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Why you must define yourself if you want to be successful

Do you ever find yourself in the situation where you say you are going to do something that means something to you but the days, weeks, months, years pass and you find that you have not done those things at all? Do you ever find yourself seemingly unable to focus on the things that you want to? Do you often let everything else take priority over going after your dreams and your ambitions? You may have a problem of self-identity. Defining yourself is one of the most important things you can do to give yourself the best chance at success. What defines you in life can really affect the direction you head in and where you end up. So let’s take this time to talk about the process of identifying yourself and how to define yourself.

Dr Anil Kr Sinha quote on defining yourself - "Let not others define you, 
make yourself strong and 
able to define yourself."
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“What Do You Mean by “Define Yourself”?”

Ah, a good question. Defining yourself is basically the idea of knowing who you are, what you stand for, what your identity is, what rules you stand by, and so on. This could be morals you live by, what you define as integrity, how important your word is to you, what you consider to be good and bad things, your beliefs and more.

For example, you could have a belief that your integrity is the most important thing to you, or that your past has made you stronger, or that, no matter what you want to do in life, you will find a way to achieve it. You might have a rule that you always stick to your promises, that if you tell yourself you are going to do something then you will, that you prioritise your health over anything else. All of these things can be ways that you identify yourself and define who you are.

Alyson Noel quote on defining yourself - “Our past may shape us, 
but it doesn't define us.”
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Why Defining Yourself is Important

I believe that defining yourself is one of the most important things you can do. How you define yourself determines how you will act. Think about it – if you have a rule that you will see your goals through no matter what, then, even when things get hard and you find it hard to see a way through, you will never give up. When it’s cold and raining outside and you really don’t want to exercise, but you know you are the kind of person that exercises no matter what, then you will put your shoes on and run. If you hold integrity higher than anything else, then you know that however you have acted in the past is likely to be in line with your morals.

Ahmed Mostafa quote on defining yourself - “It's not the shit we 
face that defines us, 
it's how we deal with it.”
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How to Use Your Identity to Your Advantage

In regards to achieving your dreams, this idea of identifying yourself is possibly one of the most important steps you can take, and a real “hack” in creating outstanding results.

It is pretty much a basic requirement of achieving great things that you persevere no matter what. If how you define yourself is that of someone who gives up easily (perhaps because that is what it has been like in the past) then you will never take the steps you need to take in order to see your goals through, especially when things get tough. But if you identify yourself as someone who finds a way to get the outcome they desire no matter what then you will find a way through even when things get hard (which they likely will at some point).

Likewise, if you are at college or school and you have a habit of defining yourself as someone who doesn’t get good grades, then how will you ever expect to excel and get the results you want? If, however, you identify yourself as someone who will work hard and do everything in their power to get the best grades they can, then you will keep pushing through to improve yourself.

Note: this is not about lying to yourself or tricking yourself. This is about using your language and thought patterns to your advantage. For example, if you find it insanely hard to exercise, you don’t need to tell yourself that you are the kind of person that finds it easy to exercise. Instead, define yourself as someone who prioritises their health and values being in a peak physical shape. That simple adjustment will help your mind to start making decisions that move you where you want to go. Pretty soon you will start to make decisions that serve you and you may well end up being the kind of person who actually does find it easy to exercise.

You may find right now that how you define yourself is not to your advantage. What you think about yourself could be holding you back greatly, but the good news is that that is something that you can take active steps to change. Defining yourself is a matter of choice – you choose how to define yourself, you choose how to identify yourself, you choose the kind of person you want to be. Think about who you want to be, what that requires from you, and how you might define your identity better in order to be that person.

Kailin Gow quote on defining yourself - “As an independent woman, 
you are not defined by 
your partners or your parents. 
You are defined by you."
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My Personal Experience with Self-Identity

As you may know from reading other posts on this site, I previously struggled massively with actually going after my dreams of being a Film Director. I realised at some point that I was identifying myself as someone who couldn’t ever be at the top Directing films, that I am not good enough and that it was unlikely that I would get anywhere. I realised that this negative self-talk was only holding me back and that the identity I had for myself was only damaging me instead of serving me.

Importantly, with that, I realised that I didn’t want to be the kind of person that identified themselves like that. The frustrating thing was I never even used to be like that. I used to have pretty good levels of self-belief and I wanted to feel that way again. Importantly, I also didn’t WANT to be the kind of person who would identify themselves in such a negative way. Why would I want to be this weak-minded person who thought so badly of themselves? It made no sense and it was NOT the kind person I wanted to be.

So I decided to change the identity I had for myself. I identified myself like I did previously and added some more definitions to my identity that I wanted and that would help me. I identified myself as someone who goes after their dreams and ambitions with everything they have, as someone who will find a way to get to where they want to get to, as someone who does everything they can to get good at something they want to be good at, as someone who never gives up, and so on.

This decision to change the identity I had for myself massively changed my trajectory and how I went about my life, and, since then, I can honestly say that I have been performing on a much higher level than I was before. I certainly still have ways I can improve, but choosing to define my identity differently was really the ignition that started this process of positive change.

Ken Poirot quote on defining yourself - “Strong people define themselves; 
weak people allow others 
to define them.”
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What Happens if You Don’t Choose to Identify Yourself How You Want

The danger with not taking steps to define who you want to be is that you end up being defined by your subconscious. Your subconscious will take in your environment, the world around you, the people you hang out with, your experiences, your failures, etc, and create an identity for you. The danger with this is that you could be taking in a bunch of negative experiences and letting them define you without realising.

You could also be trying to do something that means a lot to you, such as starting a business, but find that you keep having failures with it. If you are not careful, you might start to identify yourself as a failure rather than spinning your situation to show that you are the kind of person that perseveres through struggles.

If you are at school or college and keep getting grades you don’t want, then the danger is that you define yourself as stupid, unintelligent, someone who is not good at learning. That is something you need to stop dead in its tracks. Instead, define yourself as someone who focuses on learning, who will can take steps to get better, who can learn anything if they put their mind to it and focus.

If you don’t take steps to define yourself instead of letting your circumstances define you, the danger is that you go through life thinking all these negative things about yourself instead of thinking in ways that serve you and can help take you to better and better places. The danger is that you waste your life being defined in a way that you don’t want and that holds you back from being the best person you can be.

Debasish Mridha quote on defining yourself - “Believe in your purposes. 
Define yourself endlessly.”
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How to Define Yourself

Hopefully you have read to this point and are convinced that you want to set the identity you have for yourself, but perhaps you are left wondering exactly how to define yourself. Let’s work through that now.

What Defines You Right Now? How Do You Define Yourself When You’re By Yourself?

The first step is getting clear in seeing where you are right now. You need to know where you are in order to take steps forwards. So get honest with yourself. How do you identify yourself? How do you define yourself right now? Ask yourself what defines you. A really great question to ask is, “what do you think about yourself when you’re by yourself?” (thanks, Tom Bilyeu!), because that is when you aren’t playing up to anyone else and know that you are being your true self without any pretence.

Let’s say, deep on the inside, you know you want to go start a business, but you don’t really believe you can. What is that thought process, exactly? Try and focus on what you subconsciously (or consciously) say to yourself. When you try to picture yourself starting a business, do you instantly follow it up with the thought of “I could never do that”? Do you think to yourself “I am not the kind of person who could run a business”? Do you believe that you would fail? These are really useful things to know.

Or let’s say you want to write a book, and, so far, you haven’t managed to follow through. What thoughts come up in your mind? “I can’t write”? “I have no talent”? “No-one would buy my book”?

Have you made some mistakes in the past – maybe repeated mistakes – that you think means you will keep making them in the future? Have you repeated negative actions or thought processes and believe that means you are stuck with them forever?

Do bad things seem to follow you around? Have you traditionally found it hard to stay in a job? Do you keep getting in to new relationships only for them to end quickly and now think that means you will never find love?

These are things you need to identify in order to move forwards. These are your thoughts that limit you.

Note: Of course, you may have some powerful thoughts that serve you. That’s great, keep hold of them!

Matshona Dhliwayo quote on defining yourself - “Define yourself; 
you have the monopoly 
on your life’s dictionary.”
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What Do You WANT to Define You? How do You WANT to Define Yourself?

The next step is to ask yourself who you WANT to be. How do you WANT to define yourself? What kind of person would you be if you were proud of who you were? Would you have a high level of integrity? Would you be able to work even when you’re tired? Would you be the kind of person who doesn’t stop until they achieve what they set out to achieve? Do you want to be the kind of person who stays optimistic in the face of challenges?

Do you want to be the kind of person that, if you get broken up with, you know that means you are just one step closer to finding a partner that is right for you? Do you want to be the kind of person that is happy in who they are and doesn’t need to be with someone else? Do you want people to talk about you in positive, exciting ways when you’re not even in the room? Do you want to be known as someone who goes after their goals and follows their dreams with everything they have?

Great, these are going to be the things you use to define yourself.

David Alan Grier quote on defining yourself - "Don't let anyone try to 
tell you who you are. 
Define yourself."
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How to Bring This All Together and Choose Your Identity

Honestly, this step may seem really… basic and unbelievable to some. But just work with me on this and see where you get.

Because it’s really, really simple.

You just have to choose to drop your old identity and adopt your new (or true) identity.

That’s it. It’s that simple.

When you decide to let go of your old identity (because it doesn’t serve you) and adopt your new identity (or your true self, if you feel like you have re-discovered who you were all along), you have created a fresh start. Those things from your old identity need no longer have a hold over you. They are not part of you anymore because you have decided so. You have chosen to be the person you want to be. And you can be proud and happy moving forwards with that identity and sense of self, knowing that your life is in your hands.

It really is that simple.

Now, what is not quite so simple is the habits and conditioning that is in place from your old identity. I cannot pretend that it will necessary be easy to act in line with your new identity all the time. Old habits will come up, old conditioning will show itself. But, with your new identity at hand, you can let them go and move on from them. And the more you move on from them, the less they will have a hold of you until, eventually, that negative conditioning or habit is not there anymore.

This issue of getting over old habits and conditioning certainly requires another post, and I will update here when I have written it, but, until that time, please trust me when I say that the more you ignore your old conditioning and act differently to how your old habits want you to act, the easier it will get.

George Bernard Shaw quote on defining yourself - "Life isn't about 
finding yourself. 
Life is about 
creating yourself."
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Conclusion – Please Identify Yourself

What this all comes down to is identifying your beliefs. How you define yourself – the identity you have for yourself – is simply what you believe about yourself. And beliefs control everything we do. That is why identity is everything. Because your identity – your beliefs about who you are and how you act – control everything you do and, essentially, what you will get out of life.

So I hope that you take this opportunity to think hard about what defines you. Think hard about how you identify yourself. Then ask yourself how you want to define yourself, what identity you want to have for yourself.

Then simply make the decision to have that identity for yourself instead.

Because with that new identity – the one you have chosen for yourself – you can achieve great things.

Eckhart Tolle quote on defining yourself - "You can only lose something 
that you have, 
but you cannot lose something 
that you are."
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Further Reading

Defining yourself is a key part of starting on the road to becoming successful in life. You can read more about how to get success in life here.

You may feel like you have wasted time in your life or wasted your life not having defined yourself and who you want to be up until this point, so check those posts out if those are struggles you currently have.

If you are struggling with never really having defined yourself, you may also be struggling with regret and feeling like a failure, so check that post out for tips on how to move on from those feelings.

And, please, if you are struggling with those things, remember that it’s never too late to follow your dreams and become the person you want to be.

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Disclaimer: Nothing on this website should be taken as medical or other professional advice. You should always seek the advice of a professional, qualified person.  

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