Single Most Determining Factor of Success: Your Future Identity

Angel ColumnI got sucked into looking at old photo albums last weekend.

As I flipped through the glossy pages I leaned closer to examine this young woman in all the pictures. Was that really me? I could hardly believe it. Twelve years ago I was a party girl living in Seattle with no attachments. I was posed with people I haven’t talked to in years, wearing clothes that I wouldn’t dream of wearing today. My only goal in life at that time was to get myself to the bar every night.

How did I get from there…to here?

In my present day life I never go to the bar. In fact, I’ve been sober for over ten years. I have a husband and a son. I’ve written four books and I’m working on my fifth. I run a successful coaching business and writing blog. I feel a strong sense of purpose in my life and although I have good days and bad days, overall I’m happy.

Was it a lucky accident that I was able to change my life so drastically, and so much for the better? I don’t think so. Because even back in my alcoholic days, the seed of something else was planted inside of me. I dreamed of writing books. I read a ton of books. When I wasn’t hanging out at the bar, I was working in a bookstore to be around all the (you guessed it) books.

But at the time I had no idea this was a seed. When I tried to picture my future the results came back hazy. I couldn’t see this future me, who would go on to do good future things.

My path became much more clear when I started taking steps. And the little steps were the most important. Small, positive changes each day that added up and really got the ball rolling. I browsed through Craigslist, looking at anything in the writing categories. To look, just to look. And that’s how I found my first writing program. I pushed myself to send them an email to see if they would take me, just to see if might work. And it did. I started going every week, just to do one small thing toward my writing. And two years later I had a finished first draft of my novel.

Each of these small steps contributed toward building my future identity as a writer. Every time I made a move forward, even if only incremental, I believed more and more in this future me. With every step, her outline became more apparent until I could clearly see what she looked like. Every time I pushed myself to move out of my comfort zone—just slightly—the outline filled in a little bit more until she was solid.

This is what determines success. The people who reach their big dreams have a strong grasp on their future identity. They can already see themselves as the person who has made it happen.

If you don’t believe that the distance between the-you-in-the-present and the-you-that-you-want-to-be in the future can ever be bridged, then you’re not going to make it with your dream. It’s like trying to lose weight but not being able to see yourself as anything other than unhappy in your body. No matter what you eat, you will always self sabotage your diet. Because your brain is in charge of everything you do, down to the tiniest decisions you make during your day.

If your brain does not identify with the you-that-you-want-to-be it’s going to make damn sure it keeps you stuck right where you are.

This is why using envisioning work is so important when you’re trying to move forward with personal growth. It’s essential that you consistently imagine yourself in the life you want, doing the things that make you happy.

The key is to pay attention to how realistic the future identity seems to you now. For instance, if you currently struggle to make ends meet, picturing yourself as the richest person in the world is probably too far of a leap for your brain to take seriously. However, imagining yourself getting a better job that pays you decently is a scenario your brain can more easily assimilate into its reality.

So for writers, imagining yourself as the next Stephen King might not be the most helpful future identity to pick. Instead, picture yourself as the-you-that-you-are-right-now, doing the things you want to do in the future. Envision yourself at a writer’s conference. What are you wearing? Who are you talking to? Envision yourself at your local bookstore doing a book signing. What does your table look like? What are your fans saying about your book as you sign it? Envision the book itself. What’s on the cover? How does it feel in your hands?

The more real these future situations feel to you, the faster you will move toward them.

Your brain is the big computer that runs your life. By envisioning what you realistically want in your future, you slowly upload your new, future identity into the computer that makes every decision for you, no matter how small. Eventually your brain will make the decisions of a successful writer on autopilot and you won’t have to fight through moving out of your comfort zone so much anymore. Your future identity will be your new comfort zone.

Picture the future you making your dream happen.

Back it up with small, positive changes each day.

You will be amazed at how your life begins to unfold its magic.

If you liked this article, you might be interested in:

The Way You Think Is Directly Linked to Your Writing Success

7 Signs You’re Living Your Life Purpose

Self-Publishing or Traditional? Why It Doesn’t Matter

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  • Reply hilarycustancegreen 23 July, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    What an amazing distance you have travelled, I am so impressed. I agree with your method. Whenever I have an apparently impossible task, and it feels like I am trying to clear the forest floor, I stop looking at the whole, imagine how the task will look complete and concentrate on the first steps. So I look at the ground round my feet and pick up the first leaf.

  • Reply Jo 25 July, 2015 at 4:58 am

    Your posts are always so inspirational Lauren! I think baby steps and visualising are both key in every process of change, from the humblest things to our entire lives/identity/vision. It can be so easy to become caught in the same patterns (of thought, action, or even inaction), and though it can take a little bravery (or a whole lot in both our cases I think), making even the teeniest steps consistently fused with a vision truly does create change, which inspires more steps and more changes, giving the momentum to continue. Thank you for another thought-provking, inspiring post. 🙂

  • Reply Marie Ann Bailey 26 July, 2015 at 7:29 pm

    This is all so very true! And you, Lauren, are such an inspiration. To have achieved so much in a relatively short time. You must be, should be, very proud of yourself.

    I’ve been doing what you recommend, keeping my hopes and expectations for myself realistic and within reach. I’ve seen too many of my writer friends burn themselves out trying to be the next Stephen King. They are wonderful writers but the competition, especially in the self-publishing realm, is fierce and overwhelming, and most of them think they should be able to achieve fame and fortune with just one book. I exaggerate, but it is dismaying to hear them cry, “But I’m doing everything they say you should do to market your book!” and then complain about lack of sales and support.

    I know I have to believe in myself, but first and foremost, I just want to be happy writing. I’m keeping my goals simple and as I meet them, I up the ante a bit 🙂 Thanks for another great post, Lauren!

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