Start With Who
How to Begin Stepping Into Possibility
Thoughtful humans wrestle with two fundamental questions.
“Who am I?” and “What should I do with my life?”
Answering these questions is incredibly fraught.
We possess contradictory natures. We like to know where we fit in and what’s expected of us, and we want to stand out and seek the new.
We also live our lives out loud and in public and are prone to pay a lot of attention to the scrutiny and expectations of others.
Another existential question nags at us all the while, “Am I going to be okay?”
And so, in the first half of life, we seek identity and meaning through external instruction and validation.
We play the game of life that society designed for us (and we play it by society’s rules).
Who we are is based on our roles (child, sibling, friend, student, occupation, spouse, parent, etc.), and these roles determine the goals we set, which inform our feelings of prestige, prosperity, and purpose.
At some point, though, some of us notice that building identity and forging meaning based on the pursuit of happiness (status, salary, and stuff) isn't actually making us happy.
We begin to wonder if the game of life isn’t playing us instead of the other way around.
This raises another essential (and largely rhetorical) question. Can you win a game you don’t want to play?
What to do?
Start living from the inside out to build identity and forge meaning in your life’s next chapter.
You don't need to “find” yourself. You need to face yourself.
Identity and purpose aren’t fixed destinations. They’re emergent properties that iterate and evolve as our situation and personality change as our life unfolds.
But where to begin?
Simon says, “Start with why.”
But how can you know your reason for being if you don’t know who you are, what you’re meant to do, and how to develop your distinction (the difference only you can make)?
What happens if we invert Simon’s process and end with “why?”
Identity and purpose begin with self-awareness—defining who you are and what is possible when you find yourself where you are.
Self-awareness promotes self-efficacy—faith in your ability to figure out how to do what you do.
Self-efficacy leads to self-actualization—finding fulfillment and forging meaning based on why you engage the way you do.
Now, the process looks like this.
You must know yourself well enough to trust in your ability to figure out what to do where you are when necessary. This allows you to learn how to do it in the unique way only you can. As you compass your way forward, your why emerges, reflecting both who you are and informing who you are becoming.
But there are some challenges.
Institutionalized education and occupation have reinforced your desire to know where you stand and what's expected of you.
Seeking certainty and conformity are hardwired by biology and evolution and reinforced by society. It can keep you humble and hiding.
What to do?
Decide that it’s time to play your game on your terms without compromise, all in and full out.
In Stepping Into Possibility, we begin where we are. Awakening to the feeling that life is playing us. Here are the three biggest challenges we must understand and embrace before we can step into and through them.
Awakening - The game of life you’re playing is actually playing you.
Routines: Recognize the role of programming and conditioning. Unlearn helplessness. Escape the identity trap.
Reactivity: Drop the drama. Curb your dogmatic thinking. Stop playing the blame game.
Relationships: Close the intention-impact gap. Don’t measure your worth against others’ achievements. Improve your network average.
Then, you can acknowledge that you can’t win a game you don’t want to play. To play your game, you must embrace three skills to catalyze your journey and encourage you to embrace and navigate the inevitable uncertainties and adversities ahead.
Acknowledge - You can’t win a game you don’t want to play.
Receptivity: Keep open loops. Consider multiple and contradictory perspectives. Question your assumptions, beliefs, and biases.
Restraint: More ≠ Closer. Learning > Knowledge. Clear the cruft and optimize your systems.
Responsibility: Master the fundamentals and reason from first principles. Own what’s yours and let go of the rest. Set and maintain your bumpers and boundaries.
Finally, as we learn to play our game, we develop the agency and attitudes necessary to continue stepping into possibility and limitless potential.
Agency - Play your game on your terms without compromise, all in and full out.
Responsiveness: Be the thermostat. Make decisions better. Reserve the right to change your mind.
Resilience: Check your zest barometer. Find solace in the slog. Engineer luck with micro steps.
Rewards: The process is the shortcut (and the prize). Life is an infinite game. Letting go is not giving up.
If you're ready to get real about defining who you are and what you’re meant to do with your life right now, I put together a list of resources for you.1
Ready to take a bolder step into possibility and your limitless potential? Click the button below to complete the 10-minute Catalyst Questionnaire.
There’s no map for wayfinding2 into your “what’s next.” You’re going to have to build and use a compass.
Ready? Let’s dive in and do the work.
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