You cannot be, do or get anything if it’s not part of your identity.
This is why lottery winners often lose their money pretty quickly. They see themselves as consumers so they consume – spend, spend, spend. They do not see themselves as millionaires who behave differently – they use money to make money.
Look away now…
I Googled some of these poor unfortunates because I wanted to exemplify the point by giving you some real-life details of those who have lost it all but frankly, the stories are uniformly grim. So I won’t.
The point is that our identity drives our actions.
- You will not do well in the classroom if your friends have convinced you that you’re too cool for school.
- You won’t sell a ton of stuff if you don’t see yourself as a sales person.
- You won’t captain the ship if you don’t see yourself as a leader.
But identity is not fixed. I never saw myself as a writer but it appears I am. There are 64,000 words on this site and I wrote them all. I’ve also got a PhD thesis in a box somewhere. And I used to write songs when I was in a rock and roll band. I’d forgotten about that.
And I cannot deny it. Even if I wanted to. There’s no point in saying “I’m not a writer” because I evidently am.
It works with the bad stuff too. If you smoke you are a smoker. No lie.
It’s funny. Since becoming self-employed I meet and form relationships with new people who don’t really know anything about me. To them, I am what I do. They identify me with my actions. I get no credit for good stuff I used to do but no longer do. And I get no opprobrium for bad stuff I used to do but don’t do now.
The action drives the identity which drives the action – and on and on. But it starts with the action.
Three little words…
So if we are what we do, what do you want to do, and then become?
In order to achieve what I want to in 2012, I have chosen three areas that I want to focus my actions on and in so doing really consolidate them in my identity.
I want to be…
I make sure that when I’m working I am being at least one of these three things at any given time.
And I hit myself over the head with them when I’m weak…
It goes a bit like this…
I decide to not do something I should do because I don’t want to do it (which is fear of some kind, even if merely fear of leaving my comfort zone).
This clearly offends my desire to be fearless so I say to myself…
“Nugent! You are a sentient being. You have decided to succumb to fear, even although you know fear is just a relic of your primal lizard brain. Are you happy with that decision and its implications, you numbskull?”
This decision to avoid the fear by not doing what I know I should was made by the ancient part of my brain, which is big on eating, mating and surviving, but poor on rationalisation. So I choose to listen instead to the much more modern part of my brain – the tweet-jacket-wearing neo-cortex, which is big on abstract rationalisation but poor on action. And then I do what the neo-cortex says. And that’s the difficult bit.
Before establishing my three words for 2012, I don’t think I was particularly unproductive, fearful or following, but the focus on them has without doubt changed my behaviour for the better and as they become a more solid part of my identity maintaining the associated behaviours becomes easier.