The Key to Becoming Who You Want to Be

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.
— Aristotle

Take a moment to consider the following questions:

What type of person would you like to be? How would you like other people to view you? Would you like to be a kind individual? Less reactive? Stronger? More independent, open, confident, or secure?

And what type of person are you today?

I’ve historically been someone who possesses a deeply ingrained need for certainty and control. Somewhere along the road of life, I learned how to thrive, but only with certainty and control as my foundation.

The idea of navigating life’s waters without a steady job and income, the thought of risking everything to pursue a startup venture, the concept of living a transient lifestyle - these were all things that fascinated me. But I knew that I personally had a low tolerance for the uncertainty they entailed.

And these were broader aspects of life. When it came to the smaller daily components, my desire to exert control over everything was even greater. I seemed to feel that if I could control the smaller inputs, it would thereby enable me to better control the larger brushstrokes of my life as well.

The problem with harboring the need or desire for certainty and control boils down to one nagging little fact: namely, control is an illusion.

Everything in life is impermanent, and that’s the only thing that is certain. We can’t control everything, or even most things. And further, it’s not healthy for us to try to do so.

Approaching life this way - from a place of seeking control - made me anxious. I was constantly monitoring and recalibrating the things around me.

If I felt I was losing my grip on control in a given area, my anxiety would spike, and I’d take it out on the people around me (who were usually the people that I loved). -which, incidentally, didn’t make things better. In fact, it almost always made them worse.

So after recognizing and acknowledging that my craving for certainty and control was only serving to hurt me and those around me, I decided I needed to somehow address the problem and learn to let go. In other words, I needed to figure out how to be bothered less (or, ideally, not at all) by things that fell outside of my control. Because that was the type of person I wanted to be.

I wanted to be someone who could go with the flow and trust that things would work out. Someone who could bend versus break in the wind. Someone who surrendered.

But people usually aren’t capable of fundamentally changing who they are overnight.

How could I do this? How could I go about changing something that had been part of my personality for thirty years of my life and truly become the person that I wanted to be?

I wasn’t exactly sure, but I knew that successfully making such a fundamental change would take practice.

So here are some exercises I used to practice becoming who I wanted to be:

1. Finding role models

  • I looked for people who exemplified the attitude that I sought to adopt and did all I could to learn from them and be more like them.

  • I surrounded myself with people I admired who exemplified the traits that I wished to garner.

2. Mindfulness & meditation

  • Through incorporating more mindfulness into my life, I worked to catch myself whenever I recognized that my desire for certainty/control was driving my behavior.

  • I tried using breathing exercises to calm myself down whenever I experienced “triggering” events that had historically caused me anxiety and pushed me to crave and try to achieve certainty and control.

  • I began reciting incantations or affirmations to myself several times a day to remind myself that it was okay for me to let go - that I’d be fine.

3. Yoga

  • I began going to yoga classes twice a week to help me get grounded, stave off the things that were overwhelming me, and reset. (The vinyasa classes I took also incorporated breathing and mindfulness).

4. Practicing gratitude

  • I began using The Five-Minute Journal each day and night to incorporate more consistent gratitude into my life. Regularly taking stock of all that you have in life can help keep you centered and gradually improve your levels of happiness.

5. Stepping into the arena

  • I periodically pushed/challenged myself by putting myself out there, taking risks, letting go, and trusting that I/others/the world would be okay.

  • The thing is, if you don’t ever get out into the arena and actually start trying to be the person you want to be, you are only going halfway with your training.

And, over time, my regular practice began to pay off. My attitude started to shift, and I became more tolerant of uncertainty in my life. I’d even go so far as to say that I learned to thrive in some situations characterized by uncertainty.

My point in sharing all of this? We each have to practice if we hope to eventually become the people that we’d ideally like to be.

It won’t just happen overnight. As humans we’re fallible, and we likely won’t be the best versions of ourselves without putting in some effort.

So, again, take a moment to consider: who is it that you want to be?

Then take it a step further: what are some things you could do to get yourself there? What might your “practice” entail?

The beautiful thing is, we have the power to change who we are - the ability to choose who we become. All it takes is asking yourself: who do you want to be?