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You Are Not Who You Think You Are

Here’s a thought:

Who you think you are is not who you are because who you think you are is a thought.

Think about that for a minute.

What is a thought?

It’s an idea.

Vision boards, mission statements, letters from the future and goals are all well and good. Then you take your first step in to the reality gap between where you are now and where you want to be.

We become shadows of our former selves

I always thought I was a musician. In some respects I am. Yet in this last year, having decided to explore music production in greater depth, I found that actually I’m a creator, a coach and a sound fanatic.

That insight came with both pain and surprise as I now have no idea where these facts will lead me.

Experiences of this kind usually happen for one of two reasons:

1. The change that needs to happen to become the person you need to be is an awful lot of hard work, luck and uncertainty. It comes at a cost that it might not happen.

2. Deep down, your idea of how life will unfold (your vision) is not how life wants it to unfold. You could be someone quite different. I call this ‘the pain gap.’

The Reality Gap

In these situations we have to get real.

Who could we be?

Whilst it serves us positively to have ideas and plans for the future it is vital, for any vision to materialize, we focus our energies on engaging in the next step of whatever progress we are making in any given field. As odd and as uncertain as that step may seem, it’s much more powerful than not making a step, blocked with uncertainty.

We don’t know where this new path may lead us.

We don’t know who we are yet

Conscious engagement in everyday activities is a good first step to creating our most powerful results yet. The more present we are, the more our attention turns to energy that rewards us with new purpose and an elevated state of being.

Letting go of who we thought we were is often the first essential next step to becoming who we truly are.

It gives us clues.

Consciously we can sense a new path, the right path, whilst moving on towards our new realities.

To do this we need to bravely face uncertainty using the power of both non-judgement and total acceptance that we will be alright.

“When you know that you’re capable of dealing with whatever comes, you have the only security the world has to offer.” – Harry Browne

Let me know if any of this resonates with you in the COMMENTS below

Photo Credit: © Will Mankelow

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Allan January 26, 2012 at 11:06 PM

Well, you’ve made my brain hurt, Rob…but in a really good way.

Our sense of self, our idea of the narrative of who we are, is often far less accurate than we think. And just as we catch up with it, come to terms with it…it moves on, always just out of reach.

I think you’re spot on here. Goals, vision, and ideas all have their place…but sometimes the fun is in taking the time to discover who we’re becoming. Often the goals are aligned with this, but not always. To use a flippant, but nonetheless real, example: Like many young men, I had a notional list of “things to do before I’m 30”. Long before I reached that milestone, I realised I’d achieved enough from that list to understand I didn’t have to do any more. Instead my life and goals had moved on, and the remaining items held little interest for me.

Looking back, I’d had this experience before…but this was the first time I’d realised it for what it was.

I still have goals and aims (ones far more appropriate for where I am in life) but, like you, I’ve learned these aren’t the be-all and end-all. I might move on before they are complete; this could be seen as failure, but it isn’t if it’s done for the reasons above. Although we’re conditioned to finish what we’ve started, there’s no shame to leave a project behind to move on to something more aligned with your developing values.

I was not born yesterady, and neither was anyone else. We exist in the now, shaped by the our past. It’s easy to fall into familiar behaviour patterns…but it can be a trap. We shouldn’t be for ever taking the past and making it the future…we should be living in the present, looking forward to the challenges of the future.

When describing my actions of late, I’ve likened them to following a thread to see where it leads. I might follow it to its end, and stay there; I might pick up another thread, a new ribbon or…(I’m in dange of over-stratching this metaphor, so I’ll leave it there!)

Suffice to say, I’m not living by accident or by habit anymore. I’m living on purpose, and a sense of adventure.


Rob January 27, 2012 at 1:18 PM

Many thanks for taking the time to reply, Allan!

Inspirational to hear you’re living with a sense of adventure. That’s perhaps an important way to live.

I very much relate with having a list of things to do before 30 and then finding life has more to offer. In my experience I was lucky enough to achieve everything I wanted to, which caused two further conditions:

1 – I wondered if I had raised the bar high enough in the first instance i.e. not ambitious enough (or just lucky.)

2 – A blank canvas. When you achieve everything you set out to do in life, where do you go from there? For me, it was a case of redefining who I am/exploring who that definition is i.e. setting new goals and creating new purpose.

The latter condition was harder to deal with than expected – finding something new, exciting and compelling was a challenge. I think I’m on the road there and it’s a blend of giving us much of myself as I can as well as selfishly indulging deeper into interests I’ve always had and from a different angle.


Emily January 27, 2012 at 7:22 PM

Rob, I can relate to so much of what you wrote in this post, especially right now. Our thoughts can be dangerous, taking us down paths that may not be really “us.” This is especially true when we find that we’ve assimilated our thoughts of what society expects us to be (or what society views as successful) with who we think we want to be. Sooner or later we realize that this amalgamation isn’t really us. And after realizing it, even if we’ve been hit over the head (metaphorically) with a big fat clue as to the direction that *is* really us, the one we in which we really should be heading, it can be hard to trust ourselves enough to follow that direction.

As Allan mentioned, our society often views not following a goal through to completion as failure, even though the most successful people in life are the ones who quit the wrong things at the right time. I like your concept of letting go of who we thought we were (which can be hard to do, given our tendency to not want to quit) and focusing on engaging in everyday activities related to our new direction. It can be so hard to take that first step, especially when we see people a few years ahead of us on a similar path and realize how far we are from realizing our dream, but taking that first step, no matter how small, can be much more powerful than creating goals, making vision boards, and reading e-books and blog posts on our chosen field for hours on end (I’m guilty of that last one!).

For me, as a writer, it’s so hard to get my butt in the chair and actually *write,* because I fear that what I write won’t live up to the vision of the finished piece that’s in my head. When I finally manage to write out a first draft, it’s pretty clunky compared to my vision, but taking that first step is the only way to get a finished piece out into the world.

I’ll leave you with a quote that seems fitting….”Learn to be who you are, and learn to resign with good grace all that you are not.” Henri-Frederic Amiel


Rob February 3, 2012 at 10:56 AM

Love the quote!

Thanks for taking the time to provide such an insightful comment, Emily. You’ve really got me thinking!

I wonder if the sense of anxiety and fear (alienation? humiliation? finding out that we are something that we are something we are not) that so many people experience stems from a society that doesn’t fully support creativity for creativity’s sake? That is, we live in a culture that has an expectation that every thing we do has to have direct importance or value to our society. Whereas indirectly, it might do, if it makes us happier.

“..especially when we see people a few years ahead of us on a similar path and realize how far we are from realizing our dream” – a crucial point. This distance can make any task in hand feel overwhelming and unachievable. I often experience those feelings yet have made small progress learning to overcome such immobilisating emotions by figuring out what ‘the one small (next) step’ would be and making a commitment to do it today (anyway.)

Here’s a thing. In my experience that one small step often ends up pointing in a different direction to that of the original vision and perhaps a more compelling one that could satisfy us beyond any satisfaction that the first version could have given us.

Further frustration and disappointment is then experienced from then ‘being off course’ (and therefore causing further immobilisation.) So far, a great progress has been made following this simple process:

1. Visualise goal/dream
2. Figure out first small step
3. Commit to doing it today (or tomorrow at the latest)
4. “Let go” of where it’s taking me.

With this I find a degree of peace comes from accepting that the steps to achieve the original goal may lead a more fulfilling and exciting journey and future.

Perhaps you find that with your writing? Does finally sitting down and taking that first step begin to take you on a different journey?


Jen Smith February 14, 2012 at 1:57 PM

Spot on Rob.

“Being present” really resonated with me. I find though some goals can be useful, when I am in the moment and let things unfold it seems that there is so much more available and in an effortless way.



Rob February 15, 2012 at 10:15 AM

Thanks for dropping by Jen. That’s a great point. Thank you for the comment.

Reminds me of ‘the path of least resistance.’ and that if we ‘go with the flow’ without judgement it can lead our destinies to interesting and surprising places.



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