If you've been following my work, you know that I'm a proponent of holding a flexible belief system, especially in regards to who we are, our identity, and the character we choose to play.
You see, identity is simply a matter of belief system. The word basically describes how we think of ourselves. The way I see it, our unique core essence never changes, however, our identity and the character we play can be shaped and made to fit the needs of our individual life callings.
For example, if your calling is to publish a book, then a “Published Author” or “Professional Writer” identity is necessary to realize that calling. Once again, your core essence is fixed, but there’s literally no end to how many identities and versions of yourself you can express.
Furthermore, it’s also vital to recognize how you need to be refining the character of your chosen identity. For example, if you want to become a published author, then your author identity may need to be that of someone who shares more, who is more conscious of their time, who has more credibility, etc.
This is crucial because when identity and character are misaligned, an inner conflict is bound to happen. Basically, the two personas start a war with each other, which usually ends with you reverting back to the more comfortable version of yourself.
It's very much like an elastic band: the moment you stretch it, it’s bound to snap back to the same place. The stretching process moves it somewhere, but then it pulls itself back to the baseline. Most goal attainment efforts (especially those involving big goals) are like stretching an elastic band. For a while, things seem to be working and you’re making strides, but then SNAP, you're back to normal—back to your baseline default.
This is where identity work comes in. Your identity plays an important role in the results you get in life. This means that if you want to get certain results, shaping your identity and fine-tuning your character are not only useful but necessary actions.
Here’s something important to remember: the deepest layer of any behavioural change is identity, not outcomes (i.e., goals). If your identity changes, then outcomes are more likely to change as well. If not, your old identity is more likely to sabotage your efforts.
In other words, change and improvements are only temporary until they become integral to your identity.
The key question, of course, is how? How do we shape a new identity?
The entry point to shaping our identity lies in shifting our beliefs about ourselves and about what is and isn’t possible. For example, if you believe that you’re not able to change your identity (i.e., a fixed belief system), then change will not be possible, no matter how strong your desire is.
In the past, we introduced a process to challenge our limiting beliefs. If the task of changing beliefs still feels daunting to you, it’s good to remember that changing beliefs is a natural process and, in fact, we do it all the time throughout our lives (or example, a child’s belief in Santa Claus, imaginary friends, etc.). As mentioned, beliefs are like software running on a computer. To identify yourself with any particular belief would be like treating yourself as software and nothing more.
This shift requires taking full ownership and responsibility for the life you're living; that is, the life YOU have created. Therefore, keep noticing where you give your power away through your language (e.g., “You made me angry” vs. “I made myself angry because of you” or “I’m not a morning person” vs. “I’m choosing not to be a morning person”). When you tell yourself the same stories over and over again, it is easy to accept them as facts. Which brings us to the next point...
In order to shape our identity, more often than not, our mind requires evidence, some kind of proof. For years, our neural paths have been strengthened in a certain way. They have hardened in our brain like drying cement, mostly through learning and repetition.
In other words, your identity manifests itself out of your ongoing habits. Or, more accurately, your repetitive behaviour is how you express and embody your identity. For example, when you exercise and move your body everyday, you express the identity of a fit, healthy person. When you set and achieve goals every week, you express the identity of a doer, an achiever. .
Aristotle sums it up this way: “We are what we repeatedly do.” In fact, the word IDENTITY is abstracted from the Latin word ‘identidem,’ which means over and over again, repeatedly.
Therefore, to truly shape your identity, you have to change your habits. But not just any habits—your IDENTITY-BASED habits.
Life can be seen in many ways. It can be seen as an adventure or as a struggle. The choice is always ours.
Life becomes an adventure when played like a fun game—in the spirit of exploration and experimentation, rather than a survival contest. By being spontaneous, open, and flexible with your identity, you activate energy flow, and truly embrace the magic of the journey called Life.
More often than not, the most rewarding outcomes happen when we play along with the rhythms of life instead of fighting them. As the daring writer Hunter S. Thompson once said, “Life isn’t a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!”
Now, as you are already well aware, life is in constant motion forward, always evolving. This means that your identity and the character you play will be called to adapt in a specific direction, whether you want it to or not.
What’s more, as you’ve probably noticed, things are evolving much faster these days. Not only in the realm of technology, but also in the realm of consciousness and new fundamental ideas in quantum physics. The future may be upon us much sooner than previously expected; therefore, adapting your character is vital to keep pace with the changes of life.
Additionally, it’s pivotal to recognize that you’ve already evolved — possibly quite dramatically — through the many experiences you’ve had in life. Upon deep reflection, you may notice aspects of your character that your past self would find hard to believe, and perhaps even feel like a different person altogether.
The message is clear: dare to believe in what may seem impossible to you today.
* If you're looking for more inspiration to help you on your personal development journey, you may want to check out my extensive list of SMART goals. This page is packed with thousands of different goal ideas that can help you set new aspirations and reach higher heights in your life. Personally, this page helped me to create my own 100 life goals list, which I pursued for over a decade.
Tal Gur is an author, founder, and impact-driven entrepreneur at heart. After trading his daily grind for a life of his own daring design, he spent a decade pursuing 100 major life goals around the globe. His journey and most recent book, The Art of Fully Living, has led him to found Elevate Society.