Saturday, June 04, 2011

Identity

I've been reading an interesting book called *Switch* on and off over the last year, part of which was required reading for my office job. It's written for business people, but the concepts in it can easily be applied to all aspects of life. I picked it up the other day after a long hiatus from reading and read a chapter about changing how workers see their identity (by changing their job title, for example) in order to change how productive and effective they are in their jobs. The thought is that if a person is an inventor and trying to make a decision, part of the subconscious decision process involves asking oneself, "What would inventor do in this situation?" One example in the book describes a steel manufacturing company that wanted to become more innovative and decided to change all of its employees' job titles to "inventor" (from some generic title, I guess) and the positive results that followed.

As an individual, to take this one step further, if you are trying to decide if the identity you are operating out of is the right one for you, you might ask yourself, "Do I aspire to be someone who...?" Here's a random example. You're at the store and you are trying to decide whether you should spend your money on fresh fruits and vegetables or ice cream and candy bars. If you identify as a person who is very health conscious, this is most likely a no-brainer. Because you identify as a health nut, you probably aspire to be someone who spends your money on fruits and vegetables and not candy bars. If you are someone who identifies as a person who lives in the moment for pleasure, you might choose the ice cream and candy bars. But, if you identify as someone who feels like having a healthy body is pleasurable and allows you to have more fun in the moment, you might choose the fresh fruits and vegetables. There are many ways to spin this.

I think this could be particularly helpful in trying to make difficult decisions. Let's say you were offered a gig performing in Spain for six months, but you know that you won't be able to afford to travel back to the US and visit family at all during that time period. Thinking about different ways to see your identity, you could theoretically put on different hats that represent different aspects of your personality (similar to the *Six Thinking Hats* decision making tool). For example, "What would a daughter do in this situation?", "What would a budding professional musician do in this situation?", "What would a person who longs to be well-traveled do in this situation?", etc.

Another interesting, but unrelated, exercise could be to make a list that describes a number of people you know:

- works 40 hours a week sitting at a desk
- can never drink coffee or alcohol or stay out late to protect her voice
- wakes up every morning to her loving husband and two beautiful children
- has to be at school at 7:00am every week day
- travels to Europe every year
- can see a mountain range from her bedroom window

Then, precede each entry with, "I aspire to be a person who..." and see if you agree or disagree.

**ADDENDUM: After looking at Susan's blog, I have a new idea for how I could use this identity idea. I have *always* thought of myself as someone who does not have a green thumb, and yet, I love plants! Perhaps I need to start thinking of myself as someone who has a green thumb! If I were to think to myself, "What would someone with a green thumb do in this situation?" I might have better luck with plants! :-) I am always in awe of Susan's garden!

1 comment:

Suze said...

Oh, Pam, I do not have a green thumb! I've figured out (finally) that it really does pay to ask people with experience and follow their advice! :)