The question you HAVE to ask every day.
No matter how accomplished we might be in one area, most of us feel like we’re on a success/failure hamster wheel in at least one corner of our lives. Despite having defined goals, we take take a big leap forward, then stumble four steps back.
Could your goals be sending you on a repeating loop back to the starting line?
- Finally lost fifteen pounds? Perfect! You can relax a bit, now that you’re healthier, you can splurge a bit without effect.
- Hit your sales target? Exciting! It’s time to go about the business of spending your bonus.
- Aced your Masters program? Put your feet up, learning was exhausting.
Before long, that fifteen pounds returns, and then some. We’re back in debt, and as for learning, who has the time? The daily grind takes over, and we roll along the rut, feeling overwhelmed, busy, and uninspired.
Instead of searching for what we want, it’s time to ask ourselves a different question:
Who do we want to be, and why?
I’ll never forget my second visit to my friend Jessica’s new country house. Growing up, Jess’s mom was a hoarder. She grew up in the city, feeling suffocated by the sheer volumes of stuff and filth, and vowed all her life to live in the country where she could feel a sense of freedom and space.
In our twenties, her city apartment faintly echoed her upbringing. While it wasn’t outrageous, it was a mess. We’d joke about the stacks of old clothes, art supplies, and magazines. Jess would laugh it off, reasoning that if only she had more space instead of being trapped in her tiny city flat, she’d be living in order and pristine cleanliness. (As a side note, I helped her move out of that apartment, and while packing, I found her iguana, Fred, in the pantry. Missing for five years. He was as dried up as the spilled pasta and corn flakes.)
Jess is a brilliant writer and when she landed a huge ghost-writing project, she finally had enough money to buy her little country cottage. Tucked into gently rolling meadows, the little house was picture-perfect for a single writer’s lifestyle. She moved in with her two cats, hiring a designer and space organizer.
“I want everything to be perfectly organized, everything with its spot. This is my chance for a fresh beginning.”
I watched her beam as she showed me around the first time. She was right, absolutely everything was in its place, in fact, I worried about putting my purse down. The whole place gleamed white, even the furniture, blinds, and dishes. We sunk into her new sofa with a vodka soda (wine was too risky of a spill) and she exhaled, gushing about the sense of peace she felt deep inside.
Two years later, she hosted a girls’ night before Christmas. Five of us piled into a friend’s little car and drove in from the city for an overnight, gushing about having a grown-up sleep-over in Jess’ pristine country paradise, joking about making sure not a drop of merlot was spilled on the pale silk carpets.
We opened the door and dropped our bags, and our jaws. In the dining room – Jess’ writing station – volumes of books, papers, old coffee cups, dirty dishes, and all manner of unfolded laundry all but covered every inch of the table. The furniture was worn and grey, and even the walls had grimy hand prints and splashes of old spills. The kitchen was overrun with boxes and bags of food, dishes, and a fat cat presided over all of it, seated atop her open cookbook.
My heart ached for her. We’ve all landed here in one way or another. Jess got kicked back to her starting line.
She hadn’t stopped to ask herself, who did she want to be, and why?
So, who do you want to be, and what’s the driving energy behind that vision?
Do you want to lose ten pounds, or do you want to be a healthy person?
Do you want to get up to 50 pushups by summer, or do you want to be strong?
Do you want to do one good deal, or do you want financial freedom?
Instead of focusing on what we want, what would happen if the guiding light forward was framed around who we want to be and why?
Whatever our goals are, they’ll lead us back to the starting line if we don’t create the new habits that become part of our identity.
We aren’t on a weight loss quest, we’re a healthy person.
We’re not doing a pushup challenge, we’re a strong person.
We’re not chasing dollar signs, we’re becoming a person with lasting financial freedom.
To shift our identity and become our true selves, we can wake up each morning and face our North Star. Open your journal each day, asking yourself the question that helps you align with who you want to become. What choices would a healthy, strong, or financially free person make today? What choices would an athlete, artist, or lifelong scholar make today? Ask yourself at every turn, what choices would that person make?
Redefine your habits to be in alignment with who you want to become, and over time, you’ll be sailing past your goals, setting new ones, and finding rewards on your path that you probably never imagined.
It’s not what we want, but who we want to be, and why.
Want help framing each day? Join me Monday to Friday on Instagram for your daily dose of Rebel Mindset practice at 7 AM ET, or watch later by clicking on the videos in my Instagram stories.