Where we are in life is based on our identity. Our beliefs about ourselves are based on that identity. Our future worth and opportunity is based on that identity. Many people think that if they change their circumstances (e.g. getting a new, higher paying job), that their identity will follow suit. Actually, this approach is backwards; in reality, we change our identity from the inside out and the change in our circumstances follows.
Here are five things that you can start doing today to change your life by transforming identity:
- 1. Change who you hang around. Plato said that “People are like dirt. They can either nourish you and help you grow as a person or they can stunt your growth and make you wilt and die.” For better or worse, we become more like the people that we hang around. Your associations have a lot to do with where you’re at in every area of your life. Your friends are going to influence you either way, so why not pick the friends who will be a positive influence? Create an “advisory board” of friends who will lift you up, challenge you, inspire you, and hold you accountable.
- 2. Read more. Reading allows you to shape your identity independently of your current circumstances. You internalize the wisdom and knowledge of the authors who you read. They say that there are two types of experiences that we can learn and grow from: personal experience and the experience that we borrow from others. Reading allows you to learn from mentors who you don’t have access to in your daily life. Learning from other people’s stories of challenges and triumph is far less painful and time-consuming than going through those challenges yourself. That is why most of the world’s greatest leaders have been avid readers.
- 3. Keep your word. Are you a person that keeps your word to others? What about the promises that you make to yourself? If you make your word your bond, both to yourself and to others, you will turn yourself into a person that shapes your own identity through the power of your pledge. Becoming a person that keeps your word starts with doing the little things, like calling someone back when you say you will or arriving to an appointment at the time agreed on. Once people know that they can count on you, you will be seen as a person whose words come to pass. You will come to see yourself that way too. Eventually, if you make a promise to yourself and others to make some change in your life, you will feel bound to keep your word.
- 4. Challenge yourself. Just like great athletes have to constantly push themselves physically, we all have to take on challenges outside of our comfort level to become champions. If you find yourself in a place where you live your life on auto pilot, going through the motions and never really stretching yourself, chances are you will be in the same spot five years from now that you are in today. Challenges keep us fresh, give us energy, and most importantly, turn us unto stronger people capable of more than we were previously able.
- Get crystal clear about your why. For the past ten years I have said that mankind is lazy until something catches his heart. Your why is what fuels your life. If you don’t have a clear picture of your why, you will never stay motivated through the how. Our natural state is to be lazy and to take the path of least resistance, unless we are motivated by the why in our heart. What’s your why? Really meditate on it, write it down and read it often. You will find that you have more energy and more passion. Why is transformative.
If you dream of changing your life, you have to first become the person who can bring about that change. As Albert Einstein wisely pointed out, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
Patrick Bet-David has been called a renaissance man because of his interesting philosophies on politics, sports, history, humor and life. He is the founder of People Helping People (PHP), a fast-growing financial services company, and the author of Doing the Impossible (www.patrickbetdavid.com).