Money and Our Identity

“Money isn’t the most important thing in life, but it’s reasonably close to oxygen on the “gotta have it” scale.” —Zig Ziglar

With the advent of new careers like dancing on the moon as an astronaut, owning professional sports franchises, or being a professional poster of things on Instagram; our spectrum for comparison and the belief that “the sky is the limit” is unlike ever before. Last year, an eight year-old boy made $26 million by opening toys on Youtube.  Good thing none of us here ever struggles with social comparison, right?  With careers like these — and working more than we ever have before — it’s easy to believe that our work defines who we are.

Our Personal Relationship with Money

Whether we like it or not, all of us have a relationship with money.  Some of us view money as unpredictable as the wind, while others see money as a tool that unlocks all of our wildest dreams.   For some of us, money feels like this thing that we are powerless to control. We view it as an area of life where we are “not enough” or haven’t been given the tools we need to be “successful.”  Regardless of how healthy our relationship with money is, all of us are attached to money in some way. Below we’ll explore how similar our relationship to money is to any other interpersonal relationship.

“Money is not the most important thing in the world. Love is. Fortunately, I love money.” – Jackie Mason

Three Attachment Styles

The three attachment styles are commonly used to define romantic and interpersonal relationships.  We can also see these attachment styles show up in our relationship with money:

  1. Secure Attachment- A healthy relationship where we feel secure, have a sense of trust, and are willing to explore and examine the relationship with a sense of openness and curiosity.  If one’s relationship with money is as such, they’d use money as a tool and expression of their beliefs and values.  They may be more willing to create a budget, look at how they spend their money, and examine spending patterns.  They’d be able to see money as a part of their life, without it being the main part of their life, and in their security might choose not to pursue raises or more money.
  2. Anxious Attachment- A relationship where we are constantly worried and looking to the other to complete, define, or rescue us.  One’s relationship here might look like an individual looking to money, their job, their possessions, or their status to define them or make them feel “safe” or happy.
  3. Avoidant Attachment- A relationship based on not pursuing what we want for the fear of getting hurt again.  With money, this relationship style might look like not checking our bank account because we’re scared of what we’ll see, ignoring advice on how to manage money, turning down or not pursuing raises or promotions because we are scared of wanting more money, going after it, and not getting it.  Examples of this style might look like an individual being opposed to “the man,” or pursuing jobs or worlds that avoid dealing with money. 

Do any of those sound familiar?  Most of us are looking for a relationship with money that feels rooted in the Secure Attachment Style.  Even a Secure Attachment to money, like any other relationship, will at times feel better than others and will continually require work.  Major things like health, accidents, bad investments, and changing life passions will force us to continue to reexamine this relationship with money.   There might even be times when looking at this relationship leads us to realize that our current expenditures of money are no longer in line with our values.  However, a Secure Attachment allows us the openness, curiosity, and freedom to both examine and nurture our relationship with money. Good news! Attachment styles aren’t permanent.  Anyone can develop a secure attachment to money. So, what’s one easy way to change our attachment style? Find a person who has the attachment style that you want, and spend time with them.

Try This: Cementing Attachment Styles with Money:

Join us as we spend 7 minutes figuring out in what ways we are attached to money:

  1. What are five words that come to mind when describing your attachment to money?
    1. __________________________________________________
    2. __________________________________________________
    3. __________________________________________________
    4. __________________________________________________
    5. __________________________________________________
  2. Looking at the five words you chose above, guess which of the Attachment Styles you have with money and why?
    1. __________________________________________________
  3. Who is one person you know who has an Anxious Attachment to money?
    1. __________________________________________________
  4. Who is one person you know who has an Avoidant Attachment to money?
    1. __________________________________________________
  5. Who is one person you know who has a Secure Attachment to money?
    1. __________________________________________________

Money’s Relationship With Our Emotions

To some, money is a logical, cut-and-dry thing: save 10%, invest in our 401k, and only spend on necessities.  To others, money is our deepest expression of spirituality as we give to charities, causes, and hopes of a better world.  Our purchases are an attempt to invest in the things that we value, whether that be: long term security, financial freedom, quality time with loved ones, style, a sense of self-worth, beauty, art, or entertainment.  Our purchases reflect much more than a budget and are often a mirror as to our deeper values.

The way we spend our money reflects a lifetime’s worth of habits, stories, and beliefs about our role in society.  These beliefs are why money is such an emotional thing. Money can turn two people, who 5 minutes ago were laughing, firmly against one another.  Any fight about money is a fight about something much deeper. We are usually fighting for our identity and our conclusion of how the world should be.  How do we know though what money means to us on a deeper level?

Try This: What Does Money Mean to You?

Join us as we engage in a quick 10-minute activity that shows you what money means to you.
We will explore some of our most basic human needs and how money fulfills these in our lives.  Go through, and circle any that apply. The answers you circle will show you some of your deepest beliefs around money.  Below are six major categories to examine: Certainty, Variety, Contribution, Significance, Growth, and Love and Contribution.

Certainty

What are a few things that you want to be certain of?  Certain that your kids will never miss a meal? Certain that part of each day will involve free time?  Certain that if you lose your job, you’ll still have a house to live in? Certain that you have “enough?”  Money can contribute to many types of certainty including freedom, safety, peace, and security. When you have money what do you feel certain of?

Circle all that apply. With money, I feel…

  • Physically safe
  • Provided for
  • Able to rest and not worry
  • Able to recharge
  • Comfortable enough to enjoy the present
  • Free from worry or fear
  • Unafraid of a major life event 
  • Secure in my identity as a person
  • Able to dream
  • Safe enough to take risks
  • Comforted knowing that my children are safe and provided for
  • Like I have a sense of control
  • Confident that those I love are able to pursue the things they love
  • Unafraid of what tomorrow brings
  • I have a home and place I belong on this planet
  • Unafraid of aging and being prepared for the future
  • Free from guilt for enjoying myself
  • Other:__________________________

Variety

A life without spontaneity would eventually become pretty boring. Can you imagine eating the same meal every day, having the same weather, the same conversations, or the same challenges every single day?  It is the excitement of novelty, adventure, discovery, and newness that gives life it’s glimmer each day. Money can enable us a greater opportunity to pursue the little things that make life memorable.

Circle all that apply.  With money, I feel…

  • Excited by the possibilities of today
  • Able to spend money on things that make life feel exciting
  • Able to wake up with a sense of intrigue
  • Alive enough to feel like I am not stuck
  • Free to go where I want, when I want
  • Like my life has options
  • Like my life has meaning
  • Free to pursue new passions
  • Free to experience different sides of myself
  • Able to be wrong today and make a new choice tomorrow
  • Engaged in the present
  • Able to express myself in a variety of different ways
  • Able to put myself in new situations to discover who I really am
  • Other:__________________________

Contribution

Having money can allow for both the time and resources to further your sense of contribution.   Money can be used as an external expression of our internal values.  Whether contributing to your Meaning OF Life, community, or values; money can help create a deeper sense of meaning in life.

Circle all that apply.  With money, I feel…

  • Able to make a difference in the world
  • Like I am making the world a better place
  • Hopeful about the future
  • Like I am creating a better future for the next generation
  • A part of the solution
  • Like I have a purpose
  • Connected to humanity
  • Like I matter to my community
  • Like I am leaving a legacy for myself/family
  • That the world is a just/fair place
  • The world is a better place because I was born
  • That I am someone who cares about others
  • Part of furthering along humanity
  • Like I am doing my part
  • That I am uniting humanity
  • That I am enabling others to fulfill their hopes and dreams
  • Other:__________________________

Significance

Imagine a world where you were just like everyone else.  You weren’t able to dress, design, create, express, or share any part of yourself that was “different” than others.  The things that enable you to feel unique and authentic enhance your sense of significance. What’s significant about you?  Is it your sense of style, your passions, your various interests, your artwork, your looks, your feeling confident, or even working at a job that you feel “good at?” 

Circle all that apply.  With money, I feel…

  • Like I matter
  • Special
  • Worthy of respect
  • Like I am better than others
  • Like I am setting an example for others
  • Intelligent
  • Like I am powerful
  • Like I am able to create my own destiny
  • Unique
  • Like I am not a failure
  • Wanted
  • Like my life is meaningful
  • Like I am furthering my family legacy
  • Attractive
  • Like I am “enough”
  • Like a role model
  • Like a leader
  • Like I have a worth more than just what can be seen
  • Like I am thriving
  • Like I am successful
  • Like I have life figured out
  • Like I am a provider
  • Like enough as a parent
  • Like enough as a partner
  • Other:_________________________

Growth

A life without growing might feel pretty close to meaningless for many.  Stagnation, stuck, being in a rut: these are all words that are synonymous with a lack of growth.   Money enables the resources to pursue a dream, a passion, a goal, or even the education to be happier  In what ways does money help you grow?

Circle all that apply.  With money, I feel…

  • Able to invest money on myself
  • Like I can continue to educate myself
  • Able to take care of myself physically
  • Like I am growing as a person
  • Like I am a successful adult
  • Able to invest money on my deeper needs
  • Free to learn new things
  • Responsible enough to provide for myself
  • Able to invest in learning new skills
  • Like I can pursue a more meaningful life
  • Like I am giving my kids more opportunities that I had
  • Able to push myself
  • Able to have a better life than my parents
  • Able to find out my full potential
  • Other:_______________________

Love and Connection

I’m sure you’ve heard, “Money can’t buy love.”  Money affords the opportunity though to express love via gift giving and spending quality time with those you love.  Money is also one of the main ways that people feel “worthy” of being loved.  Are there ways that money enables you to either give or receive more love?

Circle all that apply.  With money, I feel…

  • More worthy of love
  • Able to spend time with those I love
  • Able to give to those I love
  • Better able to express love to others
  • More able to allow others to take care of me
  • Able to express my love in an outward way
  • Able to make sure those I love feel loved
  • “Enough” to feel that others can love me
  • Like I can love myself
  • Supportive
  • Free enough to focus on love
  • Emotionally happy enough to receive love
  • Able to make love a priority
  • Able to spend time on finding love
  • Able to do things that allow me to love myself
  • Able to take care of others
  • Other:__________________________

Now take a moment to look back at your responses.  Which five things that you circled stood out the most.

  1. ____________________________________________________
  2. ____________________________________________________
  3. ____________________________________________________
  4. ____________________________________________________
  5. ____________________________________________________

Buying Belonging, “I’m with Them!”

“I’m with them.” we say as we awkwardly slide past the bouncer, flash a nervous smile, and look around hoping no one realizes that we don’t actually belong in this new party called “adulthood.”
To some of us, our relationship with money has become like a relationship with the cool person that hopefully can get us into the party called “success” or “approval.” Our relationship with money is an attempt for society to accept us.

Mission.org shares how many of us would rather remain in the “mediocre majority,” where decisions are based on what everyone else is doing, to remain safe.  This choice keeps us from deciding and going after what we actually want.

Examples Mission.org uses of financial safety include:

“Buy a house, even if you can’t afford it.”
“Don’t risk it, you might look stupid.”
“Play it safe.”
“Hey, it’s a promotion.”
“Just use a credit card. You get points!”
“At your age, it might be time to start being realistic.”
“Work harder.”
“When I get a raise, I’ll buy us a big house.”
“This is how it’s always been done.”

Conforming to these ideologies gives us a sense of belonging.  By desperately clinging to our new “friend” the whole night at the party, we’re never free to explore this party called “life” the way that we actually want to.  It’s not until the lights come on and the music stops that we realize this isn’t the way we wanted things to go. The number one regret of those on their deathbed is that they ‘wish they had the courage to live a life true to themselves, not the life others expected of them.’ 

Kyle Cease shares how most of us are limited by the fear of losing all of our money and are attached to the belief that “money equals security.”  After a base level of meeting our needs, by finding security in money, we are usually covering up an insecurity or looking to money to solve a problem.

This life thing is something that we’re supposed to have figured out by the time that we grow up.  No worries though. The truth is, life is a learning process. In the absence of taking the time to figure out what makes life meaningful, it’s easy to instead grasp for safety, follow the herd, and try to ignore our inner genius and desires.
But guess what.  Everyone else at this party is hiding a few snazzy dance moves up their sleeves, too.  We’re all just waiting for someone to embrace their inner authenticity, and bust a move.  

Authenticity is more attractive than ever!  We all have something that only we can contribute, because in a world of almost 8 billion people, the only thing we can do that the world has yet to see is that which is truly unique to us.  The next time, throwing in one tiny new move might be more than enough to shake things up and start embracing our sense of Expression. Like any constructive habits, we can build to more authenticity one step at a time. We’ll see you out on the dance floor.

Quick Questions for Reflection:  

  1. Where do you feel that you belong more or less based on how much money you have?
  2. Around who do you feel that you belong more or less based on how much money you have?
  3. When do you feel that you belong more or less based on how much money you have?

But, Baby I Need You!

Let’s pretend that we have an Anxious Attachment Style when it comes to money.  Don’t worry, it’s pretty common. Our relationship with money has become a way of meeting our basic needs.  Needs are universal to all humans and are things like acceptance, belonging, love,  and autonomy. We will all need these things at various points in our lives in different amounts.  It is our responsibility to meet these needs, yet we often rely on others, or even our good friend “money” to do so.  It is alright to use money to meet certain needs as long as we are using money, rather than money using us.

Common needs that we use money to meet are:

  • Freedom
  • Autonomy
  • Self-worth
  • Love
  • Acceptance
  • Security
  • Identity
  • Purpose

In these cases our relationship with money becomes dependent, and we struggle to find joy and meaning without it.  Essentially this scenario is like being in a relationship where we will do anything to keep the other person (or dollar bills) from leaving.  Who’d have thought so many people would want to date Benjamin Franklin? It must be those bodacious spectacles. 

There are a multitude of strategies for meeting our basic needs. Some new ones to try may be joining a new social club, spending more time with our hobbies, being more involved with the things that we are passionate about, or developing a gratitude practice.

Shopping’s Different Though, Right?

Maybe it’s not about the money, but rather the stuff that we’re attached to having.  Many of us use “stuff” as comfort, security, or to soothe temporary fears or pain. Shopping is no different, and online shopping is at an all time high.  Many of us have become attached to the temporary hit of dopamine we get from purchasing something new or the sense of security that we get from never throwing anything out.  So what’s the culprit here? Hoarding, nope. It goes deeper. It’s likely a fear of change or of the future. We’ve all heard that “change is inevitable,” but, without embracing it, holding onto the past and things from the past can feel like an easy solution.  

We’re not saying to bag up all your belongings and head to the nearest donation center. But your sense of identity need not be connected to your things.  Finding more of our identity in the things that money can’t buy, such as our passions, the communities that we belong to, or the ways of being that we value (love, compassion, joy) is a great start. The more we become rich in things like freedom,  love, relationships, and passions; the less things, our job, or money become tied to our identity.  

It’s alright to get attached to things, like that Star Wars poster from 6th grade.  It’s natural for our stuff to be a form of Expression, which is a cornerstone of meaning.  We want to be surrounded by the things that are in line with our values.  Holding onto things in line with our current values, enables us to still find meaning in “stuff.”

Quick Question for Reflection:

  1. What are the three things or purchases that have meant the most to you?  Why do you think each of those things meant so much to you?
    1. _______________________________________________________________  
    2. _______________________________________________________________  
    3. _______________________________________________________________  

The Joys of “Minimalism”

Scott H. Young shares that the lower one’s “poverty threshold” (the amount that we need to live on to feel comfortable), the more willing and able we are to take risks to create our own future and chase after our dreams.  He offers a few quick tips for lowering one’s poverty threshold and increasing freedom. Lowering one’s poverty threshold also increases our ability to engage in risky new activities like starting a new job, going back to school, scaling down our hours, spending more time doing our passions, or spending time with those we love.

4 Steps to Lower our Threshold:

  1. Enjoy the simple things.  Gratitude!  Practice being grateful for a walk in the park or cooking a meal with someone you care about. Learn to squeeze as much enjoyment out of each activity as possible through Presence.
  2. Do work that you are passionate about.  When doing work that you enjoy, it’s easier to make sacrifices in areas of life such as lifestyle.  Also when working a job that you love, you produce a higher quality of work, which often leads to a promotion or raise.
  3. Focus on other things that have more meaning. While things money can buy are fun, the things money can’t necessarily buy (connection, memories, a sense of achievement, collaboration, community, or friendship) help us to remember that joy is also found outside of spending.
  4. New habits, new you.  Bringing lunch to work a few days a week, a date night involving cooking dinner together, painting at home with the kids, or exercising are all ways of redefining our identity and naturally spending less money.  Exercise has even been described as a keystone habit that leads to other positive dominoes falling in our lives. People who exercise are reported to have less stress and use their credit card less as well.

How One’s Relationship with Money Can Change

Our relationships with money have been built over years and years of experience.  Changing this relationship is often a lengthy and effort-filled process. What happens when we experience major life changes?

A Windfall of Money, Such as The Lottery

Who hasn’t dreamed about winning some crazy amount of money?  Even playing Bingo in elementary school and winning a new pencil used to be pretty exciting.  However the Hedonic Treadmill is caused by our ability to quickly adapt to changes in our quality of life and return to a previous happiness setpoint.  This theory also means that the happiness/joy  from money alone won’t readily last.   

New research shows that Lottery winners ”said they were substantially more satisfied with their lives than lottery losers. And those who won prizes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars reported being more satisfied than winners of mere tens of thousands.  These effects are remarkably durable. They were still evident up to two decades later after a big win.”  

So increased happiness due to a higher quality of life does last!  What about our actual relationship with money though? Large amounts of money have been said not to change us, but rather magnify who we already are.   If we currently spend our money trying to impress others, quickly receiving larger amounts of money magnifies our attempts to buy approval. Large amounts of money (without the lessons and ability to gradually adapt to the change) can result in large and obvious magnification of parts of ourselves that hopefully we’re ready to see.

Terminal Illness

Who cares about money anymore?  

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.” ― Steve Jobs

Who wants to die being the richest person in the world?  Maybe some of us.
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom is a great book to read for further exploring this topic.  This book shares the true story of a man with ALS who is slowly starting to pass away.  In his situation, passing along love and meaning seemed to take on far more importance than any amount of money.  This scenario also feels a bit easier to predict than the others. Closing our eyes and taking a moment to think about only having a short amount of time to live is simple.  And in this way, we can see how we feel about how we’ve been spending our lives.

School

Congratulations on graduating College!  Yayy!
Wait! Where should we live now?   What job is the right job to take?  Moving away from all of our friends doesn’t sound fun. Oh no, the government called and said it’s time to start paying back student loans.  The reality of owing (let’s say $50,000) to Fannie Mae hits. (Cue the sound of someone nervously biting their fingernails). Money used to be a thing that had a Monopoly-like feel, a number that we knew was changing, but never saw.  Credit card companies and Student loans felt so far away and now we are getting letters in the mail. Along with both comes the expectation of being an “adult” and immediately becoming self-sufficient. In times like these, money can feel more like a responsibility or an unexpected child.  Changes in life often feel abrupt, unless we start planning for them early.

OR ‘Here’s your highschool diploma. Welcome to the real world.’  Here we are younger and have less of a buffer to the real world.  Without the road map of college to guide our journey, this transition from student to achiever of our dreams and successful adult is even more abrupt.  Daily we are forced to learn new lessons like the ins and outs of managing new bills, budgeting for these new expenses, narrowing down our list of careers from millions to one, watching our circle of friends disperse, and figuring out what other identities come with adulthood.  We essentially go from one defined path called school to millions of possible paths for both our time and life.

In these scenarios, an easy way to have support for adjusting our relationship with money is to: 

  • Talk to those who have been there so that we’re not surprised when we experience these challenges
  • Know that this season of life is a phase
  • Remember that we will adapt, and (with the right advice) even thrive
  • Plan ahead. For instance, saving a bit of money up in case we don’t find a job within our first month or beginning to talk to professors, guidance counselors, or those in fields of work we are interested in in advance are both helpful.

John Mayer – No Such Thing

Retirement

Welcome to Retirement!  Many have been waiting a number of years to reach this point.  What is retirement actually like though? Does having all day to watch TV, while crossing our fingers that we don’t outlive our retirement fund, bring the sense of joy that we’ve long hoped for?  Here’s one recent story we encountered: 

That of a man who sold his vineyards for a few million, and now had both the time and money to spend the rest of his life in comfort. He shared how he now had all day to relax, enjoy time with his wife, and do whatever he wished. His offering though was ‘I’m less happy than I’ve been at many points in my life.  I feel like I have no purpose. My life feels somewhat aimless.’  

For many others, the experience is one of fear in case one lives longer than they’d planned for.  Trying to balance the sense of not being a part of contributing to society via work and the potential of managing an amount of money without knowing how many years to spread the money out for, can be stressful.  And, some people enjoy retirement.

Our advice is to begin the practice of finding other ways to contribute to the world via Service.  Also, develop a plan for ways to invest all of this new abundance of time.  While we might feel like we’re 20 years behind on our Rest and Relaxation, there are only so many reruns to get caught up on.  The more of a plan we give ourselves to tap into the 4 Cornerstones of Meaning (Service, Discovery, Love, and Expression), the easier it is to handle this major life transition with a sense of purpose and joy.  Also, taking away one of our biggest ways of interacting with others and contributing to society via work will be hard if we’re not replacing it with something else.  However, we can ease the transition if we start trying out activities like spending more time with our grandkids, joining sports leagues, book clubs, woodworking, or anything else that will fill our time with meaning.

And, more than half of the world does not have the luxury of retiring.  In this case, the planning for an ending without an expiration date applies in a different way.   People rarely go from working one day to the grave the next. Attempting to budget for the unforeseen health expenses and potential loss of work that often come with aging can be daunting.  Also, the uncertainty of someday needing to be taken care of (physically and/or financially) is another piece of gristle to try to digest. 

Our bucket list now becomes a thing where items get crossed off for a different reason: the acceptance that they are never going to happen.  Our money now can go to maybe a few of our most important trips, experiences, or purchases left on it, but rarely all.

Providing for Others (Partner/Kids)

For some, the news of having a child or getting married can be the joy of a lifetime, and for others, feelings of “am I ready for this?” might swirl through our minds producing endless anxiety.  It’s a spectrum. Both are natural, and even the greatest excitement doesn’t negate the fact that according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the cost of raising a child is $233,610. 

What if we decided “no” to kids, and are only focused on marriage? Wedding rings these days range in price, but a common rule is to spend 2-3 months’ salary to pay for an engagement ring.  According to The Knot, The National Average Cost of a Wedding Is $33,931 in the United States. 

One might think that these numbers might make the cost of getting in a new relationship more hassle than it’s worth.  However spending our money on people we love gives us a purpose or goal. When our goal is to use money as an expression of our love for them, money almost buys us meaning. Maybe money can’t buy us love, but spending our money on love is fairly close to it.  Isn’t that what we’re all after anyways? A sense of purpose for our money and time.

Major Unexpected Expenses

A bad investment, major accident, or Stock Market crash are all realistic possibilities and can wipe out a sum of money that we’ve spent decades saving.  So how will we respond, how do people respond when things like this happen? Unfortunately, a man named Bernie Madoff helped us find out that answer. He conned many Americans out of Billions of dollars.  Many found out publicly, even over the news, that the man they had entrusted with their life savings, was a fraud. What was their initial reaction? Depression, fear, and anxiety were all pretty common. How about years later though, how did it change their relationship with money?  Mrs. Roth was one of the victims and had to say, “The Madoff loss changed me in ways I am so grateful for,” Ms. Roth concluded. “Would I like to get that money back? Yes. But do I feel that what I’ve gotten since losing it has given me more wealth, in a way, than anything I had before? Yes.”  Others expressed similar sentiments, that losing all of the money forced them to realize what was really important and the lack of necessity of those (material) things. The hardest part though for some, was the loss of status, and the loss of the opportunity to do the things they loved.  As nice as it was to have money, even the wealthiest of people don’t equate money with meaning.

Try This: Life Changes Reflection

Join us as we spend 5 minutes thinking over how our relationship with money has changed over time.

What are the five life changes that have most impacted your relationship with money?

  1. ______________________________________________________________
  2. ______________________________________________________________
  3. ______________________________________________________________
  4. ______________________________________________________________
  5. ______________________________________________________________

Give 5 words or phrases that describe your current relationship with money.

  1. ______________________________________________________________
  2. ______________________________________________________________
  3. ______________________________________________________________
  4. ______________________________________________________________
  5. ______________________________________________________________

We Can Choose to Change At Any Time

It is often said, that “I am” are two of the most powerful words in the world because whatever we put after these words is what we find a way to live into. Many of us have for so long identified with our job that we’ve become  it. When we go to a party, and are asked, “What do you do for a living?” We respond with, “I am a ________________ (fill in blank with fancy job title).”  

What would it be like to define ourselves in another way, any other way?
What else is important?  What else consumes us? What other hats do we wear throughout the week?  What else do we love?  

The opportunity is there for us to slowly separate ourselves from this singular identity, tied to where we trade our time for money.  As a simple step, next time feel free to respond with something else:

  • “I am a father who loves designing arts and crafts activities for my kids to do.”
  • “I am a lover of Marvel Comics, and I can’t wait for the next movie to come out!”
  • “I am a Pickleball player, who really enjoys the thrill I get from playing with my community.”
  • “I am an artist who sees and uses colors and textures to tell stories.”
  • “I am someone who currently has no clue who I am, but I’m figuring it out.”
  • “I am a lover of all types of textures who uses design to create spaces that feel warm and cozy.”
  • “I am someone who believes that Love  is the most important thing in life.”

However we respond, it’s important to remember that every day we have the opportunity to allow a different side of ourselves to flourish.  We are all so much more than our jobs. Our identity is so personal to us, and also so powerful. 

Easy Changes to Our Identity

So what’s the easiest way to make changes to our identity?  An easy way to change our identity is through two-minute habits.   These habits sound small, but reshape the way that we see ourselves. 

Let’s say we want to be “in shape.”  We are far more likely to see ourselves as caring about our health if we can cultivate the habit of working out for two minutes a day. Once we begin these little habits, they become our identity, and then we naturally continue to live into this identity.  Once we start to see ourselves as someone who ‘cares about our health,’ we naturally might start working out five or even ten minutes a day.  We live into the things that we believe we are.  

Compare this with what typically happens to New Years’ resolutions: we resolve to work out for an hour each day to get in shape.  We quickly learn that we haven’t built up the discipline to do so yet, end up skipping some days here and there, feel guilty, and start to believe that we don’t have what it takes.  We usually quit within a month, maybe two if we’re lucky.

James Clear shares, “Strategies like this work for another reason too: they reinforce the identity you want to build. If you show up at the gym five days in a row—even if it’s just for two minutes—you are casting votes for your new identity. You’re not worried about getting in shape. You’re focused on becoming the type of person who doesn’t miss workouts. You’re taking the smallest action that confirms the type of person you want to be.”

Being whoever we want may not be easy, but we can make it easier by tackling it 2 minutes at a time.  No matter what our identity is, in two minutes, today, we can begin making a change.

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” —Joseph Campbell

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