When I was little, one of my all-time favourite board games was KGB.
Now, KGB is a bazaar game. It came out during the height of the Cold War. And so there was a sliiiiiiight bias against the USSR.
The ultimate goal of the game was to expose the evil Russian double-agent, amongst a sea of badass CIA agents. Sneaking in and out of rooms on the board. Trying to track down the one person who was turning off the power switches.
I can remember being super pumped when I got to be the double-agent. All of a sudden my eyes would narrow. My voice would deepen. And I’d speak with a slight Gorbachev-y accent.
My cover was blown every single time.
But daaaamn I loved slipping into the identity of a sinister spy.
From a young age, we are all told who we are by the outside world. And even before we have any sense of self-perception, others are putting us into very particular boxes.
She’s musical. He’s sporty. She’s shy. He’s outgoing.
Even my 4-year old daughter is quick to label a Fisher Price character as “the naughty boy,” because he has a furrowed brow and a frowny face.
We all make judgements. And there’s something innate about our desire to quickly categorize people.
As we get older, we start to form our own beliefs about who we are. And our identity becomes a slowly simmered co-creation between us and the people around us.
But every label that is assigned to us may or may not ACTUALLY be true.
I have a sweet tooth. I’m bad at math. I’m a shitty baker. Maybe…..maybe not.
Ok, that last one is hard to contest. I once baked cookies, and accidentally doubled the sugar. In case you’re wondering? Yes. I did give those cookies to 3 year old children. But don’t worry. They weren’t MY children.
Identity is a funny thing. Because really, it’s all in our heads. And although some of us are “naturally gifted” in one way or another…..we often seek out evidence to support who it is we think we are.
Perception becomes reality. Reality becomes perception.
And before you know it, you're half-way through the movie Inception, completely lost, because you ran out of the room for 3 minutes to pop another bag of popcorn.
During this time of year, when the calendar turns, many of us are filled with an electric sense of emotional energy. Ready to make the year ahead “our year.”
But for anyone looking to achieve some big goals in 2020, I think the best place to start, is with your identity.
True behaviour change is identity change.
And guys, once you start to see yourself as a different type of person, you won’t have to force yourself to do things.
The goal is not to run a marathon…..it is to become a runner.
The goal is not to write a book……it is to become a writer.
It is easier to stick to a habit once it is part of your identity. And once you decide that you’re the type of person who….say……consistently hits the gym (and other people reiterate that idea)…..any choice you make that goes AGAINST that identity, brings a little discomfort into your life.
I’ve always considered myself an athlete, and so the months after I had my first child, I felt absolutely LOST. I wasn’t able to workout like I used to, and there was a huge gap between who I thought I was…..and who I actually was.
Throw in the new role of “mother” that is thrust upon us owners of brand new babies…..and you’ve got a full-blown identity crisis.
I sunk into depression. And it wasn’t until I was working out on a consistent basis again, that I felt like “me” again.
Annnnnd then…..just when I thought I was safe, BOOM. An epic break-up.
Now, I’m not someone who believes that I need someone else to “complete me.” But my god, a big part of my identity was: lover, partner, confidant, creator of romantic surprises, and giver of epic orgasms.
Living the “single” life robs me of that part of my identity. And no amount of mom-ing, friend-ing, or self-love-ing will change that.
But just as it took time to build my identity as “mom” I am now flexing my patience muscles, with regards to love. I am reminded that “lust rushes, and love waits.”
And that’s truly the key with any kind of identity change. Particularly when it comes to health.
You want to own the “healthy and fit” label? It’s gonna take time.
Change almost never happens in the “overnight success” kind of way…..even though from the outside, it may seem that way.
Even Justin Bieber….the YouTuber…..put in tons of behind-the-scenes work before he made it big.
The results of success tend to be highly visible. But the process of success is often hidden from view.
Take the Stonecutter’s Credo:
“When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”
The greatest returns are delayed. And working out is probably the most striking example of how the accumulation of small improvements equals a big payoff.
Be more concerned about your current trajectory, rather than your current position. And know that 1% improvements do add up. If you’re patient.
Sundays, for instance, are fucking hard for me. They are ripe with memories of what used to be. I keep wondering when I'll stop looking at the clock at 8:45 am, and not think about what he's doing. But when one of my best friend's asked me how I was doing today, I said....1% better than last Sunday. And she agreed. It is progress.
So take a peak at WHO it is you want to be. And start living as if you ARE that person. Even if it feels like you're a double-agent for a while. Be consistent. Chip away. And over time, the effort of living that identity will come naturally…..like putting on a seat-belt, brushing your teeth…..or blowing up the CIA headquarters.