How to Develop a Success Identity
For years, I wondered why some people, no matter how hard they try, can’t get their lives moving in a positive direction. Or, if they do, why success is difficult to sustain. What I’ve learned is the reason is often related to a person’s personal identity.
To understand this concept, let’s look at two different identities.
Two different identities . . .
No matter how hard Jim tries he never succeeds. Time after time, he implements what seems like a great business idea. And, time after time, the great idea fizzles. He’s deep in debt and tired of living this way. Why, Jim wonders, can’t he find his place in life, and he can’t imagine how he’s ever going to succeed.
George, on the other hand, gets everything right. When he had a sales job with a large corporation, he was always a top producer and received all sorts of awards. When he went into business for himself, it seemed like he had the golden touch. Although he went through some normal growing pains, within two years the business was successful and George was enjoying a comfortable income.
What is about Jim that keeps causes him to fail so much? Why does success seem so natural to George?
The answer; has to do with how they perceive who they are, their place in the world and how they fit in. Jim has what psychologist William Glasser would call a “failure identity”. George has a “success identity.” Your identity, according to Glasser, is determined by your ability to satisfy your need to be loved and your need to feel worthwhile.
The Roots of Failure
Jim’s father was an alcoholic. His mother was a submissive woman who never stood up for Jim when his father would yell at him. The message that Jim got, at an early age, was that he didn’t matter much. Neither of his parents cared much about how Jim did at school, and he usually didn’t do very well.
After studying a number of self-help books, Jim came to believe that if he had a positive attitude, he could be successful. He often dreamed of success and sometimes felt confident that his positive attitude would lead him to his goal. At other times, he had no confidence at all. Deep inside, Jim didn’t expect much of himself. He often procrastinated and found it hard to stick with an idea, especially if it didn’t go the way he hoped. On some level, Jim expected to fail and life met his expectations.
The Roots of Success
George, on the other hand, had parents who were both successful professionals. Although George’s parents were strict and often demanding, they assumed that he would do well in school and gave him whatever help he needed to achieve. George learned that there was a direct relationship between how much effort he put into a project and the positive results he realized.
Over the years, George developed focus, discipline, and determination. He knew that making mistakes and having small failures was part of the learning process, and if he kept doing the work, he would succeed. He expected success and life met his expectations.
Can Jim Change?
Jim is now 45 years old. He sees his life slipping by without any real success to speak of. From the outside, it looks as if Jim genuinely wants to change the direction of his life. He still reads self-help books and has attended a number of seminars. His desire for financial success if very strong.
What are the chances that Jim will succeed? That depends on how willing he is to change his identity. Although he consciously wants to succeed, success would, in fact, threaten Jim’s concept of who he is. In order to deal with success, he has to learn a whole new set of thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. He also has to consciously change his behavior.
Jim knows exactly what he can expect of life in the role he is playing now, and he knows how to get what he needs to sustain his life position. Although it is uncomfortable, it is familiar. In order to change, Jim has to be willing to step into what is, for him, uncharted territory. He has to be willing to embrace the unknown.
If he is willing to make small changes on a daily basis and follow an action plan for success, he can make it. Will it be easy? No. But, it is possible.
Jim has to, in many ways, go against his own nature. He has to re-perceive who he is and what he can expect of life. It will take a burning desire to change and a willingness to accept whatever comes along as he makes the changes.
It Can Be Done!
Knowing that Jim can make it comes from personal experience. For years, I struggled. After I finally reached a point of success with a business that I built from scratch, my father died and I went into a tailspin that resulted in bankruptcy. I had two successful brothers, but I kept getting into one financial or health crisis after another.
Making the change from being sick, financially disabled and dependant to where I am today — happy, healthy and financially secure — took a lot of time and effort. But, because I was willing to change my perception of myself and my relationship with the world around me, I was able to transform myself.
I see now how important it is to let go of whatever it is that causes a person to identify with the downside of life. This means walking away from old perceptions, relationships, and behaviors and creating a new model to identify with.
Suggestions for Change:
Although changing your identity is a process, you can get started with the following steps:
1. How do you describe yourself?
Your “I am ________” statements are a clue to your identity. If you don’t have a clear idea about who you are and why you are here, then it is possible that you got the message, early in life, that you don’t matter much. This would lead to a failure identity.
2. What are your financial patterns?
Write down a description of your financial patterns. For example, do you tend to always have not quite enough? Or, do you have ups and downs? Write down the feelings you get when you at various stages of your pattern.
As you review what you have written, look for words and phrases that repeat themselves and ask how these relate to you, rather than your money. For example, if you usually find it difficult to support yourself financially, ask yourself how you aren’t supporting who you are.
3. Do you have positive thoughts about wealthy people?
If you don’t, then you probably identify with those who aren’t wealthy. Would being wealthy be a threat to your identity?
4. If you are a character in a movie and you would like to be a different character, how would you describe the new character?
Imagine that you have been given the part in a play and your job is to play this new character. What would you have to learn in order to play the character well? Perhaps you can start practicing the new part.
The purpose of these suggestions is to help you develop an awareness of your personal identity. Awareness is the first step in the process of change.
Using brain science, my course Rewire Your Brain for Prosperity & Financial Freedom will help you clearly understand how your self-concept may be holding your back and what steps to take to develop a success identity.