Action & Identity

When choosing, it’s not about action. It’s about identity.

The impact of a decision on our future identity is a more significant guide in decision making than the effect of the decision on our planned activities. The prioritization of the impact on our future identities is because a character is long run and informs short-run actions.

There are many actions we can take, not all of them positive, thinking about identity reduces the number of activities to the ones positive for a character.

The argument isn’t we should spend all of our time thinking about identity and not living in the present at all. 20% on character and 80% on the action is the right mix. Choosing to learn from the short-run can help inform the long run. To change your results (activity), you need to change who you are (character). You change who you are through actions. Starting with who you are changing to helps you choose the actions that will improve who you are.

Action step:
i) Write a to be list before a to-do list. Why are you doing all those actions? Start with why. Start with what is essential.


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Identity is represented by blue, to represent water from sources such as rain (that contributes to groundwater). Action is represented by green, to represent life such as trees. In space, exploration, water is a popular proxy for life. Water (e.g. rain) influences life (e.g. trees) and trees (action) influence rain (identity).

3 thoughts on “Action & Identity

  1. I totally agree. It will be better to drive this home by giving examples. For instance: you decide to go to the gym as an action, but what you have in mind is being a fit and healthy person.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great example! Reminds me of when I played rugby in high school. There was a training session where we would do burpees for every mistake we made during a rugby drill. “Do you want to be bodybuilders or rugby players?” the coach asked after we made a couple of mistakes. The aim of doing rugby drills (action) is to become a better rugby player (identity). While doing burpees improves our fitness which improves our performance in rugby, if during training sessions all we do is burpees (action) then we aren’t training to become rugby players (identity) but rather bodybuilders (identity).


    2. This example really drives it home! I once had a conversation with someone who brought up the idea of setting goals using “creative visualization” and “mental imagery”. Creating (action) the mental imagery of being a fit and healthy person (identity) would make you decide to go to the gym (action) and work towards the reality created in your mind of being a fit and healthy person (identity).


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