Why You Need To Upgrade Your Identity To Achieve A Challenging Goal


Jennifer’s challenging goal was to run a marathon. The problem was, she’d never even jogged before.

Not really an issue. You might expect every marathon runner to have never jogged at some point.

Unfortunately, Jennifer’s problems were a bit more complex than never having jogged.

Let me take you back…

I was presenting to a large group of young women. I asked for someone who had a challenging goal to come up to the front of the room. Jennifer volunteered, but looked anything but excited and motivated about her goal. After I asked her a few questions, she announced that she just didn’t see herself as a runner, let alone a marathon runner.

That’s the issue with challenging goals

To achieve a straightforward goal, you adopt new behaviours and habits. But a really challenging goal demands that you not only change your habits, but also requires you to reassess your beliefs, values, and even your identity.

You need to become a different person

If that sounds drastic, allow me to explain. Your identity is the fundamental basis of who you are as a human being. It embodies your sense of self, as well as your values, beliefs, capabilities, and behaviours. It is your self-perception — who you are.

A statement of identity begins with, I am. We have many ‘I am’s’; different roles that we play on the stage of life. For example, I can say, I am:

  • A trainer
  • A coach/mentor
  • A business owner
  • A sister
  • A daughter, etc.

These labels shape my sense of identity — who I am.

The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are. Carl Jung

Your language provides a sign of your self-perception

‘I write articles’ is a statement about what I do, or my behaviour.

If I say, ‘I write great articles’, this is a statement about my capabilities.

I am a writer reflects my identity — one that I struggled with for quite a few years.

Why did it take so long?

Because, even though I know this stuff I’m writing about here, I hadn’t applied it to myself before! Doh!

My writing goal is an example of what NOT to do.

Back in January 2011, my challenging goal was to write and publish an article every week, for a year.

I’m sure I would have written those articles with more ease if I’d upgraded my beliefs, values, and identity before I started writing the articles.

Man banging head on keyboard

I would have spent fewer hours sitting in front of a blank screen, rocking back and forth and making my eyes bleed while questioning, “Why am I doing this?!?” if I’d accepted myself as a writer before I started!

I’ve now written hundreds of articles, seven books, and many reports, guides, and white papers. Yet it took until a couple of years ago before I could state, with any conviction, “I am a writer”.

Hindsight is so cool!

Another identity upgrade example

If you weigh 150 kgs (330lbs) and your goal is to achieve a weight of 75 kgs (165lbs), that’s going to take quite an identity change. Basically, anyone in this situation will lose half of themselves!

If you have a weight issue, you might consider yourself ‘fat’, ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’. You may not realise it, but those labels become part of your identity (I am fat). You may have had that identity for many years. Maybe for as long as you can remember.

Concluding ‘I am fat’, although it may be true, will not serve you in becoming a slim person. Think like a slim person and create a new identity as a slim person, by adopting the values, beliefs, and habits of a slim person. Do this before starting a new eating regimen.

Incorporating this identity change into the goal-setting process is essential for long-term success. (How many people have released a lot of weight, only to put it back on again? Are they still identifying as “I am fat”?)

“I’m going to make you so proud” (Note to self)

A similar situation can occur with any challenging goal

Business owner or employee?

If you’re currently an employee and one of your challenging goals is to start your own business, it would be useful to take on the identity of a business owner. Define what’s important to you about being in business (your values) and why you want it.

You could also:

  • Read about the mindsets of famous business owners. Business people and employees think differently.
  • Formulate some questions that you can ask business owners about what’s important to them? How has their mindset changed since establishing a business? How do they think about the future? What lessons have they learned along the way?
  • Notice how business owners behave and think compared to how you behave and think.
  • Start believing, “I am a business owner.”
  • Take a look at my Coaching and Mentoring Programme😜

Who do you need to become?

With any significant, challenging, or long-term goal, it will be important to define who you need to become in order to achieve it. Determine what’s important to you about reaching the goal (your values) and what beliefs you want as the new person you’re developing into.

Remember, Jennifer had never jogged before

She didn’t even see herself as a runner. I helped her identify some values, new beliefs, and behaviours that would be useful for someone in training for and then running a marathon. For example:

  • I am a runner (new identity)
  • I’m strong and motivated (identity)
  • I love to run (value)
  • I take care of my body (value)
  • I eat healthily (behaviour)

I had her ‘sensualise’ getting to her goal as well

She imagined herself running happily each morning, and she noticed how good her body felt. After making these adjustments, her whole demeanour had changed from despondent and not even knowing how to begin, to getting energised and having the first few steps in place to accomplish her challenging goal.

She completed the marathon six months later.

Challenging goals take you outside your comfort zone

In striving towards something that’s compelling, you learn, grow, and develop resilience. Often you have to learn new skills and determine different ways to bring your goal to fruition.

the winner is sign

If you’ve set yourself a challenging goal this year, it’s crucial to adopt a new identity to make the journey easier. Identify the values and beliefs that will guide you, and any skills you might need to accomplish your outcome.Goal Setting Book

You’ll discover unique ways to reach your goals and change your life with my Goal Setting Book. And you can download the Goal Setting Workbook for free!

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Tags: Beliefs and values, Goals, Language, Motivation and taking action, Thinking and mindset, work and career


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