You probably think your life could be better.
It’s not that it’s bad. It’s just not what you’ll call “awesome”.
If you want to confirm this, answer this question:
What have you been up to?
If your answer is:
- Not much
- Same old
or any other variation, then you may want to jumpstart your life.
A great way to do that is by upgrading your identity.
Your identity is who you believe yourself to be and is made up of your thoughts, your actions, your habits and your outer appearance. People often make the mistake of believing that their identity is pre-determined and cannot be changed. They don’t realize that their current identity exists only because they’ve allowed it to and that they have the power to change their identity at any time. To make a lasting change in your life, redefine your identity.
You will always be you. There is no law that says you need to be the same you for the rest of your life. The whole point of personal growth and mastery is to be a BETTER you every day.
So how do you change your identity for the better and make it stick?
Define in Detail a Better Identity
Think about the identity you want to step into. What are the inner qualities and outer appearances that make up this identity?
A good place to start is to look closely at the people you admire and isolate the qualities that you admire about them. You can get to know many great people from their biographies or interviews. You can even make it up because you’re not trying to be someone else. You’re finding strong qualities to build a better identity than the one you have now. To make this work, you need to get specific. Ask yourself questions like:
- What is their demeanor and personality?
- How would they carry themselves in public and in private?
- What is their view on handling disputes?
- What clothes would they wear?
- How would they treat waiters, their boss or the President of the US?
- What good habits would they have?
Once you have a clearer picture for how this new identity thinks, looks and acts, organize this information and create a profile for this “new” you. Hone in on three key characteristics that define this new identity and highlight them in your profile.
Step Into Your New Identity
To take on this new identity, you’ll need to do three things:
1. Believe that this better identity IS you
2. Think like this better identity
3. Act and look like this better identity
To mentally prepare, visualize yourself adopting the thought processes and mannerisms of this new identity. Rehearse in your mind typical scenarios you face and how you would act with this new set of qualities. Notice the differences between how you would have handle the situation before and how you would handle it now.
Once you’ve practiced it mentally a few times, do it in real life. If you feel like you’re being fake, it’s because you don’t believe that this new identity is you. Many of us allow other people to give us our identities – parents, teachers, friends, media, etc. It’s time to take back that power.
Give yourself permission to define who you are.
Your identity is who YOU want it to be and not who others want you to be.
For example, you decide that your new identity is confident, happy and generous. To be this new you, you will assert yourself at work, stand with a strong posture, smile more often and donate your time and money to charity. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t do any of this before, start now.
Make Your New Identity Stick
This is probably the most challenging step.
To make your new identity stick, other people must acknowledge it. This is tough because those around you know you as you and it’s common to believe that people don’t fundamentally change. Think about your own experience with people you knew when you were younger who have changed dramatically. Weren’t you a bit skeptical too?
It’s hard enough for you to adapt to your new mindset and behaviors. It becomes even tougher when others around you unknowingly sabotage your efforts by treating you like you haven’t changed or talk to others about the “old” you.
The easy fix for this is to move to a place where no one knows you. By doing this you don’t need to worry about breaking down other people’s old image of you, or having them misinterpret your new actions with their perceptions of the old you. You can just adopt your new appearances and actions and others will accept you for who you have decided to be.
When you’re working so hard to improve yourself and other people question what you’re doing or worst yet, tell you that you’re being inauthentic, it is frustrating. Unfortunately, it’s always people closest to you who are most skeptical. They know you so well that they’re not willing to give up the old you. They even become suspicious of the new you.
According to the bible, Jesus faced a similar issue. He was known to be a great man during his time but people in his hometown only knew him as a carpenter’s son and would not acknowledge his greatness. He even said, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family” (Mark 6:4). This didn’t stop him from being great and it shouldn’t stop you.
If moving away is not an option for you, change your environment in some way. You can find new friends, change the amount of time you spend with your old friends and family or switch jobs. This allows you to get comfortable with your new identity.
Of course, you probably like your friends and leaving your family is not an option, so what should you do then?
Tell those close to you what you’re trying to do. You can even show them this article to help them understand. They can support you if they want but at the minimum they should not sabotage you. If they are not supportive, it is okay. You don’t need other people to acknowledge it first for you to change. It just makes it easier. If you’re consistent with your new identity, people will begin to accept your new identity and change their attitude and beliefs towards you.
I’ve had the fortune of reinventing myself several times and it’s always been easier when I was in new surroundings. Now that I’m back in my hometown, I still have people from my childhood who are skeptical about who I’ve become. All I can do is remain consistent with the identity I’ve decided to keep and to live my best life.
If you’re not completely content with where you are in life, consider reinventing yourself. Take time now and figure out specifically who you want to be and take on the thoughts, feelings and actions of the new you. If you can find a way to change your environment (e.g. getting a new job, going away for college, moving to another city or country), even better.
What has been your experience with upgrading your identity and what strategies do you use?
Has changing environments ever accelerate your growth?
Robert Chen is the founder of Embrace Possibility and author of The Dreams to Reality Fieldbook. He helps people who feel stuck move forward by guiding them to see other possibilities for their lives. He specializes in working with high performers get to the next level. If you're going through a tough time right now, check out Robert's article on How to Feel Better Right Away and if you're having trouble getting what you want out of life, check out How to Always Achieve Your Goals.