If your life has gotten off track, you may need to redefine yourself before you can start moving forward in the right direction again. Figure out who you currently are and how that person differs from who you want to be, then work on transforming yourself into that improved version.
Part One: Defining Your Current Self
Determine what defines the current you. Look at your life objectively and ask yourself which aspects are currently being prioritized, regardless of whether you believe those aspects should be important.
These features can be internal (your work ethic, a desire to remain busy) or external (your job, your family, your pets).
Make sure that you identify your current priorities based on your actions and not based on your beliefs. For example, you might believe that your family should be your first priority, but you may consume yourself with work so much that, in reality, it takes priority over your family. In that case, your job is the real priority demonstrated by the current you, even though you may not want it to be.
Explore your relationship with yourself. It can be easy to define yourself solely or primarily through external sources. After you’ve analyzed who you are overall, take some time to think about who you are when you’re by yourself.
Think about the things you value, including both principles and personality traits. You may value your time management skills or your faith in a particular religion. List all of the things you value, even if you don’t put these qualities into action as much as you would like to do.
Think about the things you love and enjoy, too. This can include other living beings—family, friends, pets—and things like hobbies or activities. You should list all of these things, too, even if you don’t spend as much time on them as you’d prefer.
Talk to yourself about yourself. When analyzing who you currently are, it might be helpful to talk to yourself about yourself using third person speech. Doing so can switch your mind into a more objective way of thinking, thereby allowing you to perceive yourself more accurately.
Third person speech includes pronouns like, “he,” “she,” and “they.” Your name is also included in third person speech.
This means that instead of saying, “Family time is very important to me,” you would say, “Family time is very important to (insert your name here).”
Part Two: Moving Away from the Old
Let go of the past. Ask yourself which aspects of your life are being influenced by past hurts, insecurities, and regrets. Once you identify those issues, commit to letting them go so that they no longer control who you are. Be thorough as you examine your past. You might realize that you have lingering guilt about the end of a relationship or lingering pain from the way that relationship ended, and those feelings may prevent you from fully embracing current and future relationships. Similarly, your family may have struggled financially when you were growing up, and that insecurity might be making you more work-obsessed in your adult life than you need to be.
Learn from past mistakes. You shouldn’t let your past mistakes and traumas hold you back, but oftentimes, there are lessons you can take away from the past that can improve who you are in the present.
Learning from past mistakes can help you prevent repeating them.
For example, you can analyze a relationship that ended painfully to determine what went wrong and what you can do to prevent the same thing from happening in your next relationship. You can look at which decisions led you or your family to financial ruin in the past and develop a financial plan for the future that corrects these errors.
Break one bad habit. Correcting bad habits and personality flaws is an important part of leaving the old you behind, but it is also one of the most intimidating aspects. Instead of changing yourself all at once, focus on breaking one bad habit at a time.
Doing too much at the same time can exhaust you. When a person becomes exhausted on the road to self-improvement, he or she is more likely to quit and turn back.
On the other hand, making small improvements little by little is easier to accomplish. When you complete one goal, it can also encourage you and make it easier to press forward with the rest.
Start small with tangible goals. Quit smoking or stop cyber-stalking your ex-boyfriend/girlfriend. As you get further along in the process, you can start to discuss problems that don’t exist in a physical form.
Replace negative thoughts with positive ones. As soon as a negative thought about yourself or your life pops into your mind, try replacing it with a positive one. Doing so trains your mind to focus on possibilities instead of difficulties.
For instance, a bad date might cause you to think something like, “I’ll never find someone. There must be something wrong with me.”
When a thought like that springs forward, shut it down by correcting yourself with, “This date went poorly, but that doesn’t mean the right person isn’t out there waiting for me. I won’t find that person unless I keep looking.” It may also be helpful to reaffirm your self-worth by listing a few of your most positive personality traits worth admiration.
Stop worrying about others’ opinions. So much of what a person does and doesn’t do is often controlled via social pressure, and this pressure might be part of the reason you find yourself in the position you’re currently in. If you really want to redefine yourself, you’ll need to become the person you want yourself to be, not the person someone else expects you to be. Social pressure may come from the people in your life. Everyone from your parents to your boss to your best friend may expect you to be someone you’re not in some form or another.
You also need to identify and step away from social pressure that comes from society itself. Society may hold certain expectations of you based on your race, gender, economic class, or religion, and these expectations can be just as restricting.
Part Three: Moving Ahead
Evaluate your priorities. This time, ask yourself which aspects of your life should be treated with the most care regardless of whether those aspects actually receive the care they deserve.
Commit to rearranging the way you act out your priorities so that it matches the way you view those priorities in your mind.
If the current you is a workaholic but you believe that family should be a bigger priority than financial success, commit to changing the way you organize your time. Come home from work on time instead of staying late. Schedule specific times to spend with your family and don’t break that commitment unless a real emergency comes up.
Ask yourself which qualities you’d like to develop. Decide who you want to be at your core and identify the personality traits that version of yourself possesses in excess. These personality traits can be ones you already have or ones you’ve never demonstrated.
For example, one of your ideal qualities might be an ability to manage your time wisely. You may have had good time management skills when you started your career, but the monotony of everyday life may have encouraged you to slack off. On the other had, you may have always struggled with wise time management. Either way, if it is one of your ideal qualities, list it as such and work on developing it.
Put hope into action by setting goals. Optimism and hope are important, but no one every changed just by wishing it would happen. Redefining yourself takes time and hard work.
Instead of wishing that you had more time to pursue your creative side, actually schedule time for it. Set a goal for the amount of time you want to dedicate each month to creative pursuits. Alternatively, set a goal for how much creative work you want to get done within a month regardless of the amount of time you spend on it.
Spend a little time each day pursuing your goals. Once you set a goal, you actually have to make time to pursue it. Start immediately and consistently pursue your goal a little each day.
For instance, you may plan to improve your health through exercise. Instead of telling yourself, “I’ll start tomorrow” or “I’ll start next week,” start today. Do a little exercise each day, even when you don’t feel like it, so that working toward your goal becomes an ingrained habit.
Part Four: Re-writing Your Self-Definition
Step out of your comfort zone. A quick way to change yourself is to do something you ordinarily wouldn’t feel comfortable trying.
The step you take should move you closer to your ideal self, not further away from it.
If you’re somewhat reclusive but you want to be more sociable, consider joining a hobby group or social club. Make sure that you mix into a good crowd instead of a bad one, though.
If you want to become more adventurous, go skydiving or plan a brief trip to a foreign country. Being adventurous doesn’t mean being stupid, though, so you don’t need to do something reckless like drag racing or getting involved in a relationship with someone dangerous.
Pursue an old passion. Ask yourself if there are any dreams or passions you stopped making time for. If there are, start making time for those old interests again. You may rediscover a positive part of yourself that is worth keeping in the process.
If you once dreamed of becoming a chef, try taking cooking lessons, even if you no longer have any intention of switching careers now.
If you loved playing baseball when you were in high school, find an adult sports league you can join. You may make friends and rekindle some appreciation for dedication, fitness, and teamwork.
Make time for things you currently love. You may have a current interest in a certain hobby or activity that you don’t nurture much. Stop making excuses and start making plans to pursue this interest more actively. Take a class or join a club. Doing so can provide the activity with just enough structure to help you plan for it.
Meet new people and make new friends. The people in your life now are familiar with the current you and may or may not assist you as you redefine yourself into someone new. As you meet new people, tell them about the person you’re trying to become so that they can help you stay accountable to your ideal.
Make sure that the new people in your life have positive attitudes. It is much easier to pursue a new you when you’re surrounded by positivity instead of negativity.
This does not mean that you should remove your old friends and family from your life. Only step away from a relationship if it is toxic to your well-being. If the relationship is a healthy one, you should still maintain it, even if it won’t necessarily push you forward in your current goal.
Create visual reminders. Instead of merely thinking about who you want to become and what your goals are, write that information down. Write a list of the steps you’ll need to take to reach that point.
Keep this list in an easy-to-access place where you can view it each day. The constant visual reminder will make it harder to forget.
Take a moment to reconnect each morning. Before you begin your day, spend a few minutes to reflect on who you are and who you want to become. As soon as you are awake enough to think straight, ask yourself if you are the same person today as you were the day before. Reflect on which parts of your self-definition are transforming into something better and which aspects still need a little work.
Doing this in the morning can make you more mindful throughout the rest of the day.
Move along at a steady pace. Don’t procrastinate, but don’t rush yourself. Doing a little to redefine yourself each day is often enough to help you from procrastinating. If you reach a point where you feel stuck, do something big to build up a little momentum again.
Understand that redefining yourself doesn’t happen overnight. Try not to change everything all at once since doing so can overwhelm you and make you want to quit.
How to Recreate Your Life
How to Reinvent Yourself
How to Develop and Build Intuition
How to Define Your Personal Values
Sources and Citations
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