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Who Are You Going To Be?

At some point, you’ve got to decide.

Your cells change whether you want them or not. If you choose to ignore them, the change will not ignore you.

You see this with people who work out. Fortunately, life is not all about healthy living or weights. The reps happen passively.

The music you listen to—the movies you consume. The friends you entertain. The things you say to yourself.

“Everything you say is an affirmation. What are you affirming?”

You’re not who you were last year. Or even last week. Humans are bad at measuring subtle changes. We don’t even see how we think we see — the brain takes snapshots and fills the gaps.

“Humans have a fitful relationship with the clock, if modern idioms are any indication. Time flies when we’re having fun. It drags when we’re bored. Sometimes it’s on our side; other times it’s racing against us.” — The Fluidity of Time

Everything is perception and can be altered. Our views of the world are malleable.

What more of our view of ourselves?

I know this too well because my struggle with my self-image is not as bad as it once was. I remember feeling ugly in high-school. Maybe “ugly’ doesn’t really cut it. More like I felt unattractive for anyone to date me. Who knew that I could actually, you know, choose to date, someone? Who knew what would have happened if I stopped waiting and did something?

Later on, in college, a switch happened. It wasn’t immediate, but I realized that those things I thought about myself weren’t true. Either that or I had become someone else. That felt really good.

When I feel stuck in a rut, which happens more often than it should, I remember becoming the person I want to be. I can choose the traits I need to improve, and those I need to let go off. It’s all within the mind.

“It’s selective processes such as visual attention that let the brain process important information and discard what’s not. What is or isn’t of interest will be determined by your individual goals. For example, one study showed that observers noticed a change to an object in a virtual reality setting only if that object was made task-relevant at the time of the change. For instance, if they were told to virtually sort bricks by size, they were more likely to notice changes in the bricks’ dimensions than if they were just lifting them in the order they appeared.” — How Do Our Brains Reconstruct The Visual World?

Yes, both physically and mentally, what we focus on grows.

Who you become is a combination of many, many things. But do you know who can play a major role in deciding who that is?

You.

No one can stop you when you decide to become who you want to become. They’ll try. They always do. Life happens. You know this. Over time, it’s the person you become when striving for whatever your goal is.

You realize it was never about the goal. It can start as one. You can use it as a compass. But there will be detours.

Remember, the road ends. Whether you start the journey sooner or later doesn’t matter. The journey will one day end.

Will you be proud of who you become? Or regret everything you chose passively?

Either way, you choose. You decide.

And you’re more than capable of doing that today.

The fact that you’re reading this shows that you do have a part of you that knows you deserve better — that you can offer the world more than you already are.

For you, it’s not just about the money. That’s nice. It helps you sleep better, knowing your bills are covered for a while. But maybe…

Maybe you also want to make more money or feel happier with the way things are.

You’re taking action already. That’s good!

Knowing helps but doing something about it is another thing.

I agree with you.

I still consume an inordinate amount of self-improvement content exactly because of this. However, I have noticed a few things that help me make better decisions about who I want to become and actually accomplish this.

1. Monitor Yourself Like You Were Someone Else

When you find that you’re stuck in a behavior pattern that stops you from moving forward on a goal, attempt to look from outside, observe as though you were a scientist. Run an experiment. Change the time you wake up—the time you eat. Try not to eat for some time. See what happens.

Don’t do anything you wouldn't do to a human subject, of course. Learn about yourself.

Sometimes, we get stuck in our own heads, and this exercise can help you notice things that affect your mood.

You might find out you write better at night. Like I did, music in the background affects me differently at different times of the day.

I recently switched to intermittent fasting, not because of the research, but because I ran an experiment: what would happen if I only ate between 12 pm and 6 pm? So far, it’s been a fun find: I realize I can talk myself out of hunger.

I often thought I would DIE if I don’t eat for hours. I was wrong. Without the experiment, I would never have known.

Thoughts are malleable; data is not.

Observe your behavior, take notes, make changes, and analyze your data. You don’t have to use an excel sheet and measure numbers.

To start, choose a week and recap at the end.

2. Estimate how long it will take you to complete a task, then compare to how long it actually takes

On the journey to change and growth, we underestimate how long things will take and overestimate our ability to change things that have been with us for years.

We all do it — all the time.

“ In the early days of computer chess, people used to estimate that it would be ten years until a computer (or program) was world champion. But after ten years had passed, it seemed that the day a computer would become world champion was still more than ten years away. . . . This is just one more piece of evidence for the rather recursive Hofstadter’s Law” — Douglas Hofstadter

Hofstadter’s Law: It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.

When you realize that you aren’t very good at estimating how long things take, two things happen.

  1. You get to set expectations closer to reality: Deluding yourself at the start leads to pain and suffering. You will get better at making goals, and often, you’ll realize it's about the effectiveness and not efficiency. It’s not how much, but how well. “Intelligence, imagination, and knowledge are essential resources, but only effectiveness converts them into results.” — Peter Drucker.
  2. You get more patient: you’ll notice that things take time, and it’s okay to give the time things need. From airplanes to rockets, moving objects need a certain velocity before take off. You can’t suddenly stop patterns of your life you’ve been accustomed to. It’s okay to relapse. Since you’re monitoring yourself, you notice what caused this, and you adjust accordingly.

3. Get An Outside Perspective

I’m a little worried about this one because it’s had me stuck in beliefs that were not mine. You see, most people around you have an idea of who they think you are based on what they know about you — their experience of you.

This can force you to behave in a particular way because they expect that that’s who you are.

“We often think that self-control comes from within, yet many of our actions depend just as much on our friends and family as ourselves. Those we surround ourselves with have the power to make us fatter, drink more alcohol, care less about the environment and be more risky with sun protection, among many things.” — How your friends change your habits — for better and worse

So, when you choose to do things differently, you might surprise them. They will want you to stay in the familiar patterns they know you to run with from family to friends.

This can stall the necessary changes you want to make. This is why getting an outside perspective on your strengths and weaknesses can be a problem.

To solve this, you need to know who you seek feedback from. You need to understand their context so you can parse the information with your own filter.

“Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong.” — Neil Gaiman

When you find people who can be honest, objective, and are aware of their own stake in your life, listen to them carefully. Just keep in mind what Mr. Gaiman says: they’re almost always wrong about how to fix whatever issue they’re pointing out.

I love the internet because you can “listen” to others who don’t even know you exist. They can still give you perspective. That has been particularly helpful for me. From James Altucher to Gary Vaynerchuk, Srinivas Rao, Ayodeji Awosika, Britanny Krystle, Gillian Perkins, and more, I have had a perspective about flawed actions I was used to and what to do to change them.

To become the person you know you can become, you have to know what actionable steps you can take. An outside perspective can shed light on things you’ve been so used you that you can’t realize how wrong they were.

Who you are is the sum of those daily decisions. Whether you choose to ignore or be active in this process will determine where you find yourself down the road.

You have what it takes to choose the path that’s favorable for you.

You can live your life as a grand experiment, using data to improve your outcomes. You can move away from false assumptions about tasks and get realistic about the effort and time needed. You can also seek wisdom from others ahead of the curve to improve your chances and avoid unnecessary pain and hurt.

You’re already ahead of many; keep going. You’ve got this.

“When we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better too.” — Paolo Coelho

Cameroonian writer and video creator. Featured in LEVEL and P.S. I Love You. I write about building relationships and personal transformation.

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