Our personality and identity are not fixed. They are subject to change. Every day. Who you were last year is different from who you are now. You experience things, you are being formed this very moment. You are developing. You are forming yourself.
However, this happens so gradually that we do not realise it. Just like going consistently to the gym and having someone else tell you that you have changed physically. We are often a bad judge of ourselves.
Your identity is therefore a dynamic thing. It moves throughout your life.
It is important to know that we human beings (unconsciously) do everything we can to conform to our identity. To who we think we are. Both negative and positive.
Therefore, it is crucial to be aware of how we see ourselves and to think and be clear about who we are. When we feel strong. In good days. Otherwise, the subconscious mind takes over this defining task for us in our lesser moments…
For example, if you repeat enough times to yourself that you are “shy”, “not very creative”, “not a go-getter” or “not athletic”, your subconscious will use that as an excuse to make you act accordingly.
The need to remain consistent with your supposed old identity is so incredibly strong that it even sacrifices your own happiness.
It can sabotage and totally destroy everything you were just building; a business, a relationship, a healthy and vital body; and all the good habits on that path.
Remember: who we are is not a static fact. If you were not a go-getter in the past, it does not mean that you cannot be one tomorrow. We can continue to reinvent ourselves. Continue to develop. Determine very consciously who you want to be.
The beautiful thing is that when we change our behaviour, our personality changes with it. So, our personality not only determines our behaviour, but much more strongly our behaviour determines our personality. Our identity changes by acting.
You notice this when you start a new habit. For example, you have never done much sport and now you start to work in a structured way. Suddenly, slowly – unnoticed – but surely, you start to see yourself as an athlete.
So, it works in reverse to how we often think. By acting, we quickly become the person who acts. The secret is that this reasoning is much more effective than only wanting to act in a structured way after a new, well-defined idea in your head.
So: you want to create a certain habit. Go and do it. Just start. Overcome that initial resistance.
Doing it rapidly becomes who you are. If, after a while, doing becomes synchronised with your identity, you unconsciously cannot do things differently. You want to conform. It has become a habit. It no longer requires willpower.
There is one weak link in this process, a decisive one: your environment. In the broad sense of the word; people, things, facilities.
Practical: belongings and furnishings, or more complex: people and mutual relationships.
This environment is either cooperative or antagonistic. If it works against you, you need your willpower to resist.
But that takes effort and your willpower is not inexhaustible.
Think of your change as a rolling snowball. If on the way it meets a wall – your environment – the ball just stops rolling and may even break. And it would take a lot of effort to get it over the wall.
So, it is important to choose an environment where the ball can keep rolling and rolling freely. With pleasant sticky snow.
Therefore, it is crucial to be aware of our environment and how it affects us. Because who we are, is a product of (all) our thoughts. These thoughts are – whether we like it or not – strongly influenced by our environment.
Nowadays, this is mainly our digital environment; everything we see or hear throughout the day. With which we feed our mind consciously or unconsciously.
The environment we live in shapes us.
We often think that we are so autonomous in our actions, but a programme like ‘Mindfuck’ by illusionist Victor Mids shows us – in a comical way and to the frustration and great amazement of the participants – that the opposite is true.
Our subconscious is very easy to influence. Positive, but also negative.
Who defines our environment? We do. We determine who we associate with, where we spend our time and what we monitor digitally throughout the day. When we realise that we choose our environment ourselves, it immediately gives us the power for sustainable change.
And even if you really have no influence on your immediate environment, you can determine how you perceive the environment through your perception. So that it serves you. How? By asking yourself what you can do for that environment at that moment.
Your contribution will ensure that the environment will still help you, because even a small gesture helps you to feel better. In this way, even in an environment that cannot be changed immediately, you can still color the context yourself. Choose colors that you like and that help you further.
Sometimes, the change we want is not yet successful. We fall back and seem to be continuously struggling, and in that struggle, we still need to use our willpower.
Having to use that willpower as a weapon may then be due to:
1. You have not yet made a real choice.
If you have decided, go for it and don’t think about it anymore. Wanting something for 98% is harder than wanting it for 100%. You have to weigh up whether to make an exception for the 2% every time.
Make the decision and go all-in. No matter what. With your own ready-made rules (and reward moments) that go with it. Then willpower is no longer an issue.
2. You do not have enough motivation.
Your ‘why’ is decisive here. Make sure you have a crystal clear idea of why you really (don’t) want something. Write it down for yourself, that is even more powerful.
3. You have not invested yet.
Through time, money or effort. Example: many people want to start their own business ‘one day’. To be your own boss. The difference between the real entrepreneurs – the doers – and the dreamers, the people who keep dreaming but will never do it, is that at some point they will have passed a tipping point.
Often that tipping point has to do with having invested time and money. You don’t want it to have been in vain and that works as leverage. If you don’t have this, it is too easy and too tempting to continue doing what you are doing safely from your comfort zone.
So have the courage to invest. If you do it smartly, it can be done responsibly and you don’t have to risk everything. The best way to do that is to take a layered approach. So yes: you take a risk, but you do it step by step and you always have a back-up. An escape plan. You have thought through all the scenarios in advance. That is smart investing.
4. Your environment.
Your environment must contribute and support your decisions. If this is not the case, if you constantly have to ‘fight the battle’, then you still need your willpower and that is very tiring. You can’t keep it up in the long run.
Decide first who you want to be – your identity – and then become by doing, and make sure your environment on that path is equipped in every way to support your flourishing life.
Be selective with whom you spend your time. Choose people who support you in your goals, who want to see you grow. Not people who want to keep you as you were, because they are afraid of losing something, or out of envy. Choose the people who will give you everything.
Choose consciously what you consume digitally; is it just sensation, news and entertainment, or can you also learn something and help develop the life you want to lead?
See your environment as a natural breeding ground for your desired habits.
Without the right breeding ground, there is no growth and no lasting bloom.