Change Who You Are
Why is it so hard to do things we want?
We all have things we say we want to do, things we say we want to become. And yet… we so often never get there.
I ask myself this question a lot.
I tell myself I want something. I desire some life change or state. I accept that I’m the sole author of my choices, the “writer” of my life, etc.
And yet I’m unable to get my behavior to come in line with the thing I literally tell myself I want to be.
You Don’t Want it Enough
Tell someone you want help changing a habit and they might start offering a litany of advice on how to do it. There’s a lot of people with their own hacks, and fixes, and advice on “how to change”. At this point it’s basically the genre of self help (which FWIW I think is underrated).
Consider this my short addition to the genre.
It all starts with the premise that almost always, we just don’t want the thing enough.
I think if you truly, actually want something… you’ll get it. You may have to make huge sacrifices to the detriment of everything else, it may be more costly or take longer than you expected, but you can get it. Most of us have an instance in life where come hell or high water we were going to achieve something and god dammit we did it.
Ok, so then the question becomes: how do you make yourself want something more?
Change Your Soul
Everyday I’m reminded that what makes human beings successful is how social we are. We are constantly passing information between each other: about other people, about where to live and what to eat, about how to make things…. human beings individually are weak as hell, but in groups we’re powerful.
So how do you use the group to make you better?
It goes back to my post about your Internal Productivity Quota.
When you’re around people who value a thing, you’re more likely to value it. Eventually you might value it so much that it becomes part of your identity. That’s the key. That’s my trick.
When a behavior is part of your identity, it’s no longer just something you do more of. It’s that you, and everyone who knows you, couldn’t see yourself not doing the thing.
Instead of having to decide every time the question comes up, you already know the answer. You might even get to a place where the question never arrives to you.
For example, my dad’s never had a drink of alcohol in his life. Everybody who knows him knows he’ll never drink. At this point he’s basically inoculated from the concept of digesting alcohol since no human being would even invite him to an event with alcohol, let alone offer him a drink.
Or think of, say, athletes. We’ve created a word for the identity of people who are physically fit. Professional athletes who aren’t (e.g. Shaq with the Lakers, some baseball players) are the exception (and are mocked!) because they don’t fit the mold of the identity.
So, if you want to really do something: make it part of your identity. Make it who you are.
If you liked this essay....
Then consider signing up for my newsletter, How It Actually Works.
It contains the best material I find anywhere – this means books, articles, podcasts, research, videos, Twitter threads... the most interesting stuff that will give you something to say.
1,000s of Silicon Valley executives, investors, and leaders read it every week.