4 Step Guide To Building A New Identity

4 Step Guide To Building A New Identity

At some point in their life, everyone has the same two thoughts: dang, I wish I could be X, and why can't we tickle ourselves?

I answered this first thought by wanting to be something other than an addicted video gamer. I didn't really know what. Maybe I could become a gym bro, a man who could attract a beautiful woman—or wait, no—a businessman, a meditator, or hmm, perhaps a board game connoisseur (I wish I was joking).

It was overwhelming.

The question kept ricocheting in my mind: What even IS identity? WHICH identity should I want? And how DO you change your identity? Confused, I spent years procrastinating.

Curious, I read books such as Atomic Habits by James Clear, The Art Of Focus by Dan Koe, Personal Socrates by Marc Champaigne, and hundreds more. I believe I have gotten at least a little more clarity over what identity is and how to build it. This is the step-by-step guide I wish I had when I first started building my identity.

Firstly, let's answer the million dineros question: what is identity?

Identity is what you repeatedly feel, think, and do as well as the environment and people you surround yourself with. Identity change is all about influencing one of these five things.

The next question is, how do you change your identity?

Step 1: Defining Your Ideal Identity—Who Do You Respect And Why?

Before changing your identity, you must know what you need to change.

In other words, you need to define your ideal identity. Don't laugh--unless you do--but I aspire to a made-up character I call, Aidan The Worldsinger:

He's a mix of Elend Venture, Hoid, Mark Watney, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Nicolas Cole--characters from fiction and real life.

These people all embody qualities I want for my highest self: love, zest, wisdom, open-mindedness, curiosity, and self-discipline. When I'm about to hit snooze, instead of waking up early to write, I ask, what would Aidan The World singer do? When I'm tempted to skip a workout for a Lord Of The Rings Movie Marathon, I ask, what would Aidan The Worldsinger do? When I'm pondering whether to finish the whole jar of peanut butter, I--eat the whole jar of peanut butter. We all have our weaknesses. Don't judge.

Why is aspiring to an ideal self like this valuable?

Because energy flows where attention goes.

Like a beacon guiding ships through the night, focus illuminates and fuels your path forward. Aiming your beacon toward a higher self energizes you to realize that highest self. Conversely, aiming your beacon on trivial goals or competition over scarce resources can lead you astray. The game is in keeping your focus locked on your highest aspiration.

So ask yourself, who do you respect most and why? Go ahead, do it right now. Get a pen and paper or digital tool and write down some names. They could be video game characters, dead people, heck, it could be your mom.

Write down the values, motivations, knowledge, skills, habits, routines and environments those people have that you respect.

Step 2: Ask Yourself, Why You Don't Have This Identity Right Now?

Is it a motivation, knowledge, skill, habit, routine, environmental problem, or a combination?

Journal about what you are missing in each of these things. Is it you struggle to get started? Do you lack the time and energy? Do you lack the resources to change effectively?

Step 3: Do One Or Do None—Which Part Of That Identity Is Most Important?

As much as I wish we could wave a magic wand and erase all our identity gaps, humans don't work like that.

If you try to attack all the gaps in your identity right away, you'll be like a stormtrooper in Star Wars—shooting a lot but missing every target. What are you most passionate about pursuing, in the best environment to pursue, would be most useful to pursue right now, and would help you the most with the other things you're trying to pursue?

Then, order all the gaps you came up with in step two from highest to lowest priority.

Done that? Great.

Now cross off everything that isn't number one on the list.

Step 4: Create A Plan For Filling That Gap

You have the parts that build up your ideal identity and have chosen the most important one to start working on now.

Below are all the ways you can begin working towards each of them based on the gaps we identified earlier. I recommend doing some reverse goal setting to devise a plan to build the most important gap. My favorite way to set goals is through N.I.C.E goal setting, coined by Ali Abdaal in his book Feel Good Productivity. N.I.C.E goals are near-term, input-based (emphasize the process needed to get there), controllable, and energizing.

Building Values

Values are something you have but embody through your actions. For example, if you value curiosity, then you might have a habit of learning something new every single day through a book, course, or something else.

For any value you don't feel you are embodying right now, find a skill, habit, routine, project, or one-off task you can do to embody that and write it down with the other things above.

Building Motivation

Check out my article Seven Powerful Tips For Cultivating Intrinsic Motivation In College-From Burnout to Bliss (It applies outside college too).

Building Knowledge

If you want to learn how to build knowledge, I recommend checking out my meta-learning content so you can set up a good learning plan for your chosen learning endeavor.

Building Skills

Check out this article on deliberate skills practice to learn how to build skills.

Building Habits

Just, read Atomic Habits lol.

Building Routines

Also, read Atomic Habits, it will teach you how to build routines too.

Changing Your Environment

Unfortunately, this is out of the scope of this article. Environment change is so multifaceted that I couldn't recommend one article. I suggest you do your own research.