If you have read this humble blog for a significant amount of time, you know I believe you can be more, do more, have more, and contribute more, mostly in that order. The starting point is becoming more than you are right now by creating a transformational breakthrough, which we might define as the point at which you stop being one thing and become another.
You may, for example, decide to stop being an average salesperson and become a consultative, trusted advisor. Your transformational breakthrough might see your metamorphosis from “sales manager” to “leader,” from a title on an organizational chart to a role you play in the lives of others. Your breakthrough transformation might see you go from “couch potato” to “athlete.”
Whatever you are now, and whatever you are becoming, here is how you create your transformational breakthrough:
Let Go of What You Are
To become something else, you must let go of what you are now. There may not be any more powerful force than your identity, what you tell yourself and others you are.
If you have ever heard someone say something like, “I am a procrastinator,” they were sharing with you one of the ways they identify themselves—to themselves and others. You might hear someone describe themselves with words like, “I am a failure,” even when there is evidence to the contrary. One may procrastinate, and one may choose to identify that as what they are, but that is a behavior. You can fail without being a failure, as any person who finds success will attest.
The truth is that your identity is malleable. You have the power to change what you believe you are and become something else whenever you want. You can be one thing today and something altogether different tomorrow, should you decide to—and should you be willing to let go of what you are now.
Find a Model
You will find a lot of advice and platitudes about not comparing yourself to others, especially on the internet, where memes dominate. One of my favorite pieces of bad advice goes something like, “I don’t want to be better than anyone else; I just want to be better than I was yesterday.” As much as I appreciate the sentiment, it does set the bar pretty low. There is good reason to compare yourself to others when it comes to a transformational breakthrough.
In most of the things that matter, what another person can achieve is also possible for you. Some people refuse to believe this, as it absolves them of the responsibility to change their identity and the actions that follow how they see themselves. Other people look at the success of others to find models of the beliefs and behaviors that will allow them to become something more, while also shortening the time it takes to create a breakthrough.
It’s one thing to be better than you were yesterday, and it’s quite another to be the best version of yourself, to reach your full potential.
Find someone who is already what you want to be, and study what they believe and what they do. It’s negative to compare yourself to others if you are trying to prove your superiority, and positive if you are comparing yourself to someone who is a model of what you aspire to become.
Change What You Believe and What You Do
You have to give up what you are to become something more, and that starts with what you believe, your mindset, and what you do, your behaviors, actions, and habits.
On December 27, 2009, I was not a writer, even though I had done a little writing. On December 28, 2009, I was a writer, even though it was only my first day as one, and even if I wasn’t very good at it. On one of those days, I believed writing was what one did. On the next day, I believed it was what one is. I have written every day since that day, the action following my decision to change my identity.
I am not confident in which order these two things need to happen, as sometimes I have witnessed the change in belief before the change in behaviors, and other times I have seen the actions change, and the beliefs follow. That said, without both of the views and practices, you will not experience a transformational breakthrough.
If you have an area of your life that you want to transform, make a list of your present beliefs and behaviors, and then write the beliefs and behaviors necessary for you to congruently occupy the space that is what you are becoming.
Embrace the Discomfort
The reason so many people struggle to become what they wish to be is because it comes with more than a little discomfort, especially when you have to explain to others that you are no longer what you once were.
It isn’t easy to change your beliefs. We reject new beliefs, seeking instead to confirm our existing biases by looking for evidence that we are right—especially when powerful ideas conflict with our own. Looking at new beliefs causes a lack of comfort; you could be wrong, and you could have been mistaken for a very long time. New ideas threaten your identity, which is why you cannot have a transformational breakthrough without giving up what you believed (about yourself, about others, about how the world works, etc.).
Nor is it easy to change your behaviors. Most of the habits you developed are burnt in from continually taking the same action over and over again. It took time for the habit to develop, and it is uncomfortable to break them. I used to sleep until 6:30 AM on weekdays. One day, I decided to set my alarm for 5:00 AM, giving myself time in the morning to do all the things I told myself I didn’t have time to do. The transition was painful, marked by a lack of sleep, a lack of clarity, and a general grouchiness. After a few weeks, the discomfort subsided.
If you are not uncomfortable, you are not going to experience a transformational breakthrough. Discomfort is evidence you are changing.
Choose Your Identity
Have you ever known anyone who can’t wait to tell others that they are a vegan? Or paleo? Or keto? Have you ever known someone who tells everyone they are a runner? When you see this behavior, a person is establishing part of their identity. They’re sharing with you a decision they have made, partly because they want you to identify them as such (along with what it means about them), and in part to burn in their identity, making it difficult for them to do things that are incongruent with who they say they are.
The malleability of your identity is a very good thing. Today you may be one thing; tomorrow you may be another. Even if you haven’t ever thought about the idea in quite this way, you have likely already made several transformations in the course of your life. You called yourself one thing when you had a particular set of beliefs and behaviors and chose to call yourself something else after you changed.
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