In 2013, I read a book that changed my life. Tim Ferriss's 4 Hour Work Week exposed me to a whole new world, and a whole new way of living that I was immediately drawn to. Location independence and longterm travel became my obsession and almost over night, I had committed to leaving my 9-5 job.
This moment of decision was pivotal for many reasons. Not only did I change the trajectory of my life (away from daily commutes and happy hours, and towards entrepreneurship, travel, and inevitably personal growth) but I proved an extremely important concept that we often forget...
That concept is this: We have the ability to become something new, and live in a new way, in any given moment. We can literally be, do and have, anything we want, starting NOW. All we have to do is decide.
Instead of letting myself get overcome with fear-based thoughts about how I was going to execute this plan to become a perma-traveler, and instead of focusing on the fact that I had never been an entrepreneur or freelancer before, so how could I be so audacious to think I could be now, I chose new more empowering thoughts.
I chose hope, and committed to learning and taking action on a daily basis. I chose new habits, and new social circles. I let go of labels that kept me stuck and in a few short months I was boarding a plane for my new life.
So many people resist pursuing their interests (or worse, their big dreams) because these visions don’t match up with the identity they currently have for themselves. These exciting new goals don’t fit inside the box they’ve chosen to live in. They’re so committed to the past, and who they think it’s made them, that they avoid creating a new more desirable future. Instead they choose what's familiar, what's safe. And they stay stuck...
Have you ever wanted something but resisted pursuing it because that thing, or person, or experience didn’t match what you thought you deserved or were capable of?
For example, maybe you resisted joining a social sports league because “you’ve never been very athletic." Or maybe you avoided getting up at Karaoke because "you can’t carry a tune." Both of which leave you feeling excluded, a little regretful, and disappointed.
Perhaps you declined an invitation to go skydiving because "you’re not an adventurous person” but deep down, you wish you were. Newsflash, if you want to be something, you ARE that thing! All you have to do is stop choosing the old way of being. It really is that simple.
Whatever it is that we want, but are resisting, it can often be tied back to the same core issue: our inability to see that just because it’s always been a certain way, does not mean it’s always going to be that way. We are malleable beings, and we can mold and shape ourselves and our lives.
Our egos may cling to these identities that we’ve created for ourselves, because we don’t realize that we actually have the option to alter our identity in any moment. We can literally be any way that we want to be. We just have to decide.
To illustrate this point further, let’s bust some well-known myths about why we are the way we are.
The Nature Myth:
You may think that your parents passed down certain genetic traits to you, that are inherent and inevitable and unchanging. For example, just as you inherited your caramel eyes and olive skin from your feisty Latina mother, you also inherited her temper and use of guilt in conflict. But that’s completely false. You can choose to react in a new way. You can break the chain by living a more intentional life than your family members may have chosen.
Just as you are not carved in stone when you are born, confining you to a certain set of characteristics and personality traits, you are also not exempt from new ones that you may desire.
For example, no one is born an entrepreneur. People become entrepreneurs because they decide to be one, and then they take courses, read books, and find mentors to learn how to run a business. Similarly, no one is born an olympic athlete. People become Olympic athletes because they commit to learning the sport, hire the best coaches and practice obsessively for years.
You are able to change your identity and become good at something by first ridding yourself of the label that you are not that thing, and then going out and actually doing it.
"Nothing about your past dictates your future.”
- Tony Robbins
The Nurture Myth:
Similar to the misconception that you are born a certain way, there is also the notion that you are groomed to be a certain way. And that way is unchanging.
In reality, your upbringing does not dictate “who you are” or “how you are.” You choose to identify with the qualities of your parents and siblings. Coming from a poor family does not mean you are poor, and will always be poor. Many wealthy people come from poverty; they change their financial situation because they disidentify with being poor, and take action towards acquiring wealth.
Most of how we live, and what we think are a product of habits. We get into the habit of behaving a certain way, and therefore we identify with that way of being. We label ourselves as that, and begin to think thoughts that reinforce it. Which in turn encourages the very habit. It’s a cycle that can seem impossible to break, but it’s not.
Every breath is an opportunity to change. Every moment is a chance to choose differently. To choose a new “I am” statement, and take a new action.
Instead of “ I am shy” you can say, “I have chosen to act shyly in the past, but now I am choosing to go and talk to that group of strangers."
Instead of “I’m not a good writer” you can flip the script by saying, “I have chosen to listen to my fears in the past and to avoid writing, but now I’m choosing to practice consistently each day. I’m choosing to learn more about style and voice by taking a writing course.”
“A girl should be two things: who and what she wants.”
- Coco Chanel
Don’t waste your life being “who you’ve always been” if that’s not actually who you desire to be. Understand that you can change up the story whenever you want.
Here are some other labels you may have identified with in the past, and how you can move past them:
In the past: You were not “messy” but rather opted for a chaotic environment. You chose to leave your things on the ground, in the sink, in your car, etc.
Starting now: You can start choose the alternative. You can choose to be someone who always hangs clothes instead of leaving them on the floor. You can spend the 20 seconds rinsing the dish and putting it in the dishwasher. Do this more than once, and you start to create momentum. You begin to shift from someone who identifies as “messy” to someone who is intentional about their space, and takes micro actions all day long to keep it clean.
In the past: You may have been told by a parent or teacher that you weren’t gifted with music and ergo chose to identify as someone who couldn’t sing or play an instrument. By accepting this label, you therefore never sang in your car or picked up an instrument to play.
Starting now: You can rewrite this story, by renting or buying an instrument, taking lessons, and practicing. Even by knowing a few chords, or one song you have become someone different. You have become someone who plays an instrument.
Bad with Money
In the past: You may have succumbed to overwhelm and turned a blind eye. In reality you were choosing to throw away receipts, to ignore how much you spent, to open credit cards carelessly.
Starting now: You can choose to behave like someone who is financially aware. You can track your purchases in an app on your phone, or pay off your credit cards once a week. You can hire an accountant to help you with your taxes and set up automated systems for saving. You can instantly turn what was a disempowering area of your life, into a a powerful new set of habits. All you have to do is decide.
“It is in our moments of decision that our destiny is shaped.”
- Tony Robbins
Your future depends entirely on the decisions you make in each new moment.
What decisions will you make today?
How will use this moment to start moving towards the life you really want?
Remember that you really can be whatever you want. You just have to decide.