Embrace Your Identity
You could dream of being the next Mother Theresa and someone would find something wrong with it. It never ends no matter what you do. This is a reality that you have to make peace with. No matter what you want to accomplish in life, you will face trials and obstacles and your fair share of trolls. When you decide that you are going to make a change in your life and chase those dreams you’ve quietly harbored for years you are going to face conflict. Your trolls will be just like real life trolls, I’ve seen the movies - Lord of the Rings and Trolls. There will be small hairy ones and larger ones with less hair. They’ll come at you (bro) with questions disguised as concern that are meant to throw you off course. They will glance at you sideways and dust the ceiling with their eyebrows. Your closest friends and family will make comments that hurt, discourage, and frustrate you. People that masquerade as friends will make calculated statements to derail and distract you. (Of course, you’ll have people that encourage as well! It’s just that I don’t feel like that will discourage you if it happens unexpectedly. So I’m not going to spend much time on it here.)
When you say that you are going to write that book, paint your masterpiece, record that album, start that YouTube channel, or build that business you’ve been thinking about, some of the people you love are going to look at you funny. They may even laugh. Especially if you have struggled with getting started in the past. You might have some initial hurdles to overcome, but if you truly want this you CAN do it! And I want to help!
For those with little time to spare, let me “nutshell it” for you - The difference between those that are successful in their endeavors and those that are not is simple (not easy, simple). The successful embrace their purpose, their identity, and move forward. Those that are not successful question themselves, worry about what others think of them, and find excuses to keep them from accomplishing their goals.
The sooner you embrace your identity and start moving through life in that context, the sooner you will begin to make strides. As a result, you’ll achieve and surpass your goals more quickly than you expect. If you never fully embrace your identity, you might eventually attain your goals. More likely, you will end up looking back at the end of your life wondering where the time went and wishing you could go back and change your approach. When asked for the best advice he could provide in three words or less Gary Vee simply responded, “You’re gonna die.” Harsh truth! Whether you approach that final destination harboring the bitterness and regret of dreams unlived is entirely up to you! If you are determined to live your dreams, your first step is toembrace your identity as an artist. How can you do this? The process is one that is incredibly simple to discuss, but very difficult to live.
When the queen knights someone, she uses the expression, “I dub thee…” This is an old-school phrase that simply means to name or apply a title to someone. My main reason for using it is because it sounds cooler than saying “call yourself a writer” or whatever. Regardless, the point remains accurate. You have to stake claim to the title you would like to hold.
Years ago, I read a book about dieting that recommended that you claim your status as a skinny person. The thinking behind this approach is that, if you begin to look at yourself in that context, you’ll eventually visualize yourself into skinny jeans and muscle shirts. It didn’t work for me. Probably because my internal dialogue went something like this, “Would a skinny person eat that last square of Imo’s pizza? I mean, you’ve had like the whole pizza already. Plus, you know you’re going to want some ice cream and brownies later. A skinny person would probably leave the square beyond compare in the garbage and go for a jog or do some P90x or something and then just sniff the open container of ice while standing at the open freezer door and lovingly glancing at the brownies without actually touching them. Then they would put the ice cream away and get 8 hours of sleep so they can get up for a workout before work in the morning.” I would listen to the dialogue and then promptly ignore it. I never embraced my skinny self.
I understood the concept, but I didn’t actually embrace it. I thought it, but thinking it and making it a part of your being are two different things. If you want to be something, you have to start thinking of yourself in that context. You have to become a method actor. Eat, sleep, and breathe your new identity so much and so completely that your unconscious thoughts and responses are those of the person you want to be.
If you’ll do this and commit to making the changes your new identity requires, you will start making progress. (For more on this, check out Jeff Goins book, I Am a Writer - it’s a great resource and discusses calling yourself what you want to become and the impact that has on your life. Can’t recommend it enough!)
Let’s face it. There will be conflict that smacks you right in the nose on a regular basis. You know, that sensation when you get bopped on the nose and the world goes all wonky and your eyes start watering like crazy? Get used to it! Conflict will arise all around you. In fact, the more you work to improve yourself and embrace your creative identity, the more conflict you will experience. Life is fraught with it, but you are defined by the way you manage it. If you can persevere and understand that you will come out on the other side of conflict stronger, it becomes an easier pill to swallow.
Next, you need to embrace change. Let’s say that you have loved painting since you were a child, but you haven’t “done anything with it” other than dabble as a hobby here and there. If I were to list some of the tangible changes you should look into, I’d recommend you find some painting courses online or at a local school or studio. Invest a little bit into your equipment. Find things that inspire you and surround yourself with them. If it’s painting on canvas that really gets you jazzed, go pick up several and get to work! Find yourself a local artist and go buy them some coffee or something to chat about art, the world, and their story.
If you’re a writer, then start writing. Start reading books, brainstorming topics, researching ideas, and connecting with communities that will encourage and challenge you to grow.
The concept is the same regardless of your area of interest. Work to learn more, create more, and connect more than you ever have before. The point isn’t that you do something specific, it’s just that you do something.
There’s just something about putting yourself out there. Have you ever gone public with a New Year’s Resolution? I have. I have boatloads of good intentions and theoretical discipline and I’ll make a bold statement on social media or at a gathering with friends. I’ll have every intention of living it out! Well, then Monday rolls around and slaps me around a bit. Tuesday tries to help but just ends up saying the wrong thing (like always) and hurting my feelings, and by the time I finally get to Friday I’m too distracted to even care! Just like that, another resolution is lying on the floor waiting for its chalk outline. The thing is, it doesn’t usually die there. I keep hearing about that resolution months later. Someone will walk up to me, “Hey! How’s that resolution coming? You said you were going to finally get fit and looks like you’ve actually, ahem, not done that?”
Public declarations hold us accountable. Once stated, they’re out there. You will either have to be consistent and focused on achieving what you said you were going to achieve or you will be answering questions and catching glances from people. So, put it out there! Allow yourself to be pushed and challenged a bit. Your dreams are worth it!
Deploy Consistency & Patience
One of my newest mantras is stolen directly from the social media man himself, Gary Vee. “Deploy Patience.” This is one of the most difficult aspects of the journey for me. Since I was a teenager, my goals have been huge. Life has kicked them around a bit and reshaped parts of them, but I still have dreams so big they scare me. Despite that, I want them to be accomplished now. Or yesterday… But life doesn’t work like that.
If we want to accomplish our dreams, we have to be patient while consistently working towards our goals. Every single day we have to understand our purpose. We have to wake up and embrace our identity with our morning coffee. Then we face our day with passion and focus. Tomorrow, we do it again. And then again the next day. If we do this every day we will eventually look up from our work and realize that we are living our dreams.
Keep on Keeping On
There’s no magic formula that takes you from here to there. You have to start thinking like a writer, musician, singer, poet, artist, painter, entrepreneur, etc. Mentally accepting that you already are what you want to be is the first step in the process. Just like Michelangelo said, “I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free,” you need to see yourself as the artist you want to be and then carve, practice, learn, refine until you set yourself free!