Everyday you must make choices. Even just deciding whether or not you will get out of bed to face the day is a choice. You may feel like it is out of your control (you must go to work to pay bills), but it is in your control, you have just weighed the potential consequences and decided it is better in the long run if you keep getting a pay check. Most choices are unconsciously made in this fashion. Your stomach gurgles, you make the choice to feed it, how much to feed it, and what types of food to feed it. Some choices are smarter than others -salad vs. McDonald’s- some choices are more obvious than others -wearing clothes on the subway. But are you making the ONE choice that really matters when it comes to your happiness and impacting your future? Most people make hundreds of choices a day, but very very few people are actually considering the most important choice; they are moving through life allowing that choice to be made for them, or living in the shadow of a non-choice.
So what is this powerful choice of which I speak? Hold on- I’m getting there.
First, let me tell you some of the reasons it is so important. Let me sell you on the greater idea of this choice, before I tell you what it is. Let me embolden you with its power before you get a chance to negate it. The human mind has a tendency to avoid change and self-reflection. Let me give you the power to change your life. Let me tell you all the wonderful things that will happen to you, when you first make the very conscious choice to address the most important choice of all. Remember, not many people bother with this choice, could this be why so many people are stuck? unhappy? In debt? unhealthy? I would argue yes. Let’s look at what changes you can expect by addressing and making this one choice
When you make this one decision, and start living according to your choice, you can :
- Have improved relationships
- Let go of the past
- Stop emotional eating
- Find your passion
- Enjoy your work
- Make more money
- Save more money
- Live Simply
- Enjoy your children
- Have less Stress
Essentially, everything in your life can change. Everything can improve!
What is the choice? Why aren’t people making this choice? If it is so wonderful, why hasn’t everyone done it? Why indeed. This is the question I have been asking myself.
First, I started with what is the one thing all successful, happy, or accomplished people have in common? What trait do people who have overcome adversity share that the rest of us seem to be missing? I decided to do a little research. If you subtract the individuals who were born into a life of wealth and ease, or some other similar privilege, and just look at the people who made vast strides on their own, or who overcame adversity to find happiness, then the answer starts to reveal itself. What single choice are these folks making to live happier, easier, stress free lives full of passion, money, and contentment?
Hang in there- I’m about to tell you- and it won’t cost you a dime to know or to do it for yourself, starting right now.
The most important choice you can make for your own well-being and future happiness is the choice of how you will identify yourself and the identity principles you will base your life outlook on.
What? Let me explain, because this concept is so important and so crucial to what happens in your life that it is important you understand it and believe it, instead of glossing over it as a new age concept that doesn’t apply to you. The bottom line is, it does apply to you, you are already unconsciously making this choice (or allowing life to make it for you) so why not educate yourself and intentionally make the choice with thoughtful care and conviction? Yes, it is scary, yes it takes work, but if you look at the work you are already doing- that is getting no where like a hamster on a wheel- then you will see that the work involved is minimal and will actually produce change you can use to better your life.
There are two concepts at work here:
- What is your Intentional Identity?
- What are your identity principles based on your Intentional Identity?
How do you choose to identify yourself? Some of this is a no brainer, and can’t be changed- your gender and your race being the two most notable variables. However, you still have some choice- and power- in the level of importance you give these variables when choosing to identify yourself. When someone asks who are you or you consider what you have to offer, do you consider these variables strengths or weaknesses? do you present them with pride and conviction, or do you subtly apologize for them or explain why they should be overlooked? How you feel about your identity and how you present it, are half the battle. The more important questions, beyond the obvious of Gender, Race, and possibly religion is how do you choose to identify yourself in your life? How does your identity hold you back or drive you forward? Is your choice of identity keeping you from achieving your goals?
Everyone has the choice of how to identify themselves to the world, but most people don’t make the choice, they simply let life do it for them. What am I talking about? Well, take people who have been abused in their past-sexual, physical, emotional whatever- these individuals have the choice to identify themselves as victims, act like victims and believe they only deserve to be victims going forward; they consider themselves to be unlovable or deserving of pain or unable to change their destiny. Life happens TO these folks, with little input from them, and the self-fulfilling prophecy of being a victim comes true. Or they have the choice to view themselves as survivors, taking a more positive spin on circumstances in their past and making the choice to move forward NOT expecting or accepting further abuse. Or better yet, they can choose to move past the abuse, accept it as part of their history, but refuse to let it identify their personality or their future achievements; they are neither victims or survivors, they are just themselves- a valuable person deserving of good things who is striving to achieve happiness regardless of their history. Three distinct, very different options. Which person, which identity choice, do you think is living the life they choose to live instead of the life that is happening or has happened to them? Essentially, the life chosen for them by an outside person or factor? Which person has the highest chance of happiness and success? The last person. The person who chooses to identify themselves in a way that doesn’t include their past experience of abuse is the person who experiences life as full of possibilities. I’m not saying you forget about it, or that you should be ashamed of anything in your history. On the contrary, I am saying you make peace with it, every bit of it, and then let it go choosing the best you to move forward. The one not encumbered by all the negative self-talk and imagined limitations – strong because of the history but not hindered by it. As a matter of fact, if you have overcome some kind of adversity in your past, the best possible identity you can chose is the one that puts that behind you and focuses on the more positive personality traits, perhaps those that resulted from the experience.
I have made the choice not to include lots of true identifiers in how I identify myself to the world and the way I live my life or the choices I make. I consider these identifiers to be true, but largely irrelevant to my future and who I want to be. I don’t let the negative circumstances of my history define who I am today. They may have helped me develop into the person I am today-given me strength or taught me a lesson- but I do not use them as excuses or reasons for any of my behavior. They are not a crutch I pull out when explaining why I can’t do something or why life isn’t working out the way I had hoped. I do not allow them to create the map I use to navigate life’s maze of choices. Instead, I use my Intentional Identity, the one I choose to represent me. Mind you it still must be true, I’m not advocating lying or falsification, I’m simply saying STOP letting negative things in your history map your future. Just stop identifying yourself in those terms and you will see how freeing it can become and just how much you can get accomplished.
Here are two lists of identifiers. Which list is more likely to bring about a positive life and good experiences?
- alcoholic father
- single mother
- abusive sister
- mental illness in family
- bullied in school
- autoimmune disorder
- degree in biology
- regular exerciser
- happily married
- clean diet, full of whole foods
- enjoys reading
- started 4 small businesses
Which person has taken control over their life? Which person is probably happier? Which person is taking initiative in life based on the identifiers they choose for themselves? Which list is the list of someone who has created “The Intentional Identity”? If you said List B, you have been paying attention. If you suspect that both lists describe the same person, you’ve been paying close attention.
There is nothing to be ashamed of in your past, that is not what The Intentional Identity is all about. It is simply a way of living life to your fullest potential by focusing on the traits and experiences from your past that will lead you to your best future, instead of focusing on the negative things in your past that can only bring similar things in the future. Why would anyone want to keep replaying the same bad things? Individuals who experience defeat, sadness, lack of motivation, over eating, compulsive shopping, and over spending have not chosen their own identity. They are building a life on a history that brought them nothing but pain and heartache. They continue to make choices that will keep the ball rolling in the wrong direction. They haven’t chosen their Intentional Identity. They will get what they have always gotten. Now if what you have always gotten was wealth, health and amazing opportunities then please disregard this entire post. If you want more and you want to know more… stay tuned for the next post on What are your identity principles based on your Intentional Identity?
Last week on our journey to a better way of living, we looked at the things we already love about ourselves or are already doing well. This week consider your Intentional Identity. Write down everything that could be used to define or describe you as a person. Be sure to include every hairy detail. Now divide the list into two, as shown above. One list of true identifiers you no longer see as useful, and one of the identifiers that will bring you the best life. Now tear up the identifiers you no longer care to use. Make peace with the you who was [insert your own negative identifier here], love that person, feel their pain, then tell them no more, not on your watch, move on, let go and heal. Stop allowing that identifier to control your choices. Now, focus on the list of positive identifiers that will bring you what you want. Imprint this list in your mind, this is you, this is who you really are, this is your Intentional Identity. Get to know this person, because they will be responsible for everything great you are about to achieve.
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