Doing the work...


Living from your identity, or from the inside-out, is quite a shift for most people. We’ve become more adept at reacting to external prompts or living from the outside-in. We’re often prompted to choose our education based on what’s available in the marketplace, instead of what we’d love to create in that market. We move from job to job or even from city to city, chasing a kind of lifestyle largely prompted by the kind of advertising that projects the material things that would make us happy. We can even choose our relationships based on what we think the other person can add to our life, instead of what we can give of ourselves to them. Our outside-in radar is functioning well.


Living from our identity requires a transition whereby we acknowledge our present commitment to change this polarity, the motivations driving us and our personal levels of ownership. In these things we can see where we really stand in terms of reacting to, or creating the kinds of lives we want to lead. The transition includes asking ourselves some deep questions, clearly taking stock of what we truly want in life and what’s holding us back. The following resources and questions will help in drawing out where we stand in order to move forward, knowing where our weaknesses and issues may be effecting us. The only requirement here is brutal honesty and a willingness to have a good look at who we are today.


Before we look at planning possible futures based on identity, we have to wrestle with our view of the future itself.  Do we really think we can have any positive control over our future? And if we can, what is the cultural / familial baggage we may be dragging along with us?

Have a look at the video below and then go over the questions in the next section.









We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people wont feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we were liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

by Marianne Williamson from A Return to Love

My friends Julie & Holly model this idea beautifully.  They both in their own way follow their hearts and own their various directions and choices both relationally, and creative / professionally.  They were already way along the identity path when I first met them and I've learned from them ever since.


Whether it's changing our emotional landscape, or practically developing our creative gifts, we have to do a degree of internal work to shift the inertia of our lives. Two good examples of doing this kind of internal work are exhibited here. The first is Brene Brown's TED talk on vulnerability. Brene defines courage as the ability to "tell the story of who you are with your whole heart". In her other TED talk on vulnerability  she mentions the personal effort involved in change:

"You show me a woman who can actually sit with a man in real vulnerability and fear, I'll show you a woman who's done incredible work. You show me a man who can sit with a woman who's just had it... and really listens... I'll show you guy who's done a lot of work."

The work she's speaking about is an intentional effort to recognize our internal landscape, and putting in the daily work of shifting from one state to another. In our case, this means going from a place where our identity lies dormant within us, to a state of actively knowing and acting on who we are.


The second resource comes from Steven Pressfield who speaks about the internal  "Resistance" which keeps us doing the same things in life, over and over. His response to this is to "turn pro" in our own lives and to "do the work"  of change by understanding the process of our life's projects and learning to overcome resistance each step of the way.

the work of being vulnerable

For more reading, check out Brene Brown's web site:

the work of overcoming resistance

For more reading, check out Steven Pressfield web site:


Being willing to do the work in any area of our lives often comes down to desire and will. Desire is that part of us that communicates what our heart, our lives really want, and our will is the enabler of desire. Right now, you're acting on what you want. You're will is already acting on your priorities (or fears). If you want more, deep down, you have to acknowledge that and activate your will to make changes.


(have you grabbed a friend? Are you journaling?)

1. What have you (or your soul) wanted in the past and what stopped you from pursuing it? I mean, what really stopped you. Was it truly money or

opportunity? What exists inside for those externals to matter?


2. Can you get in touch with any childhood desires? Remember any instances where your child-like heart broke out with something inspired, for

any reason? I find this question a hard one. I have to really look back at moments of bliss or passion or intense focus on something. Fascination is a good clue, something you couldn’t let go of...


3. What have you been putting your energy (your will) into lately? We’re always doing something with our will, even if it’s selling out. Where’s yours pointed these days and how do you feel about that?


4. When it comes to passion, where’s yours at? Were you passionate about something in the past and lost it? Why? Are you passionate about something

right now? What could you do to rekindle inspiration and kick your will back into action?


5. If there are really hard circumstances in your life making this more difficult than it should be, what are some creative things you could do to get around

the limitations? Who is there in your life right now, or who you could recruit, to help you overcome obstacles?


“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”

― Oscar Wilde

What would you be willing to fight for? It may be an issue like human trafficking or better school lunches for kids... When you look at what motivates you and what YOU could do about it, you start to get in touch with what you actually want in life.


(have you grabbed a friend? Are you journaling?)

1. If you were asked what you'd like to be doing in 15 years, how would you respond inside?


2. If you had to pick one 'time orientation', which would you most identify with? Past positive? Past negative? Present Hedonist? Present faded?
Future creative? Future after life?


2. Aside from the video presentation, what are your general attitudes towards the future? Especially a future you get to largely create from your identity? Is that possible? How do you feel it about it?


3. Overall, would you say you are mostly:

- reactive - meaning you react to what’s going on around you

- creative - meaning you create opportunities for yourself and others

-  a mix of both - how would you describe it?


4. In looking over your answers, are there any issues that stand out that may hinder you moving forward with this process? What are they and what could you and those with you do to mitigate them?


Having done the questions above (you did them, right? You're not scanning ahead are you?)

Consider this: Try taking one of the obvious things you already know (and like) about yourself and project what you could do with that in say, 15 years.

For example, I know that I love writing but am only average at it now, but I could imagine practicing for 15 years and be able to put out a decent novel or a collections of worthy poems by then.


“We know what we are, but not what we may be.”

― William Shakespeare

Living from our identity ultimately comes down to accepting and acting on the truth about our selves. Of course, it takes time to understand those truths, or identity statements, but at the end of the day, we have to be ready to own our own brilliance, in whatever forms that takes. For me, that's meant coming to grips with my potential while inside the identity discovery process. I'm not my full self and I haven't hit my potential yet, and yet I need to own the fact that I have potential, that my full fledged identity can be quite a thing, if I let it grow. Ownership at this point is about value. My value, your value, or our worthiness to carry on the important work of discovery. If I can own that, trust it and act on it, my identity is likely to flourish because it's finally free to do so.



(Still worth journaling, what do you notice in these people?)


Instead of questions for this part, I thought it would be good to show a couple examples of people that seem to own their identity.


The first example is KIMBRA. She began doing music around the age of 10. Encouraged by her father who bought her a guitar, she developed an inner voice that boomed into a mature gift. You can see ownership in her musicality, her body language, her voice, the lyrics of her songs... Our identity comes from and effects our whole selves and the stuff we make of it.

The Second example of owning one's identity comes from a Quicksilver interview with Kelly Slater. He's been surfing since forever and shares a lot of what he knows about himself, his passions and his sense of the future. Unapologetic and 100% connected to his identity.


The third example I'd like to show is Tim Sharp. Tim is an artist with Autism who along with his mum, has a clear sense of self and their place in the world. Check out how articulate and creative this duo are in the expression of identity and art.

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