A Shift In Identity
I have failed more times than I can count. When I was in elementary school, I was in the lowest reading group until 4th grade. I was not good at sports, and up until 6th grade I thought of myself as below average in pretty much everything. Then, the summer before 6th grade, something started a process of change in me and began to completely shift my identity moving forward.
My brother and I spent our summers at the local YMCA. It was there that I happened to see a flyer on the window for karate lessons. For whatever reason, the idea of learning karate excited me. As the smallest kid in my class, I thought it would be cool to be able to do a jump-spinning-flying-sideways-roundhouse-double front-judo kick and let everyone know I was not to be messed with. After a little begging, my parents agreed to sign me up.
The Moment Everything Changed
I still remember walking into the karate class on my first night. There was a teenage boy a few years older than me who was wearing a black belt. I knew the second I saw him that I wanted to be like him. Not look like him, or act like him, but I wanted to know what it would feel like to accomplish something so incredible that you earned the coveted rank of black belt. I thought to myself, “The honor, the skill, the pride he must have!”
That was the first time I had ever imagined a new and improved version of me. A future Kevin that didn't exist yet. Someone who still had all the qualities that made me unique, but also someone who had qualities and skills I didn't possess yet…but could.
On August 20th, 1988, I received my black belt. After three years, countless hours, and many ups and downs, I had become the person I imagined myself to be. I had developed the skill and felt the pride. The vision of becoming an expanded version of myself had pushed me past every obstacle I encountered, and I would never be the same.
Just Wanting Something Isn't Enough
Why was I able to be successful at karate when I seemed to fail at everything before? Because without realizing it, I stumbled upon one of the most important elements of success. I wanted to become successful instead of just acquiring something a successful person had.
I didn't just want the black belt, I wanted to be a black belt. I wanted to know what it felt like to have the honor and the skill. If someone had just handed me a black belt, it wouldn't have made the same impact. I needed to become a black belt so I could possess the skill and feel the reward. I had stumbled onto something that excited me; and when that happens it can be a powerful thing.
How To Become A Better You
Research by Harvard Psychologist, Dan Gilbert shows that it's far easier to remember your past (who you were) as opposed to imagining your future (who you can become). Because of this, we tend to believe that we are permanently stuck with every limitation we had yesterday—or even 5 or 10 years ago.
The truth is, you are not the same person you were 10 years ago or even one month ago. Yes, you still have all the great qualities that make you who you are, but you are constantly adding new experiences and learning new things. The key to making significant progress in any one area of your life is to decide who you want to become. Be intentional and chart a course. Make real plans to start the process of becoming that person.
Put yourself into the top 3% of all achievers and spend a few minutes answering these questions.
- What do I really want?
- What makes me come alive?
- What does my ideal future self look like?
- What are my highest values?
- What do I want my contribution to the world to be?
- What does an ideal day look like?
- How would it feel to become my highest future self?
The Keys To Success
Recent research shows that 91% of people never achieve their New Year's resolutions. The ones who do have these things in common:
They focus on smaller goals on their way to the bigger goal.
The bigger goal is who you are becoming. You are not just learning to write better, eat healthier, or play guitar. You are becoming a writer, a healthier person, or a musician. This is the process of identity change. As you travel down this road to becoming a new person, you will set smaller, achievable goals along the way to keep you on track.
I call these Be Goals (who I want to become) vs. Do Goals (the steps I need to take to get there).
They make their goals specific and often challenging.
One of my goals for 2023 is to become a writer. Someone who shares ideas with others. Just saying, "I will write 50 articles in 2023" is too vague. It leaves too much room to put it off until tomorrow (which we're all guilty of). Instead, I created the more specific goal of, "I will publish an article every Tuesday morning in 2023." This will also challenge me, but I now have a plan that will keep me on track.
They have a strong desire to achieve the goal.
The process of becoming a better version of yourself will challenge you and push you beyond your comfort zone. If the desire to become this new version of yourself is not strong enough, seeing it through becomes very difficult. One thing that I've found helpful is to focus on the impact my new self will have on my family and the lives of others. If you remember that becoming your best self really will make the world a better place, it becomes a worthy goal and can serve as motivation to keep going when it gets tough.
They are part of a supportive community that encourages them and holds them accountable.
This is without a doubt one of the most important parts of the process. Being a part of a community serves many purposes, none of which is more important than encouragement (with accountability being a close second). Anytime I've been successful at anything in my life, I was part of a community.
Because of this, I'm creating a dedicated community at the beginning of February called Onward. The purpose will be to provide a more interactive and focused place of support, encouragement, accountability, and inspiration. If you've signed up for my newsletter, you'll get an email when I release the beta version in February, but either way, I look forward to connecting with you here and via my newsletter, and I hope you'll join me in making 2023 an exceptional year!
Gilbert, D. (2007). Stumbling on Happiness. Random House. Page 101.
Marcel Schwantes, Inc., https://www.inc.com/marcel-schwantes/studies-show-91-percent-of-us-wont-achieve-our-new-years-resolutions-how-to-be-9-percent-that-do.html
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