How to Change Who You Are

Changing the things that make us who we are seems to be a daunting and impossible challenge. We may often have moments of inspiration and motivation when we stand up to the person we were and take on life with a whole new perspective. Eventually we find ourselves slipping back into our old ways and becoming, once again, that person we tried to get away from being.

This may drain our hope and inspiration and, worst of all, fill us with shame about who we are. Shame drains our motivation and leads to self-loathing. And, if we loathe ourselves, why would we want to do anything good for someone we loathe?

Taking The First Step

The first step to changing who you are is to realize that you can’t. …So, why am I writing about changing who we are if it can’t be done? Because, I’m hoping to change your perspective. What we really need to change is not who we are but what we do.

This may seem like an irrelevant, semantic distinction, but when we define who we are by our behaviors, we present ourselves with a huge barrier. For instance, if I define myself as a slacker, I have to become someone who I am not in order to become motivated. If I, instead, recognize myself as a good person with potential to change and grow who struggles with motivation, then I can face the struggle instead of trying to work against my identity.

Another obstacle we face when identifying ourselves with our behavior is that it becomes a difficult, and possibly humiliating, process just to face the truth about our responsibility in our life situations. We may make excuses about why we’re not exercising everyday because we don’t want to experience the pain of identifying ourselves as lazy or wimpy. Instead, we can simply face the objective truth that we have not made exercise a priority, and then we gain the power to examine and change our priorities.

If I Am Not What I Do, What Am I?

One way to get a glimpse of who we are is to look at our morals, values and motivations. These can help define who we are and what we can achieve and are often at odds with how we actually behave. But, on the surface, even these things can change over time. We don’t usually make a conscious decision to change our values, rather they change over time with experience.

The unchanging definition of who we are lies within our hearts. Each of us has a deep inner voice, or spirit, which guides our thoughts and decisions when we choose to listen. It is when we choose not to listen that we find ourselves confused and discontented with who we are.

Steps to Long Lasting Change

  1. Take responsibility for your actions as actions, not as a definition of who you are. This allows you to make objective, non-judgmental observations of yourself that lead to motivated activities rather than paralysis from shame. See How To Practice Humility for more on this topic.
  2. Realize that the life that you have today has developed into what it is because of your thoughts, choices and actions. This is an empowering realization as what naturally follows is the realization that you have the power to build the life you want tomorrow based on your thoughts, choices and actions today. The alternative to this is to blame other people, circumstances, society, etc. for your conditions which leaves you powerless. Of course, there are often circumstances beyond your control which influence your life, but by focusing on your own influence you find the power to change. See Take Charge of Your Life for more on this topic.
  3. Examine your morals and values to make sure that the changes you are planning to make fit in with your motivations and priorities. Every choice you make requires you to sacrifice one thing for another. Sometimes that sacrifice is negligible; sometimes it’s significant. By consciously choosing the sacrifices you make, rather than saying, “I’ll figure it out somehow,” you’ll be much less likely to go back on your choices or lose motivation. See Avoiding Self Sabotage for more on this topic.
  4. Share your plans with others who will support your decision to change. This is especially helpful if shared with others who are making or have made similar changes. It may also help to avoid sharing with others who may not be supportive until you have achieved some success. The value of having supportive friends and associates can scarcely be overestimated. If you find it difficult to find supportive people within your physical community, find a community online. See Establishing A Support System for more on this topic.
  5. Celebrate your milestones and practice gratitude. It’s more helpful to celebrate time-based milestones as opposed to trying to measure changes you’ve made. For instance, if you have decided to improve your physical health and are focused on, say, 10 pounds of weight loss, you may be frustrated and discouraged if it takes longer than expected or if you gain back some of what you’ve lost. Instead try focusing on 30 days of healthy eating and/or improved physical activity for instance. See Celebrate Milestones To Sustain Personal Growth for more on this topic.
  6. Re-evaluate your commitments regularly to assure that your behaviors stay inline with your personal morals, values and priorities. Recommit to and/or adjust choices you’ve made. Practice self-discipline at times when you forget why you are doing what you are doing. See Staying On Track for more.
  7. Once you have achieves some success, help others to do the same by sharing your experience with them. Nothing solidifies a successful change like sharing your success with another person. This type of service will remind you of your own commitment and perpetuate gratitude for the changes you’ve made as you see others struggle to make the same changes. However, be cautious of becoming preoccupied with the success of others since not everyone will achieve the same success you have. For more on this topic, see The Secret to Mastering Success – Help Others Succeed.

7 responses to “How to Change Who You Are”

  1. Bonnie Rustand Avatar
    Bonnie Rustand

    I found your statement about how our values can change subconsciously so very interesting. Really has me thinking about what is the source of my values, do I really own them or just think I do and maybe should do a purging process to get this sorted out, sort of speak? Thanks for sharing, is what I need to hear right now…. 🙂

  2. Jennifer Avatar

    I found your statements to have come from a place of sincere thought. I am one like countless others that can only speak from my own journey. Mine is a journey in Christ and I have seen expressions of his presence in many ways. I know for what I’ve seen in others and in myself as well that only true and lasting change can come from His indwelt presence. Our human nature lacks the power and strength to make lasting change without His presence. He is the great enabler as often we deal with spiritual forces in unseen realms. Also we need the guidance of Jesus Christ to make the right changes.

    1. Danny Avatar

      @Jennifer, Thanks for your perspective. I agree that the teachings of Jesus Christ are powerful catalysts for meaningful change and sound direction. However, I can’t say that I agree that human’s are incapable of making lasting change without His presence. I have seen and experienced many powerful changes in myself and others that have not included the presence or guidance of Jesus Christ. One might argue that those changes are misguided, but that would depend perspective, and it is not a perspective I share. In my experience, the common foundation of all meaningful change is a detachment from the ego and an attachment to the common good. Accepting the guidance of Jesus Christ is one great way to do just that.

  3. rick Avatar

    I am an addict of 40 years. Recently divorced and STILL heading down the wrong path. I know the path I need to be on. Written life action plans, therapy, 12 steps, etc. I KNOW what and where I need to go, but continually fail (resist?) to go that way.
    I thinks it’s “the devil you know…” or excuses or don’t want to do the hard thing (sacrifice, feel uncomfortable, be consistent) I am great at talking but don’t finish anything. I know where I am going to end up if I don’t Radically Change. I have talent and intelligence but never did anything with it.
    I’m not sure exactly why I am writing to you or what I want/ need to hear. Maybe I am expecting some Magical wisdom that will make what I know I have to do easier. Actually, I think your website (and highlighted links) ARE that wisdom. I just need a major kick in the ass (head?)
    Sorry for the rant. And thank you.


  4. Chris Avatar

    Very good article and written well. However my message is for you Rick as it seems Danny hasn’t replied (it does sometimes seem like knowledge is reserved for those that already have it) I guess the real magic wisdom lies inside yourself, the trick is quietening your mind (ego) sufficiently to hear what the inner voice is saying.
    It is good that you are here, asking questions. Seek out more articles and videos, and ask yourself what it was that brought you here in the first place because it’s probably the very “magic” (inner voice/intuition) that you’re looking for. Be inspired!

  5. Jerryson lukeson Avatar
    Jerryson lukeson

    Wow..thanks alot really inspired more knowledge to me..i can just explain it.more grease to your elbow sir…