A Shortcut to Building an Identity for Success

Two months ago, I published a post called Why Your Personal Development Efforts Fail and What to Do about It.

In summary, our personal development efforts fail, because they are mostly on an intellectual level. We set SMART goals. We prioritize our tasks. And we schedule our days.

All of that is good advice and help on a certain level, but success requires us to go deeper than that, way deeper.

Your Identity Determines Your Results

Our thoughts and actions come from who we are, not from what we think on an intellectual level. On an intellectual level, you might think that you want to be successful, but if you aren’t a risk taker and hard worker, you won’t make much progress.

Beyond the intellectual level, we have our emotions, habits, personality, beliefs, and identity. I argue that all of that stems from our identity.

Finding Your Default Identity

Ask yourself the following questions.

  • Who are you?
  • Which personality traits do you have?
  • What motivates you?

You can find more questions to discover your identity in the post mentioned above. You can also determine your dominant personality traits. Which end of the spectrum are you closer to in the Big 5 Personality Traits?

  • Openness to Experience: inventive and curious vs. consistent and cautious
  • Conscientiousness: efficient and organized vs. easy-going and careless
  • Extraversion: outgoing and energetic vs. solitary and reserved
  • Agreeableness: friendly and compassionate vs. challenging and detached
  • Neuroticism: sensitive and nervous vs. secure and confident

Working WITH and/or ON Your Identity

Once you determine your default identity, you have two choices.

  1. Adjust your goals to match your default identity.
  2. Adjust your identity to match your goals.

Of course, you can choose the third option and combine the two. You can adjust some of your goals. Then, you can adapt your identity to the remaining goals.

It is possible to have a dominant personality but act the opposite when the situation demands it. Think about an introvert writer, who has to be an extrovert in a presentation. Or consider an extrovert businessperson who needs to stay alone to reflect on a problem.

Find Your Role Model

Once you made your decision, we can continue with the next step. That is to find a role model that matches your target identity. Your target identity can be one of the following.

  1. Your default identity,
  2. An identity that matches your goals,
  3. Or a combination of both.

Finding a role model is a powerful practice. Up until then, we are still on an intellectual level.

A role model is a concrete example. A person who has an identity that is similar to your target identity and had enormous success. That is also an excellent source of motivation.

If you’re an introvert problem solver, you can choose Albert Einstein as a role model. If you’re an extrovert visionary, Steve Jobs comes to mind. There are countless examples in the spectrum.

Success doesn’t require a single type of identity. You’ll find successful people with a wide range of personality traits.

Once you find your role model, learn as much as possible about them, especially their working patterns.

  • How did they leverage their strengths?
  • What did they do about their weaknesses?
  • In what kind of endeavors did they succeed?
  • How did they deal with the challenges?


Building an identity for success is hard work. Finding a role model that matches your target identity is the easiest and most effective way to do that.

Once you find them, study their lives and working patterns and model them to the extent possible, so that you can reach the same magnitude of success.