Someone recently approached me about a dilemma they are facing. This person is faced with the challenge of being known for something that is not desirable in the eyes of most people. Simply put: people think that this person is selfish. This person has a goal of being a part of a series of endeavors that are quite selfless if you asked me. Being called selfish is not the worst designation in the world. But given the person’s goals for life, it is best to be seen in a different light.
The problem has hampered this person’s ability to get pivotal pieces of the goal accomplished. This person fears that if the goal is shared with those who can help get it done, the other people would reduce this person’s efforts to a selfish way to get recognition, money, or some other form of self-centered rewards. This person is suffering as a result of this dilemma. Consequently, the big goal has a bigger obstacle in its way. The head of this initiative has the right cause, but the wrong identity.
Many of us face this challenge in our personal lives. Each year around this time, we set new goals for a new, upcoming year. Essentially, we must change our identity to get these goals accomplished. Losing weight means that you must change your schedule to work out more and change your eating habits as well. That’s more than a body change. That’s a mind change. That’s an identity change. If you were once known to friends as the one was always down for a late night trip to IHOP or Waffle House, in order for the weight loss to occur, your identity has to change. If drugs and alcohol prevent you from being focused on a new project you’re working on, your identity will have to change. You may not be able to attend the parties and events where those substances will be readily available. Your identity is how you’re seen. It’s where you’re seen. It’s also when you’re seen as well as who you’re seen with. Like the friend mentioned earlier who is known for being self-centered, a lot of us are in an identity crisis.
How do we succeed despite this crisis? I am not an expert, but I have a few suggestions to offer.
I. Identity Starts Within
How do you see yourself? I think it’s a good thing to see yourself at the finish line. How does the finish line look? Imagine being an Olympian. Let’s say you run the 100 Meter Dash as a world-class track star. Imagine winning a gold medal. You will be on a podium. You will be on television. You will be interviewed. People will congregate around you. People will ask you millions of questions and have millions of requests. The rest of your life will change as a result. Your hair has to be in place, you have to have the right smile, and you have to have a lot of patience. The winner will be bombarded. You may have to change phone numbers so that close and important people can be in contact with you when needed. You will be up and running (no pun intended) and sometimes doing interview after interview and appearance after appearance. The preparation for winning the gold was tough. But so is living the life after being a gold medalist. Sleep, diet, scheduling will all play a factor. As great as the gold medal sounds, if you want to be left alone, you should’ve just lost and not placed at all. The losers in the dash won’t be bothered by people. Your identity as a champion starts when you act as a champion. For those of us with identity challenges, we must take on the responsibility of a champion in the space of the identity that we want to be long before we become a champion for our efforts. The responsibility always comes before the perks. As you consider what you want to be moving forward, you must consider the obligation of championing that space.
II. Talk With A Purpose
What are your conversations like? What’s your favorite topic to talk about? What topic takes up the majority of your time when thinking? I live in Washington, D.C. and one thing about D.C….. people love to talk about what people do. That’s normally the lead question: “So…what do you do?”. As much as I hate that question, instead of giving a title or a job description, taking that awkward moment and deep-diving into what you love about that job or the space you’re in is a way to know if you’re able to connect with the person opposite of you in the conversation. Talking with a purpose simply means having a reason to talk. It means talking about what you know. It means that you are looking for others who are also talking with purpose and you won’t waste time talking to people who aren’t as locked in on what they love as you are with what you love. It doesn’t mean that you have to love what the person you’re talking to loves. In fact, you should push those in conversation with you to talk about the things they know about the most or the things they are interested in learning the most. In order to do that, you must know what you’re talking about. Talking with a purpose means you have to research and know this new space. You can’t talk about it if you don’t know it. Above all, identity publicly shapes what you’re interested in. It also allows you to proclaim your interest in a specific space or topic. When people hear you talking about this topic extensively, they begin to watch to see if you will stick with this new identity. As you stick with it and gradually put action to your talk, you can reap progress.
III. Remember Why Identity Is Important
The first example given is a person trying to get others to help in an endeavor. Yet, the other people perceive the person in question as being selfish. As a result, others are not incentivized to help. Identity is important because there are 7 billion people on earth. You can’t do anything alone. People are incentivized to assist you when they feel good about who you are. Trust is important; especially if you want to keep the attention of people. To get things done, you’ll need that trust as well as that attention from them. If your identity is shot, so is your goal to get people involved. Identity is about how you are seen by others because it takes a team to get things done. Above all ideas and possibilities, people invest in people. Who you are in their eyes matters to them.
IV. Be Identifiable
Your identity is not just important to your goals. You can help others achieve their goals. If your outlook is aligned with others, be visible so they can see you. It is a sense of fulfillment that you gain from assisting others who see the world the way that you do. Being associated with helping others adds to your victories on the path to your new identity. This helps with identity because your friends and core circle can also assist in how you’re identified. You are the sum of the 5-10 friends that you’re closest to; at least that’s a general perception that the world has taken on to summarize a person’s life. Since perception is reality, who you are around indeed shapes the perception of your individual identity.
A new year is approaching. What will you be known for moving forward? Are you satisfied with your identity? What’s your game plan? Start from within, learn from and talk to those who can assist you, work with others aligned with your goals, and be a help to them as well.