How wonderful would it be to win the lottery? We’d have millions of dollars and then we’d be rich, right? Or if we can just get that promotion at work, we’d be more successful. It surely feels right. We just need that chance, that opportunity. Instead, it just feels like we can never get ahead. That there’s always something keeping us down. Only the lucky get such opportunities and Lady Luck surely isn’t hanging out with us! Then again, what if that did happen? Are we ready? Are we the person worthy of having and keeping such good fortune?
The dirt: I’m not getting paid what I’m worth / I deserve more.
Perhaps this is true. Maybe we’re being held back or someone else has their thumb on us. But what if the reality is that we always get what we deserve in life? More specifically, we always get what we feel we deserve in life, at least in the long-term. This feeling is our identity. Identity is self-belief. It’s how we see ourselves when we look in the proverbial mirror. This isn’t to be taken in the superficial sense, rather it’s our true deep down belief about what we’re worth to the world.
Why is it important? Our identity determines what we will have in life. It has a tremendous effect on all of our successes and failures and therefore the fruits of both. Think of identity as our current potential. Today’s potential can always be raised, but until it is, we are limited. We cannot out-succeed our identity long term. Perhaps we can blow past it in the short term, but long-term we will always return to its level, like a thermostat on our life. If we exceed our self-belief for too long, we’ll cool things off. Conversely, if we underperform for too long, we will kick things into gear and rise to the occasion.
For most, our identity is transformed throughout our childhood by parents, teachers, society, and marketers. Sometimes it’s solidified and sometimes it’s stolen. As we will see, there are many things that influence our identity. As adults, it’s up to use to either build/re-build it or destroy it little by little. The effect it will have on our future is undeniable though. How exactly then do we affect identity?
Keep commitments you make to yourself.
Nothing can raise an identity like making a promise and following through. There’s something special that happens when we keep a commitment. It not only accomplishes something of value, but it lets us know that we indeed can do it. The size of the commitment is irrelevant, it’s just that we did it. Not only did we do it this time, but it allows for the belief that perhaps next time we can do even better. After all, we never found the limit. We just stopped because we reached the goal, not because we couldn’t go further.
This is a two-way door, however. When we don’t keep a commitment to ourselves, not only do we not see an increase in our identity, it actually reduces our self-belief. That’s right, we can lose identity in this process. We’re just not the same person after we quit on ourselves. Each time we tell ourselves we’re going to get it done and we don’t, we lose piece of who we are.
There’s a reason this is such a huge industry. While mostly ineffective for reasons we shall not delve into here, why is it that we so desperately search out answers to our money, relationship, social, physiological, and mental ills, to the point of spending thousands of dollars? Perhaps it’s because it gives us hope of something better. This is nothing wrong with hope. It points out the direction of a higher identity. And if used properly that it can help us build our identity.
Personal development provides several key things that we can use to improve our self-belief. First it provides tools we can use that can be applied to get results, work harder, improve associations, and all other areas that do indeed directly affect our identity. It also gives us examples of others who have done it. Seeing another person like us figure it out leaves us proclaiming, “If they can do it, why can’t I?”
Your parents were right for once! If you hang around with the bad kids, you will become one of them. If your friends do drugs, so will you. If they are Libertarians, so are you. We sometimes delude ourselves into thinking it won’t affect us or worse yet, that we can change them. Not going to happen. Either they will change you or you will stop hanging out with them.
Associations extend beyond just friends. It applies to everything that enters your head, especially those things that enter through your eyes and ears. It’s what we read, watch on TV, see on a billboard, and hear on the radio. The right association can do wonders to increase identity and the wrong ones can create a ceiling that will never allow your identity to exceed. Take inventory of how those people to which you aspire used to spend their time outside of business. What did they listen to? Where did they spend time? Couldn’t we do the same?
If we wanted to become great at basketball, would it help to have Michael Jordan as a coach? What about Stephen King coaching us on how to write a bestseller? A mentor is just a coach that has been there and done that. Also, they know how to teach what they’ve done. There’s something special that happens to our identity when we have a coach we believe in. Our identity is raised initially not by our own belief, but by borrowing someone else’s belief in us. This will not last forever, but it could give us the boost we need to acquire our own self-belief.
Be careful, not everyone with a degree or a microphone is a mentor. We must make sure it is someone relevant to what we wish to accomplish. Another aspect of mentorship is to become a mentor. There is some talent that we all have that could be shared to help someone progress in their journey. This not only makes them better, but as a coach ourselves, we will get better too. This increases our self-belief and competence all at the same time. Plus, it’s just the right thing to do.
Attitude and Affirmations
They say it’s everything. As it relates to identity, it is significant. The right attitude, where we expect success, helps us feel better about what we’re doing. When we feel good, we tend to do good. And when we do good, we believe we can do it again or do better. We just got a shot of identity booster. It also helps should we fall short as with a positive attitude, we are more likely to get back on the horse.
One of the most powerful sparks to a great attitude is the affirmation. It’s a simple statement that claims that which we want for our future, but does so in the present tense. It is based in the law of attraction that states all in which we focus we shall have, good or bad. So what exactly are we saying to ourselves? Are we talking about future success or are our mouths filled with today’s problems? Either way, we’ll get more. I’ll let you guess which one has a positive effect on our identity.
Yep, no secret here. We’ve been told since the time we were knee high to a grasshopper that the secret to success is hard work. There are many reasons this is true, but how exactly does it help our identity? Remember, our identity is what we feel we’re worth. How do we feel after a hard day’s work? Don’t we feel like we earned it? More to the point, how do we feel when we work harder than the next person? We probably feel like we deserve the rewards more. This feeling that we provided value is what gives us an identity boost.
This is not to mention the real benefit of hard work, correctly applied: results. At the end of the day, aren’t results what it’s all about? You can have all the good feelings, good intentions, and good associations, but we must somehow get the right results. And with enough effort, directed at the right things, we can’t help but to win eventually. And nothing beats the feeling of winning. We become a different person, with a different and higher identity to boot. As such, winning can become a habit.
The good news is that once we know how susceptible our identity is to inside and outside factors, we can be more cognizant of those influencers and take charge of them. It’s never too late to build a new identity or rebuild an old one. We may have to break down to build up, but such is the life. If we do it right, there’s no limit to who we can become and what we may accomplish.
“I don’t need to worry about identity theft because nobody wants to be me.”
Jay London, stand-up comic
I appreciate you spending time with me. Let’s rise to the top because the bottom’s crazy crowded.