When I was fourteen years old, I typed a note (when typewriters were still a thing) addressed “To whom it may concern” declaring how successful and joyful my future would be. This note also spelled out WHO I would become. I recently found the note and reading it again reminded me how success often looks simple from a child’s perspective. The note also highlighted some concerns and fears about what defined success, and asked the question, “Was it possible to achieve all I dreamt of?”
The note continued with my declaration to achieve happiness and success regardless of fear or any obstacles that may come my way. In many ways, I would love to have back some of that blind ambition and innocent naivety.
For some, success can certainly be an easy road. But success is a bumpy road full of twists and turns for most of us. What is the exact formula?
Why are some people more successful than others, or at least appear more successful? How do some people make success look so easy?
The far bigger and more important question is, “What is your definition of success, and what steps can you take to achieve it?”
Simon Sinek is an author and thought leader who talks about Finding Your Why. Likewise, Steve Olsher is a reinvention expert who talks about What Is Your What. Both of these theories are super relevant, and I highly recommend exploring them. However, I have spoken with my clients and friends for years about a different approach. This approach is the theory of reflecting to discover your WHO.
What does reflecting to discover your WHO mean?
First, WHO do you want to become?
Think of the people you admire. Perhaps they are leaders, influencers, actors, humanitarians, children, friends, family members, or even fictional characters in a book or movie. What do you admire about these people? What qualities do they possess that you aspire to gain?
Typically you already have similar traits, but when you think of your future self, which of these qualities do you want to acquire, and why? What qualities do you want to acquire?
When I was young, I rarely went anywhere without wearing my Wonder Woman underoos. The qualities she exhibits; courage, strength, toughness, love, and fairness over personal gain, this is who I wanted to be. I also loved Alex P. Keaton from “Family Ties” because of his desire to fight for his beliefs and to contribute to the world. So essentially as a child, WHO I wanted to be was Wonder Woman with a briefcase!
Second, How do you want to feel when you see your future self?
Once you identify the 3-4 top qualities you admire and desire to possess, next ask how it makes you feel to think of yourself as that person.
Most of the time, when envisioning our futures, we are taught to look at the house, car, or bank account we want. It is okay to desire material possessions and the feeling of achieving them.
Everyone would agree, however, possessions are a fleeting pleasure and ultimate happiness and success come from the feelings you get after becoming who you are meant to be.
Third, WHO are you today?
Most people immediately reflect on who they are not. There is clarity in identifying who we don’t want to be. Even Matthew McConaughey describes in his new book “Greenlights” the process of elimination. He says “The first step that leads to our identity in life is usually not I know who I am, but rather I know who I am not” Eliminate who you don’t want to be.
Eliminating the qualities you don’t want to be, isn’t easy, but to do so starts with self-reflection.
Write down all the qualities you think you possess that you may want to eliminate.
Now what do you admire? Reflect on all the qualities you love about yourself.
If this becomes a challenge for you, ask family members or friends to write a list of your top three qualities. They will reflect back to you what they see in you. Believe them.
Then each day reflect on the qualities you admire and love about yourself. It’s easier to look at the things we don’t like. Knowing who we are is hard. But clarity will come when we first identify the things we don’t like; to acknowledge them. While focusing more often on the things we do like, we will have a better chance of improving ourselves and becoming who we are meant to be.
Dr. Martin Seligman is a leading psychologist who helped create this very “positive psychology” movement. Most of his work has been dedicated to creating optimism for the future by discovering the values and virtues that drive us to be more fulfilled. When we learn how to become who we are meant to be by reflecting on who we are today, the possibilities are unlimited!
When it comes to the question of ultimate success and fulfillment, each person has a different, individualized, answer. Each one of our life experiences has shaped our perceptions and desires as well as our thoughts and habits.
To discover WHO you are meant to be, reflect on these key areas in your life, and honestly ask what success looks like for you? Once you can connect to who you want to be, then you can become who you are meant to be.
If you are still stuck and would like a boost in reflecting your mindset, you can start by taking my quick growth mindset quiz.