I’ve been thinking this week about the importance of my personal concept of my identity in accomplishing the goals in my life plan for this, my best decade (see here and here). Reference my diagram above. Our identity is represented by our heart, our character and personality. Out of our heart come our thoughts, which determine our words and our actions.
Who we are determines what we think, what we say, and what we do. But what I have found over the last couple years is that more than who I am, who I see myself as determines what I think, say, and do. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, to a degree, how I think about myself and who I think I am.
Our thoughts, words, and actions impact our relationships and help form the habits or ruts we find ourselves in. Hurts, even from childhood and family long ago, lead to symptoms of problems we find undesirable. All of these – relationships, habits, hurts, and struggles tend to define our identity and how we see ourselves. These also are self-reinforcing and lead to developing a huge inertia that resists change.
I believe everyone tends to assume their overall condition is OK or good enough. We tend to coast, thinking that not only are things good enough, but they’ll stay the same without any (or much) effort on our part. What I realize though is that if I don’t put in some work and effort into my relationships, they tend to decline. And what I usually want when I examine myself is to make improvement, make positive changes.
But when I focus on my relationships, habits, hurts, and struggles and try to change those directly, I have little successful and long-term change. If I back up in the chain and focus on changing my thoughts, words, and actions, I have more success. But it also is somewhat limited, because for one thing I focus on my thoughts about the relationships, habits, hurts, and struggles.
Where I get the most payback is when I focus on making a positive change of my identity, on how I define myself and see myself. This is better than defining goals and setting unrealistic deadlines that only make me feel like a failure when I don’t make them. The progress made is discounted if I didn’t arrive at the end goal on time. What works better is defining the identity that accomplishes the goals, and then scheduling regular times to act in a manner that fits the new identity. It is more important to do small tasks regularly to build the identity, so that the bigger goals are approached naturally as part of the new identity.
For instance, seeing myself as a good writer leads me to focus on being consistent in writing a blog post every week (although I missed last week), and probably moving to two posts a week. The book I want to write will come later, but for now I want to build the habit of writing a certain amount every day.
The process fits well with love and relationships as well. When I see myself as a loving husband there is more of a tendency to act with love and acceptance, which improves the relationship and prompts more love and acceptance of me in return. But I do it because that is who I want to be and who I see myself as, not for the return. The reinforcement from my wife is just a bonus that reinforces the improvements to the relationship.
What about you? Can you think of a part of your identity, your image of yourself, that would benefit from a positive change? Why not try it, make a change to your identity and let it improve your thoughts, words, and actions, which will in turn improve your relationships?