10-06-22 Update: Added "I am serious & driven, and move with urgency and high standards."
In general, it's powerful to keep your identity small. But it's also helpful to have a clear sense of self identity. To achieve this, I've started a simple but powerful habit: "I am..." statements. Every morning, I write and say out loud a list of "I am" statements, like "I am proactive" or "I am handsome". Over time, I add or remove statements, based on what I need. I recommend using the 5 Minute Journal App to store them.
Here is my current list (before I started writing this blog post):
- I am assertive, proactive, decisive, and disciplined.
- I am concise, clear, articulate, and direct.
- I am confident, handsome, strong, wanted, and charismatic.
This has changed how I think about my own identity. 6 months ago, I used this set of adjectives to describe myself: I am curious, intentional, abstract, generative, enthusiastic, ambitious, and caring. I still think those accurately describe me. But those were just my hidden defaults from childhood. What do I want to become in the future? This is where the I am statements come in. They balance the "shadows" of my defaults. For each old "I am", you can fill in the shadow to get the new "I am":
- Curious ➡ Concise, Decisive, Committed: Because I'm so curious, it can make me less concise (because there's so much to say!), less decisive (so many options!), and less committed (why choose when you can learn?).
- Generative ➡ Concise, Proactive, Decisive: Like curiosity, being generative can make it hard to be concise (so many things!), proactive (just generate new ideas instead of implementing existing ones!), and decisive (how can I decide among hundreds of options?).
- Abstract ➡ Concise, Clear: Because I like operating at high levels of abstraction, this can make my statements less clear.
- Enthusiastic ➡ Concise, Grounded: This has two elements. First, my enthusiasm has been a Better is Worse for presentations. Because I'm so enthusiastic, people tend to enjoy listening to me. This has meant that I haven't needed to work on clear communication, so I'm worse at it. Second, I think there's room for an antonym of enthusiastic. The question to ask yourself is: "What is the antonym of this word that still has positive connotations?" e.g. I don't want to be apathetic, but I am interested in being serious, thoughtful, genuine, and grounded. Serious/thoughtful are helpful because they imply a sense of slowness instead of just reacting enthusiastically to everything. Genuine/grounded are helpful because balance the sense of manic energy that can sometimes come with enthusiasm.
- Ambitious ➡ Personal, Humble, Loyal, Satisfied: Because I'm ambitious, it can make me less personal (because my ambition thinks of the larger system of all humans), less humble (what makes me think I'm special?), less loyal (ambition is about change and doing what it takes to create it, possibly neglecting relationships), and less satisfied (ambition implies a dissatisfaction with the present).
- Caring ➡ Assertive. Caring can make me less assertive because I'm primarily in "listening/empathy mode". Caring can also make me less assertive because I don't want to "hurt" their feelings.
- Intentional: I would no longer describe myself as intentional. Intentional doesn't have a sense of action that I would like. Instead, I've learned to love "proactive". Proactive has active in the word itself!
If you combine all of these superpower/shadow statements into one set of "I am" statements, it could look like this:
- Curious yet proactive
- Abstract yet concise
- Generative yet decisive
- Enthusiastic yet grounded
- Ambitious yet loyal
- Caring yet assertive
- ...Handsome too ;)
I'm not sure exactly what kind of "I am" statements I'll be writing in 1 year or 10. But I'm confident that it's a helpful practice. Other bonus thoughts:
- One thing I'm not fully satisfied with is my current balance of both being multi perspective, while having a strong opinion. I wish there was a better word for "multi-perspective" than "open-minded". I wish there was word like "opinionated" but without the negative connotations.
- I now see these traits in others, and am grateful when they manifest them. e.g. I say "thank you for being proactive" a lot now.
- It's been helpful for writing emails too. Instead of saying "I can't do X", I now say "I won't do X" more often. Will statements imply a sense of assertive agency.
- Thank you to my life coach, Nadia Mufti, for helping me explore this.
- In many ways, these I am statements are a crucial piece of my 2019 New Years Resolution—to understand my superpower/shadow dynamic better, be in relationship with that dynamic, emphasize the superpowers, and work on the shadows.
- I wonder if I should make different I am statements for my personal life and professional life.
After writing this blog post, I will change my daily practice to be:
- I am concise and opinionated, even though I am multi-perspective.
- I am disciplined, assertive, proactive, and decisive, and others appreciate the clarity those bring.
- I am loyal, satisfied, and grounded, even though I am enthusiastically ambitious about changing the world.
- I am confident, handsome, and strong.