The strongest force in the human personality is the need to stay consistent with how we define ourselves.
Identity is a set of beliefs and rules that you use to define yourself and that other people use to define you. Your identity influences people more than anything you say ever will. In business, we call this a brand. For example, when you hear someone mention the company Apple, many people think of words like innovative, revolutionary, sophisticated, sleek.
Exercise: Think about your personal brand. What words would you use to describe yourself? What words do you want other people to associate with you – honest, dependable, creative? Take 10 minutes and create an exhaustive list.
The outcome is to expand upon your identity. As you add more to your brand, your whole world will expand.
WHOSE LOVE DID YOU CRAVE MOST GROWING UP?
We all come into this world like a sponge. Everything is completely new to us, so we suck up all of the information that we can, and as we grow up, these early experiences help to shape our worldview. That is the information we carry forth into the world as an adult.
Along the way, in addition to learning about the world around us, we also develop our identity – which is directly derived from our parents. (Or sometimes a grandparent, or whomever it was that raised us or was very close to us.) We spend so much time with our parents that we begin to take on traits similar to theirs, and end up craving affection from them long after we’ve grown up.
Subconsciously, we seek to identify with the primary caretaker whose love we craved most. Even if they have passed away, we shape ourselves into what we think we need to be in order to gain their love, their acceptance and their approval. This craving for love heavily influences identity, even as an adult, and understanding this can help you better understand your personality and how you respond to interpersonal situations.
Think of the person whose love you craved most as a child: What did you have to be for that person to accept and love you? What did you have to think or do to gain their approval? Sometimes, the answer is simple and straightforward. Other times, it’s more complicated.
How many times have you heard someone say, “I wasn’t (or was) raised like that”? And why does that matter to us, even after we’re adults living independently from our parents? It matters because you have sourced your identity from your childhood, and from the person who raised you, so those are the beliefs you will always align yourself with.
By examining your childhood and understanding whose love you craved most, you can get a clearer explanation of why you see yourself the way you do. You can also examine your relationships and access a better understanding of how they’ve succeeded or failed in the past. Are you constantly trying to prove to your partner that you’re worthy, because your parent made you feel that you needed to do so for their love? Do you seek someone who finds joy in all the little moments in life, because that’s what your caretaker taught you to do? Craving affection is not a bad thing, but by understanding why you make the emotional decisions you do, based on your upbringing, you can acknowledge what it is that makes you tick and work to change the behaviors you’re unhappy with.
“Identity is this incredible invisible force that controls your whole life. It’s invisible, like gravity is invisible, but it controls your whole life.”
CHANGE YOUR STORY, CHANGE YOUR LIFE
The stories we tell ourselves make up our identity and dictate what we believe we can and cannot do. Here are some common stories that you tell yourself that limit your opportunities for growth and indicate it’s time for you to rewrite your story:
“I have to be perfect.”
Perfection is the lowest standard anyone can have – it leaves no room for growth. While completing a task perfectly may feel good for a little while, it’s through our mistakes that we develop our greatest strengths and find life’s impactful lessons. If you have done something perfectly, you haven’t really learned anything – how to do this task better, for example, or what to avoid. By telling yourself you have to be perfect, you’re putting limits around your own capabilities. When you want to learn how to change your life around, you have to give up perfection.
Rather than striving for perfection, strive for a balanced life. Accept that you will make mistakes and when you do, use them as a starting point to realize your next level. Trying to be perfect stems from one’s fear of failure. Instead of being afraid to fail, pursue your passion no matter the outcome.
“Take the opportunity to learn from your mistakes: find the cause of your problem and eliminate it. Don’t try to be perfect; just be an excellent example of a human.”
“My life is harder than anyone else’s.”
Everyone is fighting their own battle. It’s how you choose to handle difficulty that determines how to change your life around.
Look at the success stories of Oprah and Tony Robbins, and the hardships they overcame to achieve a life of greatness. As Tony says, “Identify your problems, but give your power and energy to solutions.”
A hard life doesn’t prevent you from success unless you tell yourself it will. There are plenty of examples of those who overcame seemingly overwhelming obstacles to achieve greatness, and just as many examples of those born with all the advantages in the world who failed to have fulfilling lives. When it comes to rewriting your story, you must let go of the past.
“If I ignore it, it will go away.”
If you want to learn how to change yourself, you must see things as they really are. Reality always catches up with us. While we can sometimes pretend they aren’t there, our problems will always be waiting for us when we return. It’s only when we choose to face them head on that they truly go away.
“Our goal is not to ignore the problems of life, but to put ourselves in better mental and emotional states to not only come up with solutions but really meet the challenges and take action.” Take a good look at yourself and where you are in life and the choices you have made that have brought you to this point. This is not an opportunity to beat yourself up. Rather, it’s a chance to take inventory and understand what you need to change in order to rewrite your story.
“I’m too young, or I’m too old.”
Do you think you’re too old to learn how to change your life around?
Here’s the truth: Your age only limits you if you allow it. Create a vision and never let the environment, other people’s beliefs or the limits of what has been done in the past shape your decisions. Ignore conventional wisdom.”
When you look at a possible lifespan of up to 120 years if you live right, trying to rewrite your story at age 60 suddenly seems very plausible. You can do whatever you desire at any age – as long as you believe it to be true and put in the work to make it a reality.
“I’m just not the happy type.”
By telling yourself that you aren’t “the happy type,” you’re making yourself unhappy. Happiness is a choice we make – it is a state we can become through our actions. The path to happiness is more than material items and superficial things. Rather, happiness is an all-encompassing way of being. When you change your thoughts, you learn how to change your life – that is, when you choose to be happy, your negatives shift to positives.
STEPS TO REWRITE YOUR STORY
Examine your habits
Instead of focusing on what you want to change, turn your attention to the bad habit or habits that lead to you wanting to learn how to change yourself. Are your sugar cravings at 10 PM what lead to you being overweight? Is your habit of sleeping in and arriving at work late getting in the way of your promotion? Once you’ve identified the negative habits, you can create better ones that will help you rewrite your story.
Practice every day
Once you know what your new healthy habits are, practice them every single day – no matter what. Have a backup plan in case circumstances get in the way of your new habits and don’t allow yourself to cut corners.
Focus on self-reflection
One of the habits that lead you to wanting to learn how to change your life around was not facing reality. You need to focus on realistic self-reflection throughout your journey and, when needed, ask those you trust for their perspective. Are you improving? If not, what else needs to change?
Surround yourself with good people
When you spend quality time with good people who love you, you develop a natural support system for your new habits and you are able to rewrite your story in a nurturing environment.
Keep taking risks
If you want to learn how to change your life, you cannot stay in your comfort zone. You need to take risks until you get comfortable with those risks – then take more. The more you push yourself, the easier it will become to rewrite your story and transform your life.
Achieving goals by themselves will never make us happy in the long term; it’s who you become, as you overcome the obstacles necessary to achieve your goals, that can give you the deepest and most long-lasting sense of fulfillment.