Writing and publishing this post was painful, but I had to do it. This is what kept me and countless others from success despite all the effort and success. It was painful to face this fact, but at the same time, gave a new hope. Warning: reading this might hurt you, but I hope it will inspire you and change the way you look at life and success.
In the past, I’d spend an insane amount of effort to write a book, just to stop a few days before hitting the publish button. I know people who are great researchers. They worked in their fields for decades, but they don’t dare to go after the PhD degree they deserve. Have you ever spent an insane amount of effort on a goal without any results at all? What’s going on in here?
My answer to that question is identity.
If your identity doesn’t match the identity of the person who would get the results you’re aiming for, you won’t get those results, no matter how hard, how long, or how smart you work.
Now, take a moment to let that sink in.
I didn’t dare to complete the last chapter of my book. I didn’t dare to promote my already published online course, even though it provided massive value to me and to my close friends. What was holding me back?
In my mind, I wasn’t a personal development author. It didn’t match my identity. On the one hand, I believed I wasn’t good enough to be an author. On the other hand, I believed I was overqualified to be an author. As a result, I didn’t dare to pull the trigger on multiple occasions.
This time, I decided to try something else. Instead of writing a book and feeding it to Amazon, I decided to build my identity first. If I couldn’t succeed at building my identity first, writing and publishing a book wouldn’t mean anything at all. If I didn’t have that identity, no one would read that book. It would be one of those 300 books published every day and forgotten as soon as they were published.
Creating an Identity for Success
Your identity is as important as your environment for success. Your identity influences the way you look at things, the way you perceive and approach life, the way you react to your environment, the way you act and behave. All of which have a huge impact on creating your reality.
By changing your identity, you are changing your life at a root level.
Take the military training as an example. Military training not only involves physical activity and gunmanship. It also involves having a clean haircut, shaving daily, waking up early, having a clean uniform, having your bed made, even your locker well-organized. Why is that? That’s all a part of building an identity of discipline and precision. These are the two qualities that lives depend on in a military mission.
What do you see when you look at the mirror the first thing in the morning?
I know people who get depressed by what they see in the mirror the first thing in the morning. Is this how you want to start your day? Or do you want to look at the mirror and see a warrior with a clean haircut and well-trained muscles? How would you feel the rest of the day if you saw that image in the mirror, the first thing in the morning?
I’m not a big fan of consumerism, but to some extent the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the phone you use all contribute to your identity, which in turn contribute to your results. Even what you eat and drink contributes to your identity. I drink organic, fair-trade coffee. With only two cups a day, the price doesn’t make that much of a difference, but my choice reinforces my identity of a person who takes care of themselves and is compassionate towards less fortunate people.
You can’t change your identity overnight, unless a huge, dramatic event occurs in your life, but you can definitely change your identity over time. The first step is to become aware of the parts of your identity that are holding you back.
Which Parts of Your Identity are Holding You Back?
Look at your results and ask yourself which parts of your identity are holding you back from achieving the results you want. By asking this question, you will figure out the obvious factors and you can fix them.
Learn What You Don’t Know You Don’t Know
Consuming personal development content is a great way to learn what you don’t know you don’t know. There are lots of great books, videos, podcasts, articles, and blogs out there.
It wasn’t obvious to me that I was hesitating between several options all the time until I read a paragraph in Michael Neill’s book Supercoach. After reading that paragraph, I started to make conscious effort to cultivate decisiveness. I have even written a few blog posts about the topic to share what worked for me.
Ask for Feedback and Make Use of It When You Receive It
Ask for feedback from your colleagues, friends, and family. In some cases, they will give feedback to you without even asking it. Sometimes, they will give you clues. It’s important to take that feedback and make the best of it.
I have received the feedback that I wasn’t an independent worker. As soon as I came against something that I had no clue about, I used to ask it to my colleagues or friends. Some people find that annoying, especially in the IT sector. IT people expect you to exhaust all of your options before you ask something to them. I learned that lesson years ago and made it a part of my identity to do my research and experimentation before asking something to someone.
Go After New Experiences
Go after experiences that are outside of your comfort zone. This can be participating in a personal development workshop, going for a road trip, or building a side business. Sometimes, life will give you unexpected experiences that are outside of your comfort zone, such as getting lost in the woods.
Getting lost in the woods was a lesson to cultivate faith in my abilities and aggressiveness towards my goals.
Build Habits to Build Your Identity
A part of my identity that wasn’t serving me well was taking things easy and not being disciplined enough. I realized that working out in the gym regularly would help me cultivate discipline and strength, not only physically, but also psychologically. Make no mistake, I like working out, but if enjoying it was my only motivator, I would work out once a week and do only the pleasant exercises, instead of four times a week starting with an abs routine.
If you want to achieve a goal, think about a role model that has already achieved that goal and try to assume their identity and create their environment to the extent possible. What are the habits and character traits that helped them succeed? What are their thinking patterns? How do their working and living environments look like?
You can even visualize yourself as the person that has already achieved the goal that you have set. How do you feel? What is your mindset? What are your thinking patterns? What are your habits? How does a day in your life look like? What is in your working and living environment?
If your identity doesn’t match your goals, you’ll keep failing at them no matter how hard you work. Sometimes, the only way to gap the bridge between where you are and where you want to be is to cultivate the identity of person that would achieve your goals.
Call to Action
- Come up with three action items to find out and cultivate an identity that will make you succeed.
- Reread this post if necessary to complete exercise above.
- Execute at least one of the action items that you have determined within 24 hours.
- Let me know in the comments how it worked for you.
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.
I’ve been there, and I’ve also decided that I need an identity prior to projects related to that identity. It’s not necessary for all activities, but being an author is probably among them.