How much can humans change? (part 1)


Driven by all these encouragements to “make your dreams come-true”, “start a business”, “you can change him” or “forget her” affirmations, I started a journey of reading what’s out there in order to answer a big question: “how much can a human really change?”

It seems that our personality has a big importance in this change process. More precisely the sources of a human’s personality are 50% biogenic, 25% sociogenic and 25% idiogenic. The 25% idiogenic is what we can change according to Brian Little.

Let’s clarify first what we can’t change.

The 50% biogenic consist of ancestral inheritance, genetic inheritance, brain structure and functions. It’s obvious you have no power over your genes’ cocktail. It’s whatever mom, dad and the whole genealogic tree have put in your punch glass. It’s also clear the brain functions on its own and there is not much we can do about that either, hormones and chemistry accounted for. What we can do, though, is be aware of these. So, study the features you got from your family just to be aware how much do they weigh in the “Recipe of You”. Perhaps you got your grandpa’s entrepreneurial spirit? Or your dad’s cautiousness? Your mom’s optimism? How many grams of each in the “Recipe of You”?

The ancestral inheritance is also part of these 50%. It’s something all humans have and according to Paul Lawrence is characterized by 4 drives. These drivers kept us alive and…made us the ruling species of this world:

·       the drive to acquire things, properties, status, resources

·       the drive to defend everything listed above and below😊

·       the drive to bond which make us engage, cooperate and want to fit in socially

·       the drive to create a better self, a better world, better work

The drive to own is the strongest and it makes us wired for competitiveness. Have you seen children play nicely and then if you propose a contest and offer some candy they suddenly change into these super competitive mini-monsters as if they never tried candies? Ideally, we don’t want only to OWN stuff, but also to have MORE than others. That’s one of the reasons iPhones sell so well.

The drive to defend is the oldest and it gets activated when we are in danger (or what we own). It triggers the brain fight or flight response. It’s useful in case your house is on fire. It used to be monumental in survival. There is a glitch to it: we don’t need it so much anymore and sometimes it ruins our life, making us super careful, no risk-takers, life-goes-by while I sit on the sofa kind of people.

The drive to bond is how we started to reproduce, have sex, make kids. It is a primal instinct which nowadays is visible in a more “elevated” version of cooperation and communication. But still, we care a lot about what people think of us because who knows…we might just be kicked out of the village and end up as food for the wild animals. Even though the context has changed, we are still the slaves of “what would the others say if…?” (fill-in the dots with anything embarrassing that doesn’t make us feel special enough to fit in with the awesome group we want to be part of).

The drive to create is what makes us ask “what is this?” or “how does this work?”. Is that innate curiosity that children torture their parents with, daily. It’s also the hunger for knowledge that drives our hunger for perfection. Sometimes it’s helpful, sometimes it can become an obsession. It also helps us predict the results of a certain decision we might make. And I would add that it’s what brought us to invent so many devices and machines that make our life easier.

The drives to bond and create are exclusively human. They helped us build an empire on Earth. The drives to acquire and defend are the ones that could start wars. For being a good leader, you need all 4 in balanced proportions.

About the 25% sociogenic and the 25% idiogenic that compose our personality…next time. Stay tuned 😉


1.  Personality- What Makes You the Way You Are – by Daniel Nettle

2.  Me, Myself, and Us: The Science of Personality and the Art of Well-Being, by Brian Little

3. Driven: How Human Nature Shapes our Choices - by Paul R. Lawrence

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