really like to define ourselves, and that’s really how identity is shaped in the first place. Identity is shaped by explaining yourself. You tell stories about yourself. So for your clients, whatever, part of that explanation is that they’re a doctor. That’s a big aspect of their identity. But what kind of doctor are they? How do they approach being a doctor? What are their habits and tendencies?
We really explain ourselves in various ways, and often to the detriment of our future selves because we explain ourselves so definitively that we stop going for things that are outside of our story. It doesn’t even actually come up for consideration.
So there’s a lot of research that’s happened in Harvard, actually, from Ellen Langer. She’s studied mindfulness for a really long time. What she finds is that when people are overly labeled or define themselves, they become very mindless.
Just as an example, if someone defines themselves as depressed, they’ll think that they’re always depressed when that’s actually not the case. They’ll miss all the times when they’re not depressed. When you overly define yourself, then what you do is you seek to defend and confirm your bias. Oh, I am this type of way. Yes, I’m an introvert. You really try to defend how you describe yourself rather than seeking to change yourself. Obviously, if you’re someone interested in growing and learning, it’s better to kind of seek a future version of yourself that has skills and capacities that you don’t now have, and to not hold so tight to who you are right now.
So I think that the fixed mindset is just the belief that you are who you are, that you can’t change. That leads to being very rigid and non-flexible to anything outside your comfort zone. That’s really what personality is. It’s your current comfort zone. In order to become someone new or to do something different, you’re going to have to step out of that and deal with uncertainty and go through the growth process towards a vision.
Kristen Brokaw: Okay, so fixed mindset labels. Let’s go to this concept of labels. So in medicine, we have to label things. I mean, heck you’ve got to get insurance to reimburse something, you’ve got to put a label on it, right? But in functional medicine, we say things like, oh, I’m going to test and see if you have MTHFR, and you’d be amazed how many people I’ve met and they’re like, oh, you don’t understand, I have MTHFR. So they wear it almost like this badge. And yes, it’s a thing. I mean, I’m not discounting it.
So how can labels be detrimental? How could they be helpful? But let’s dive into that.
Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. I mean, from a practical or from a practitioner standpoint, from what I’ve seen in the research, it’s good for doctors to use labels because that can help guide their approach. Often when that label is given to the client, then the client embeds that label as an aspect of their identity.
So when something is a big aspect of your identity, as I’ve said before, you become mindless to when the label is not true. You actually think that it’s always the case, which is not true. In various situations, it’s not true. But also the label can become a crutch. It can become this thing that leads you to justifying not seeking growth and development.
The label becomes a fixed mindset. I mean, that’s really what it does, is it stops you from seeking growth and it leads you to justifying the label. It becomes your identity, so you seek to defend it. You seek to confirm it rather than acting outside what the label would say.
So what I say is rather than setting goals to prove the label, it’s better to actually set goals that are who you want to be. Like maybe reshape the label so that you can become who you want to be versus trying to just overly confirm how you currently see yourself. Because your future self is going to be different. Your future self isn’t the same person you are today. So why overly define your current self?
Kristen Brokaw: I loved the example that you gave in your book of the gentleman you saw running down the road. You said there was this like really overweight man who was running, sweaty, with his shirt off, right? Why don’t you tell me a little bit about how you explained that in the book?
Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. So, I mean, here’s kind of the big idea is that you’re not the same person you were in the past. You’re not your former self. But often when we’re thinking about identity, we still explain ourselves the same way we did three or four or five or ten years ago. We’re very much stuck in the former persona.
Well, this is kind of a story. So I was just driving home from work one day. We live in Florida. Super-hot, palm trees everywhere. There was this really overweight dude running with no shirt on. This dude was fat. Do you know what I mean? There were stretch marks, it was intense. He was sweaty. I was not judgmental of this guy, I was actually inspired that he was that bold towards his future self. He was publicly exposing himself and he was just dead focused.
To me, that’s how you build flexibility and confidence is that you put yourself in situations where you’re obviously working towards your goals and you’re not overly embarrassed or worried about what other people are thinking about you. He was obviously not worried about what the on-looking cars thought, and even if he was, this was his way of kind of putting himself against his comfort zone so that he could become more flexible, more confident, more courageous.
I mean, courage is really how you build confidence, as is intention. So, to me, it was just like, it’s obvious that this man is not acting as his former self, because as his former, and even as his current self, he’s probably not that healthy of a dude, but his behavior is reflecting where he’s wanting to go. He’s doing it very publicly. There’s a lot of courage involved. To me, this is how you actually increase your subconscious and how you shift your identity.
Kristen Brokaw: Yeah. I think that that’s a great lesson for a provider to hear, is that giving a patient, let’s say, a label, which can be very good, and again, like you said, help direct where you’re going, but also I’m thinking of a diabetic, and like you said, their habits then reinforce the label versus this like future self they want to create.
Someone in my family is a diabetic, and they say, oh, they eat the sugar-free ice cream, or they just say, well, you know I’m a diabetic, and they’re really kind of attached to it.
With a doctor, how that could even be, well, I’m a doctor. I mean, there’s these narratives that kind of come with that territory, right? Like, oh, you have to know everything. You know what I’m saying? Like it’s kind of can become very—
Benjamin Hardy: It becomes a status.
Kristen Brokaw: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Benjamin Hardy: Yeah, it becomes a persona. Yeah. I mean, you think you have to know everything, you can’t admit being wrong. In that role, you might have a higher sense of ego, unwillingness to ask questions. I mean, it’s possible. I’m not saying I know every doctor, but getting stuck in a status or an identity, even as a doctor, could stop you from seeking future growth.
I mean, I like the quote from Condoleezza Rice, “Never be the former anything.” It’s like success can be a trap, because it can keep you stuck in how you think you are and stop you from going to that next level because you have a pretty strong identity in a certain way.
Like for a long time, I was very like the top writer Medium.com. Like, for years. When you’re successful in a certain area, you could cling to that identity, and you can cling to the former methodologies because they worked in the past. But I really like the quote, “What got you here, won’t get you there.” So it’s like just because something has worked and just because you’ve proven successful in one portion of yourself, it’s not good for you to stay that person just because it worked in the past, or to continue to tell the same story.
It’s much better to go to the next level. Who’s your future self? Like, yeah, what got you here is great, but where are you going to go as a person? In my opinion, if you’re not someone who’s actively seeking growth and change yourself, it’s, yeah, you can give advice, but it’s not going to be as powerful unless you’re going through your own transformational process yourself.
Kristen Brokaw: This is a functional medicine podcast. Most of the people that listen to this are in functional medicine. They understand growth outside of their comfort zone more than anybody. A lot of them made this transition from their past self of traditional medicine, trained in allopathic care, and then jumped over to this functional forward thinking and let’s get at the root cause. So they’re used to that.
So let’s talk about this goal. You keep mentioning goal and future self. So how do I think about my future self? I know you mentioned in the book, you can’t do it without having a goal. Let’s talk about creating a goal. I’m a doctor. What kind of a goal should I be creating for myself?
Benjamin Hardy: Yeah. Well, so here’s the thing. What they say the number one-deathbed regret is that people didn’t have the courage to be who they really wanted to be. Instead, they lived up to the expectations of those around them. Research shows almost 95% of people, but practically everyone, wants to make various changes in themselves.
So no matter how successfully, or as a doctor, obviously you want to make various improvements in yourself potentially in a career or personally, like there’s aspects of you that you want to change. So really the starting point of all change is just clarifying who you want to be. Clarifying your future self.
From a research standpoint, Hal Herschfield, he’s at UCLA, he spent a lot of time studying how having a future self concept shapes your decision making. So as an example, you can’t actually make intentional decisions today if you don’t know who you want to be tomorrow.
Like if you don’t have a clear sense of who you want to be tomorrow, it literally doesn’t matter what you want to do today. You can just keep being who you are. But if you have a clear future self concept, then that can guide your decision making today so that you can begin living intentionally rather than just on autopilot. We can tend to go on autopilot, which is basically living subconsciously where we’re just being who we were yesterday without much conscious thought. But when you have a goal and when you have a future self that you’re striving for, then your behavior matters. Then you can start working towards that in a deliberate way.
That’s basically where the whole research on deliberate practice comes in, where it’s like, you can actually engage in this type of skill development, the type of practice that leads to excellence in whatever you’re trying to do without a future self in mind. You can do something for 10,000 hours, like Malcolm Gladwell said, and not really get good at it. But deliberate practice doesn’t mean you did it for 10,000 hours, it meant you did something towards a very specific future self. The goal shaped your process.
So I would say as a doctor, whatever level you’re at, I mean, you have a why, you got into this field for a reason. You want to help people. There are obviously ways that you can improve your ability to do that. Like you’re not the perfect doctor yet. So what does your future self look like as a doctor, maybe even as a husband and father or wife? There are ways to improve yourself, but if you haven’t taken the time to clarify who you want to be, then you’re living your life in a non-deliberate way, and you’re just going through the motions. So it’s essential.
I mean, anyone who has succeeded and got to the level of being a doctor did so because they had a future self. They saw themselves becoming a doctor. They worked towards that for years. So the principal doesn’t go away.
Kristen Brokaw: I love what I’ve heard you say. I don’t know if I heard you say this or if it was in the book, but “Who do you want to be a hero to?” I think that’s actually an amazing question that everybody should ask themselves, right? So is there any research around that question?
Benjamin Hardy: Not really. I mean, that’s a question that Dan Sullivan asks people.
Kristen Brokaw: Oh, that’s right. It was Dan.
Benjamin Hardy: That’s a Dan Sullivan question. But it’s a great question. I mean, to me, that clarifies your audience. In a lot of ways, it can clarify your purpose. It’s like, who do you want to be a hero to?
You obviously want to be a hero to doctors. Functional medicine doctors. You want to help them be really successful. So I would ask the doctors listening to this, who are the people they want to be a hero to? Because that really shapes your purpose. That really helps you to define your future self as far as how can you better be a hero to those people, you know?
So I do love that question a lot. It can really help you get clear on your purpose.
Kristen Brokaw: I want to be the best medical professional mentor on the planet. I have made a declaration around it, thanks to my mentor, Bo Eason. So I just thought I’d share that.
Benjamin Hardy: I love that.
Kristen Brokaw: Thank you.
Benjamin Hardy: Thank you for sharing with us who your future self is. It’s freaking awesome.
Kristen Brokaw: I’m going to be on Mark Hyman’s podcast, too. That’s on there. So Mark, just—
Benjamin Hardy: You can do that.
Kristen Brokaw: You’re going to meet me soon.
When I have spoken to doctors and I’ve asked them, like, what do you want to do, or where do you want your practice to go? A lot of times they haven’t really thought about it. It’s interesting, I notice that they just sort of, huh? Something in talking to you that you said is when did you decide that that’s what your limit was? Or how did you decide that that’s where the limit was?
So I’ve asked some of the providers and they said, oh—this is pre-COVID—but, oh, I want to have a virtual practice. Right? That’s great, but maybe even some of those goals that people have, maybe they’re not even high enough. Like I mean, I kind of realize sometimes maybe I don’t have high enough goals. Is there anything we need to be thinking about when we set this goal?
Benjamin Hardy: Yes, definitely. I think that what this brings up is the idea that why did you decide the goal that you have in the first place? There’s a reason you set this target, whatever it is. Even if you’re at the place you’re satisfied being, why did you choose that this was the place you could be?
We shape our goals, first off, based on what we’re exposed to. You know? So if you’ve never seen someone doing it at a different level. Like for example, I have three foster kids. We’ve adopted them at this point, but when we got them, they had been exposed to very little. They came from a very limiting environment. They’d never seen people living in a healthy way. So your goal is shaped by what you know, you know? So if you’re not aware of other things, then you’re probably not going to set goals to do things you’re unaware of.
But also your goals, in a lot of ways, are shaped by your level of confidence. You know? Your confidence is based on like what you think you can do and what you’re willing to try and what you believe is possible. If you don’t believe that you can do much more than you’re already doing, then you’re probably not even going to attempt it.
So I think what I’m trying to invite people to do is question their current goals, because your goals are taking you in a direction, and your current identity is based on what you’re pursuing. So it’s good to ask yourself, why did you choose this? Maybe your future self would prefer something different. Just because this is what you want right now, it’s possible that you could choose something else. You know?
There’s a lot of people who have bad goals. Like I talk about people who go to prison people. Like I talked about Andre Norman in the book. His goal was to be a thug because he grew up in a thug environment, and he had to change his goal. Which he actually did. He changed his goal to go to Harvard.
So I just invite people to ask, why did you set this target? I really like the quote, again, back to Dan Sullivan, “The bigger the future, the better the present,” because the goal shapes the process. So if you have a big goal, that’s going to totally reshape what you do today. You may have to be more courageous. The goal shapes the process. So if it’s a huge goal, you’re going to probably have to do a lot more of a bold, compelling process that will lead you to changing who you are.
It makes your life a lot better when you’re pursuing something a lot bigger.
Kristen Brokaw: That’s absolutely true. I can say that from experience. It’s interesting that you say that the goal shapes the process. A lot of times, take group visits for instance, or I’ll be mentioning group visits to providers, and they’ll say, okay, but how do you do that? They’re always asking like how, how, how, and they want to know the process. It’s just like what I’ve learned from you, is that it’s actually the opposite. It’s like set the goal, and the how comes, or you’ll figure it out.
Benjamin Hardy: You’ll find the right process.
Kristen Brokaw: Yeah. Because there isn’t. I’ve noticed that when I actually do tell providers, like this is the process that so-and-so took to do group, it still doesn’t make them do it. It’s like they have to figure it out themselves.
Benjamin Hardy: Well, and sometimes that process may not actually translate to their goal. Like as an example, it’s kind of interesting, like I’m an NBA fan, and so I’ve watched NBA. LeBron James was interviewed a lot this year because he almost, and potentially still, may be named the MVP this year, most valuable player. People asked him, was it your goal to become the MVP? He said, “No.” He said, “My goal has always been to be the best player in the world.”
He said, sometimes, because that goal shaped his process, which is different from other people, by pursuing that goal, he may not actually be pursuing to be the MVP this year. So he said, “Yeah, I’ve always been training to be the number one player in the world.” And he said, “Sometimes that goal has resulted in me becoming the MVP, but I’ve never actually intentionally gone for that.” But his process is very different than if he was specifically going for MVP this year. He would probably have approached things a lot differently.
So you can’t actually understand someone’s process without understanding their goal. You can’t actually clarify a useful process without an intentional goal. So like as an example, when I decided I wanted to become a professional author with one of the big five in New York and to be writing books that are read by many, many people, that goal shaped my process as far as how do I start? You know, if I just wanted to be a blogger and just get my ideas out there, I wouldn’t have needed to go through the process of learning how to write articles that were read by millions of people. I wouldn’t have needed to learn how to be an entrepreneur and a businessperson and learn how to write.
My process and who I became was because I was clear on the future self and because of my goal. So just seeking a process isn’t really the best method. The process always has to come from what’s the goal, what’s the outcome you’re trying to produce, and what’s the most effective way to get there? Yeah, you can take other people’s processes in some ways, but only if they translate to the outcome you’re looking for.
Kristen Brokaw: Oh, that’s a yes.
Benjamin Hardy: But people will get infatuated process.
Kristen Brokaw: They do. Oh, yes, they do. Providers like a protocol. Protocols are good.
Benjamin Hardy: It’s good to have that, but only if it’s clear that it’s going to translate to the goal for that person or for yourself. I think often the process becomes the goal. I’ve seen that in psychology, where we really obsess with our methods, and then that becomes what we focus on, and now we’re no longer even talking about people, we’re just talking about methods.
Kristen Brokaw: Right. Right. That’s so interesting.
So you brought up deliver practice so many times. Let’s talk about that. I mean, 10,000 hours, right? So a lot of providers, and even myself, and we’ve done lots of the same thing for many times. So we’ve got a lot of reps in. But from what you’re saying, and the research, that does not mean we’re getting better, right?
Benjamin Hardy: Especially if your identity is still the same way. I mean, if you don’t have a clear future self and you still see yourself the same way, let’s just say you keep continuing to label yourself the same way with the same identity narrative.
Put it this way. Let’s just say you are someone who’s ran, exercise-wise, for 20 years, but you don’t see yourself as someone who could get really great at running. You’re not someone who’s investing in mentoring. You could have ran for 20 years, and, yeah, it could have improved your health to some degree, but your identity around running is still the same way as it was 15, 20 years ago. You don’t actually believe you can get to certain levels with that fitness. So you’ve done it over and over again, and, yeah, it’s probably provided some benefits, but you could have gone so much further.
Like your identity. The problem with doing something the same way for years is that you still see yourself from the same perspective. This is why you need to set a future self that has a different perspective.
From decision making, you want to ask yourself what would your future self do? You know? Like how would your future self approach this workout if they were an Olympic athlete, or whatever your goal is.
Just as an example, a few days ago I went home, because I have an office where I work, and I went home after like a pretty strenuous workday. I have five kids, and my eight-year-old son was like, “Dad, let’s go swimming.” You know, we have a pool in our backyard. I was tired. I did not want to do it, and pretty much I just told him, just go swimming. I’ll just sit and watch you. We’ve got chairs, I’ll just watch you. He was like begging, begging, begging.
I thought to myself, how would my future self want to remember this? Because right now you have current preferences. Your current preferences are different from your future self’s preferences. So I was like, what would my future self, first off, do? But how would they want to remember this? Obviously, with that in mind, it’s easy to make the right decision and jump in the pool.
So you’ll do things that you don’t necessarily want to do in the moment because it translates to who you want to be. So I just think it’s essential to define that and then to actually go through the process. Yes, it’s not hard. I mean, yes, it’s hard. Yes, you’re going to have to deal with uncertainty. Yes, you’re going to have to go.
Really, how I define deliberate practice is acting towards your future self. The person who wants to be an Olympic athlete is training towards that goal. They’re not training as they did yesterday, they’re training towards a goal. So they’re actually trying to be their future self. They’re not there yet, but they’re working towards that.
So if you don’t have that, then you can’t engage in deliberate practice. Therefore you’re not actually getting better towards a specific version of yourself that you want to become. You’re just staying where you are.
Kristen Brokaw: You know, that’s said so well. That concept is talked about specifically with physicians in the book Peak by Anders Ericsson, Secrets from the New Science of Expertise. He mentioned about physicians that physicians that have been doctors for 15, 20 years often are, with all due respect, worse than ones who have been out of med school in the past five years.
Benjamin Hardy: Yeah, there’s a lot of that.
Kristen Brokaw: It’s because maybe they don’t have a goal, right? Maybe they don’t have a clear goal set for themselves. They’ve also gotten used to getting out of maybe their comfort zone on a regular basis, which he talks about is essential for deliberate practice. So, I mean, I just thought that was so interesting. Again, all of the functional medicine providers that I work with, they love learning and they love what more can I know to make myself better? You’d mentioned like knowledge versus learning. Can you—
Benjamin Hardy: Well, I would even say experience versus learning. There’s a good way of thinking about this. A lot of people have 20 years of experience, but it’s not really 20 years of experience, it’s a one-year experience repeated 20 times. So like experience doesn’t translate to learning. Like you always want to make your learning more than your experience. But if you’re not seeking goals, then you’re actually just repeating experience, and that’s often what happens.
You know, even people who, let’s just say, are in a bad relationship and they keep getting into the same bad relationships. They’re not learning from their experience. They’re not translating experience into change. So just because you do something over and over again, it doesn’t actually mean that that experience is useful. Your experience only becomes useful when you filter it through a goal.
I can tell you this, because as a writer, and we call it selective attention in psychology, but when I start writing a book, I start seeing it everywhere. You know, all of a sudden, I can translate.
Kobe Bryant actually said this. He said once he determined who he wanted to be, the whole world became his classroom because he knew what to look for. So like in psychology, like just as an example, when you buy a car, you start to see the car everywhere, right? That’s the key to setting a goal, is that when you have a future self, then your environment starts to provide direction on to become that person. If you don’t have a goal, then you’re not properly filtering your life and your environment, so you’re not taking your experience and translating it into change and learning. You’re just essentially just living today as you did yesterday.
When I’m writing a book, I start to see it everywhere. Like everything becomes something I can use and I’m constantly digesting it. As a result, my experience is leading to the results I want.
So, yeah, you want your experience to lead to change. If you think about it, like all of the other doctors out there, if they’re just repeating the same experience over and over again from the same paradigm without churning that experience into specific knowledge or expertise or skills, which is deliberate practice, if they’re not doing that, then you can obviously be in a totally different league.
I like the quote, “Intelligence is the ability to make finer distinctions.” Like finer distinctions. As a psychologist, if I can see things that other psychologists can’t see because I can make finer-grain distinctions, I’ve learned how to see maybe nuance that they can’t see. In high performance, they talk about how like the more skilled you get at something, the more you can see like various things that other people can’t see. They may see like one thing where you see 50.
So if you’re not actively seeking expertise, and if you’re not actually growing as a person, yeah, as you said, you’re actually probably getting worse. You know, the more you stay in your comfort zone, the smaller your comfort zone gets.
Kristen Brokaw: Yeah. Maybe I read it in the book where you said it’s not about seeing a thousand different things, it’s about seeing one thing a thousand different ways. That was really interesting for me, and I’ve been with a lot of providers who it’s just they’re so inquisitive that it’s like the more you know, the more you don’t know, and they’re just really—
Benjamin Hardy: They’re smart people.
Kristen Brokaw: Yeah.
Benjamin Hardy: That includes your memory, by the way. Think about it.
Kristen Brokaw: Okay.
Benjamin Hardy: If you’ve had a traumatic experience and you only see it one way, then you’re probably not reframing it. Right? So if you’ve had a negative experience and you can’t see it from a thousand different obstacles or perspectives, or from different meanings, then you’re giving it the same meaning that you had when the event occurred. So you probably have a fixed mindset. That’s when people focus so much on content versus context. Seeing something from different perspectives is reshaping the meaning of the context.
So if you keep seeing something the same way, then it means that you’re not actually learning from this thing. So seeing something in different ways, even yourself, and rather than overly defining yourself in one way, is how you can change.
Kristen Brokaw: I think that represents COVID right now in medicine, is that there’s so much that they don’t know and they’re having to like look at this from so many different angles and everybody’s kind of weighing in. Maybe the way they did things in the past, they’re really shifting. Yeah, that’s very applicable.
Benjamin Hardy: Situations like this force you to look at things differently, and that’s good. If this situation hadn’t occurred, how much were we ignorant of before this situation? That hopefully in the future, we can make better decisions, better practitioner decisions. Or hopefully better health decisions. We were unaware of this, and therefore it occurred to us, and now we’re very aware of it.
So, yeah, either we’re going to be a victim to this, it’s happening to us, or we can be a learner through this, it’s happened for us. Now what can we do as a result?
So we can take this, and as a society, we can obviously become a lot better by making better decisions and taking what this thing has given us, and hopefully make better decisions in the future. Which I’m sure most people, many people, will do.
Kristen Brokaw: You’ve talked about how we have to manufacture peak experiences. I mean, that’s also part of this deliberate practice, right? Where we have to force function. This is some information from your other book, Willpower Doesn’t Work. But I mean, that’s kind of interesting. We’ve been forced into having a peak experience.
Benjamin Hardy: This is a forced function situation. Yeah, deliberate peak experiences are kind of experiences that open you up to seeing the world differently. It’s just essentially learning experiences. They call them peak experiences because they lead to greater psychological flexibility and confidence. When you have more flexibility, you can deal with uncertainty, ambiguity. You can deal with new situations and you don’t just see the world one way. So peak experiences really opened you up. You stop being so defined one way.
Also, they allow you to grow as a person. Like what Abraham Maslow said is you have to have multiple peak experiences in order to become self-actualized. Self-actualization is basically just where you can learn, grow, change. You’re not so stuck one way.
But yeah, in order to have peak experiences regularly, which is not the case, most people don’t have these regular, you have to be intentional. You’ve got to be working towards goals. You’ve got to be acting courageously and moving in a goal directed direction. When you do that, you’re going to have a lot of learning experiences.
So that’s, I think, the goal. There’s a really good quote that I love, that a mind stretched by a new idea can never go back to its former state. You know, we’re not going to be able to go back to how things were pre-COVID, you know? So like when you grow as a person, it becomes a point of no return. You don’t want to go back. Why would you go back to how you saw things before? Why would you practice medicine the way you’ve practiced it before? You now know too much.
So that’s actually why you don’t want to hold your current view too tight, is because right now you don’t know things that your future self knows. They’re going to learn some things and they’re going to have some peak experiences in the future that are going to lead them to realizing some of the things you’re doing right now aren’t optimal, and that’s okay.
Like even for myself, if I go back and reread Willpower Doesn’t Work, I’m really glad I read it, but I wouldn’t write that same book today because I don’t see the world the exact same way. I love what’s in there, some of it, and I’m not saying I disagree with it, but I’m glad I don’t see the world the exact same way. It’s just good to not hold your current views and methods and processes so tight, because hopefully your future self has better views, better methods, better processes for helping people. So as a result, you should be more focused on your future self and not be so rigid about how you currently do things and see things.
Kristen Brokaw: Yeah.
Benjamin Hardy: Your future self is going to look at your current methods and be like, nah, I wish…maybe not. Hopefully you have empathy towards your former self. But your future self is going to be like you’re going to have better confidence and capability, hopefully, if you’re working towards it, to help people much better and more effectively and faster.
That’s what innovation and evolution is all about is that hopefully in the future there’s methods and perspectives so that we can help solve these problems a lot faster. Solve things like cancers. Solve situations. Right now, our current situation, we can’t do certain things. Hopefully our future selves have solved those problems. The only way we can do that is to be intentional and work towards it.
Kristen Brokaw: Right, and like you said, manufacturing those peak experiences. A lot of clinicians go to conferences, but you and I are even both involved in a mastermind. I’ve got one, and it’s just getting around other people who have goals and are really striving just like you. You don’t always talk to people like that, and that’s really enriching.
Benjamin Hardy: Well, think about you. You know, this is, from my understanding, your first podcast episode in this realm. Like if you, obviously, think about it, this is a learning experience for you. If you didn’t do this, you wouldn’t know what you’re going to know on the opposite side of this podcast. After you do 10, 15 more, you’re going to know things that you could have never known if you weren’t actually doing it.
So peak experience means you’re actually doing stuff towards a goal that you’ve never done before. That’s why there’s uncertainty, and your brain doesn’t want to deal with uncertainty. It really wants your life to be predictable and stable. But when you’re outside your zone, when you’re trying something new, that’s where you learn.
They actually call it prediction errors in psychology, or even in neuroscience, where you’re surprised by what happened, and you’re realizing that there’s things that you weren’t even aware of or couldn’t have planned for. That’s where you start to learn, and you can’t do that if you’re not actively trying stuff you’ve never done.
Kristen Brokaw: That is perfect. Thank you so much for that. That’s exactly why a lot of providers who, James Maskell and myself, we’ve encouraged doctors to do group visits, and they just can’t jump off the ledge because they can’t see how it would actually go. I say, you’re going to know exactly how it should go when you do it. You know, you just have to jump.
Benjamin Hardy: You’ve got to adjust outside the comfort zone to what happened. Right? That’s how you become more flexible. You can’t just stay in the comfort zone and try to be flexible. It’s like you’ve got to go out there and then be flexible.
Kristen Brokaw: Right.
Benjamin Hardy: That’s why it takes courage to get out there, and then you build confidence and flexibility the more you’re outside your zone. Your personality is essentially your zone. It’s your comfort zone. So the more you go out of that, the more emotionally developed you become, the more confident you become, the more you can set bigger goals, the more you’re exposed to because you’re stepping out of your comfort zone. You’re being exposed to more things, more people, watching yourself grow, watching yourself do things you’ve never done before.
So, yeah, peak experiences are available outside of the zone. Every time you just stay where you are, you’ll just see things the same way.
Kristen Brokaw: Well, this has been awesome. Your book is Personality Isn’t Permanent, and where can people find you?
Benjamin Hardy: Pretty much you can find the book anywhere. You can get the book on Audible or Kindle or however you read or listen to books. But yeah, my website is benjaminhardy.com. Yeah, tons of blog posts, tons of free resources. This book actually has about 150 journal prompts in it, such as for reframing former experiences, also for clarifying your future self. So there’s a lot of actual useful tools or exercises in the book, if that’s what you want.
But yeah, I would just recommend you read and buy the book. I think there’s a lot of really cool new science about identity, about personality, about trauma, and about why people get stuck and how people get into fixed mindsets, and ultimately how you can proactively make the decision who you want to be and go through that deliberate practice process of becoming that person.
To me, that’s the more interesting way to live is to be seeking a future self on a daily basis. That’s a different process than just going through the motions on a daily basis and being the version of you that you are today.
Kristen Brokaw: I also think for providers, that’s a great message for them, but what a great message that they can then use as treatment and therapy, like encouraging their patients.
Benjamin Hardy: Towards their future self.
Kristen Brokaw: Oh my gosh, that’s exactly why providers need to read the book.
Benjamin Hardy: Well, if the provider can provide a vision for their clients or their patients about a future self vision and that the process that they’re building together, which is kind of what the provider is giving, will translate to that future self, then they’ll have more of a reason to go through it. They’ll have more faith and confidence and hope that this process can get you there. You can’t actually have motivation and hope without a goal.
Obviously, if you’re providing help to your people, you want them to have hope. You want them to have motivation to go through it. In order to do that, you need to help them see their future self with conviction and confidence, and that the process that you’re providing them is going to get them there, so they can go through that from a deliberate practice perspective rather than just, oh, this is the thing that my doctor is giving me. It’s like, no, this is the very process that will help you get where you want to go.
Kristen Brokaw: That said perfectly. We’re going to end on that, because that is the secret sauce. That’s the biggest takeaway.
Well, thank you so much, Dr. Benjamin Hardy. Everybody, go read this book. Thank you.


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