One of the key chapters in my forthcoming book, Leading Yourself: Succeeding from the Inside Out, is on Identity, the whole matter of how we see ourselves, our make-up and how we come to be unique. I believe this is pivotal because out of our own self-identity comes so much of what we do and how we do it. My self-identity is the “me” I think I bring to the world, to be unique not least to my work.
The book is about how we can do our best work in this VUCA world. When it comes to moving towards our best performance there is a real paradox: our identity is not in our performance.
Being unique is not about what I do. Who I am is not what I do nor is it how well I do it. This is crucial. If we cannot separate the two we become addicted to our work, and our self-worth suffers if events don’t go so well. Another manifestation of this confusion is the high mortality among people within a year of their retirement. No job, no identity. No, health comes through knowing who we are independent of our work.
We must find a way of knowing our true selves independent of our performance. We must find a value in ourselves that transcends what we do.
I have come to realise that for each of us our identity is in at least two parts: the general and the unique.
For example, regarding my own general identity, I am British. I am growing a deeper appreciation of this as I travel around the world. I am a post-war baby boomer, which has meant I’ve carried around some generational baggage, such as a scarcity mentality. (I was born during rationing, and it informed the value system I was raised in.)
Also, being a post-war Englishman meant I was vulnerable to a post-imperial mentality, where we seemed to live in the shadow of America, marginal to much of what we used to lead. I have, to a degree, grown out of both of these limitations. I now appreciate a positive, abundance frame of reference as being a more real and healthy one. Also, over the last eighteen months, I have been privileged to work with the outcomes of a new kind of Britain, with such clients as the British Antarctic Survey, with various British research bodies and universities producing truly excellent science and learning. In the UK, we seem to have a knack of producing excellence on a shoestring. All this, at a general level, informs the identity I bring to clients all over the world.
For our unique identity, we need to look elsewhere. The title of this post is taken from a BBC TV series of the same name. In each episode a particular media personality is shown discovering their family roots and ancestral lineage. This can be a powerful means of understanding part of our unique identity. But that is by no means the sum of where our uniqueness comes from.
Personality profiling also can help, particularly if the profiling tool is positive and non-judgemental. I will soon announce how subscribers can access one such tool, the AEM-Cube© to better understand themselves; even gain a better understanding of how they work with the team they are a part of. And there is Strengthfinder 2.0. This weekend I took my own assessment. I’m happy to share the results with you. My top five themes are:
I’m pretty comfortable with that, but it’s real value to me is that it leads me to an awareness of aspects of my personality that I had hitherto taken for granted. More and more, I have the freedom to play to my strengths, rather than work on my weakness. Out of this comes true performance and fulfilment.
So, my conviction is that Solomon was right, Plato was right, Jesus was right.
Having a right understanding of who we are really, really matters.
What examples do you have of connecting with your unique self? What has helped you?
And how has a greater sense of your self-identity helped you?