Do you realize that identity follows behavior, not the other way around?
How many times do we say, “I’m not the kind of person that does X? I just don’t do those sorts of things. I don’t eat that sort of food. I’m not the kind of person that works out.” We say these things because we do not identify with those sorts of behaviors. They are not us. Identify follows behavior.
If I wake up at 4 AM on a Monday morning, put on my workout gear and immediately head to the gym, that makes me crazy to some people. I might think it is cool and a great way to start one’s day. For those of us who do this, this is simply us having fun being us. We do this regularly enough, this behavior becomes our identity. We think and we say, “I am the kind of person who is in shape and workout regularly.” Who we are follows our behavior.
A large part of our identities are tied up in our unconscious need to belong. As humans, we have a deep desire to belong to something, to some group, to a team, to an exclusive club, to a family. Our identities are wrapped around these things, these groups, these entities. We are lost without them.
It is perfectly natural to wrap your identity around a group, club or a family. Even around a company or workplace. In fact, we can go so deep with this as to stick with groups and environments that are harmful to us, such as toxic work environments filled with toxicity. It is far better to avoid these entirely, yet some people wallow in them for years — /years/ — in the name of a living. The living might be OK, but unconsciously they’re afraid of being cast out of the group, even if the group sucks the life out of you. What would they do without this group of toxic people to surround themselves with? Rather ironic.
It’s important to note here that we rarely possess the power, gumption and stick-to-it-ive-ness to positively change a toxic work environment. What usually happens is the toxic work environment changes us. Like the Borg, most well-intended Resistance and Rebellion to this insipid force is futile. You must simply depart and go be successful somewhere else because you won’t find success in the toxic work environment. Besides, who wants to identity with all that negativity? Not me. I opt out.
That’s the negative power of belonging via identity. We would knowingly hurt ourselves and undermine our own compelling futures just to belong! It’s terrible and pernicious. And it must be rooted out!
Belong at the Tailgate. College Sports are Identity.
What about positive aspects of belonging? Look at universities and teams. Universities do a great job of building school / team spirit, and continue that tribal ethos for decades after graduation. People still identify with their schools, their classmates, their mascots for years and years. Collegiate sports are belonging. They are identity. They are a bunch of people, upwards of 100,000 people, coming together to root for a common cause: their team winning. Beating the other guy. Cheering each other on. Booing the bad calls together. Drinking the team drink together. Eating the same burgers and brats and junk food together. Tailgating. Giving. Sharing. Laughing. Enjoying. Camaraderie. Team building. Belonging. Identity. Culture. This is people like us doing things like this. /This is us/. Our team is our family.
On Building a new Community of like-minded People. On Being an Exceptional Mensch.
When you seek to build a community, igniting that sense of belonging is very important. You want to be inclusive. You want equality. You want to bring in and value different opinions and potential solutions to problems. You want to stress group success. And you want to be as generous with the group as you can be and try to never let off the gas pedal of generosity. If you want to be seen as a leader and as an Exceptional Mensch: Give. Give. Give. Then, Give some more. And teach. Teach freely. When you Teach, you’re giving by default. You are also solidifying what you know by teaching. The world needs more Givers and more Teachers and more Creators. Be these! These are the beginnings of a Movement. What could be more exciting than that!?
The Irony of Modern Tech and Social.
I write often that one of the ironies of our modern Tech / Social Media is that while we’re more connected than ever, people still feel lonely — A LOT of the time. Those feelings of loneliness persist because the emotional connections between us are weak. Perhaps we’re not giving enough emotionally to the people we’re closest to. Perhaps we’re not leaving the building, getting outside and going out to dinner and drinks with friends. Or, going on a simple walk. (Yes, a walk. Really.)
Maybe we never have people over to our place to entertain them ourselves. Whatever the case may be, I stress to anyone who will listen that the fundamentals of good, emotional relationships are more important now than ever! Take people out. Grab some coffee and talk (or tawk). Meet in cool hotel lobbies. Meet on cool rooftops. Meet around the grill. Meet! Talk! Connect! Give!
Our daily actions comprise our identities.
Aristotle said that we are what we repeatedly do. He realized thousands of years ago that our daily actions comprise our identities. He nailed it.
He also nailed that excellence is therefore not a state of mind, but a habit. You choose to act on excellence, to act on excellent ways and means. It is a way to be. Which identity will you choose today? Who will you become today?