How To Be Successful In Life – Managing Self Identity & Setting Attainable Goals
Athletes Often Face Identity Issues.
When asked by people what they do, many athletes will identify as their specialty, such as “I’m a sprinter.” When stating something such as this, you are framing your entire existence around this one thing. In reality, we are all multifaceted human beings, but we at times have the tendency to hyper-focus on one aspect of ourselves, and let that one thing take over our entire being.
There is a subtle but real difference between someone saying “Im a sprinter” and “I go to school for this, I play this sport, I have this job, etc,” and this difference can make the difference in how you respond to both successes and failures.
If you, within yourself, identify as “x”, your day to day mindset, perspective, schedule, relationships, and more will all be shaded with whatever it is that you consciously or subconsciously believe makes up being “x”. You may think this is unimportant, but the reality is that these subtle self-identifying factors can impact our lives in a wide range of ways.
Humans need control to maintain their sanity.
If you connect your emotional state to something that is ultimately out of your control (such as your potential as an athlete), then the likelihood of you having an existential crisis of sorts is bound to be high.
Say that throughout high school, you identified as an athlete, and all your goals and aspirations were tied to this identity. Spring of your senior year rolls around, and you come to find out that none of the teams you tried to join are giving you a spot – how do you think you will fare mentally and emotional in response to this?
Even when athletes are successful, they can still experience dangerous identity crises.
Michael Phelps was recently quoted in an article as being suicidal after winning more gold medals than anyone ever before. At first glance you might think this is crazy, but if you look through the lens of identity, you might find that it does not take much for success to be a curse in disguise.
As the best swimmer in the world, his identity, social status, and reputation was all tied to being a swimmer. Once he had achieved all that there is to be achieved in the sport of swimming, he was left feeling empty, depressed, and even suicidal.
Outside athletics, with the recent suicide of the highly successful DJ Avicii, the same issues seemed to be present.
Successful People Manage Their Self Identity
As stated in this video on self identity, one of the factors which allows you to find success and feel fulfilled is to detach yourself emotionally from the outcomes of your actions.
When people identify as one primary thing in life, their emotions tend to become attached to the results of their actions. This becomes a problem, as your perception of your current successes and failures can affect various aspects of your life, including:
- Your motivation to continue your work.
- Your mood in social situations.
- Your self-esteem.
While I do believe that some level of attachment to outcome can have a positive effect on some individuals’ performance outcomes, the vast majority of people need to be careful about how wrapped up they become in what they do in order to achieve long term success.
There’s More To Life Than Being An Athlete.
Most people who train or compete in a given sport will never make a living off of their sport, and as such they are hobbyists.
If you are a hobbyist, but you let your emotional state get attached to the outcomes of your training and competition performance, you are going to get bent out of shape over something that is only as impactful on your life as you let it be.
The paradox of letting go is an interesting concept, and something that I have found to be helpful in my own life with regards to staying level headed and not letting bumps in the road get me down.
Basically, if you find the fine line between caring about something deeply while understanding that ultimately it does not matter in the grand scheme of things, you can find a balance of passion and apathy which allows you to continue pursuing goals while not getting down when things don’t turn out as planned.
This balance of caring about the process and letting go of attachment to the outcome is a very freeing experience.
This allows you to fully invest yourself in the moment at hand, and focus only on what is within your control – the current moment.
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