Melvyn Tan
December 2, 2013 — By

Your Identity Could Be Hindering Your Achievements

[blockquote source=”1 John 3:2 (NIV)“]“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”[/blockquote] Did You Achieve Your Goals? Are there goals that you’ve set for […]

[blockquote source=”1 John 3:2 (NIV)“]“Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”[/blockquote]

Did You Achieve Your Goals?
Are there goals that you’ve set for yourself this year but you didn’t achieve it? If you are like me, you probably have a few. This year for me, most of the goals that I didn’t achieve are in my professional domain. And as I examine the reasons why I didn’t achieve them, I notice a specific pattern.

Based on this pattern, I decided to cross check to see if the converse was true for goals that I had achieved this year. And the check turns out to be accurate. Those goals that I have achieved were largely in my personal and people domains. Perhaps some background to provide sufficient context to what we are discussing here.

Identity in the Professional Domain
For the few years before my first child was born, my primary focus was on building my consulting practice. In fact, back in 2007, we set an audacious goal to capture at least 50% of the school market in Singapore. We worked really hard and achieved it way before the deadline of 2012. We crossed that milestone in just three years in 2007. At that point in time when we set that goal, we weren’t even at the 10% mark and hence the goal was certainly a stretch. But stretch though it may be, we achieved it nonetheless.

When we reached the end of 2012, one of my partners told me that he wanted to seek partial retirement to focus on his work with schools in less developed countries. He went on to consult for, run, and manage several schools in Thailand and Myanmar. As for me, I have achieved quite a number of significant milestones on the professional front, while at the same time became a dad in 2011.

Change of Identity as You become a Parent
Many of you may be able to identify with this, but the moment you become a parent, your perspective changes. Things that were important previously become back-burners now. Others that were furthest from your mind became extremely important.

For example, goals in my professional domain were my primary focus before the birth of my child. Now, goals in my personal and people domains become a top priority. Previously I would not even bat an eyelid to stay up late to work. Now, getting sufficient sleep and waking up early before the kids wake up are my most important priorities.

What happened was not just a simple shift in terms of perspective. What’s deeper than that was my identity. And to further reinforce that identity change was the birth of my second child. Previously I could still get away with some parental duties as my wife can handle our son, now with another child, we both have to fulfill our parental duties simultaneously.

Identity Filters Your Every Activity
The change in my identity caused me to filter every single activity through that lens. In fact, it became the primary force to guide me in my decision making process. For instance, hanging out with friends to chat and chill out was previously acceptable as it was a form of unwind from my professional work. However, now it would be a huge opportunity cost because I could use that time to either catch up on work or to get to bed early.

While this explains why many of the goals that I didn’t achieve fell in the professional domain, it is by no means an excuse for the lackluster performance in that area.

God’s Identity is to Love Us
You see, a change at the identity level can dramatically shift our thoughts, which in turn affect our actions, and consequently our results. Just like the verse today, it is not that we love God so that’s why He loved us. But in fact, it’s because God loves us first. He loved us regardless of who we are. Whether we are nice or not, He loved us and will forgive us. He does it is because that is His identity. It is His nature. That’s how He is.

Therefore, our application of the concept of our identity here today will allow us to critically examine whether our identity is helping or hindering us in our lives. Do you, like me, have a conflicting identity for the different domains? Or if you have a shift in your identity, will that identity lead you to be in conflict with your behaviors in the other domains?

There is a possibility to achieve alignment in all three domains by that single identity that you have. You would just have to ask yourself some of these questions in your review:

  • List the frequent activities that you carry out over the course of this year. Remember to list activities from all three domains; personal, people, and professional.
  • Group these activities into some broad categories, for example exercising once a week and eating fruits and vegetables on a daily basis would fall under the “body” category. Activities such as send marketing material to prospects and research on new area of work with the schools would fall under the category of “business development”
  • For each of these broad category, identify the reason why you chose to engage in the activities. For instance, under “body” my reasons will be to achieve a more balanced diet and to stay healthy. The category of “business development” would have reasons of growing the business and deepening the scope of work provided.
  • After you identifying the purpose, the next step is the most critical step; and that is to identify the identity or role that is required to carry out the activities in that category. For instance, under “body” the identity would be a responsible parent – because a responsible parent would not only take care of his health but would also lead by example in establishing healthy habits. For “business development”, the identity would be a strategic businessman – because a strategic businessman is one who identifies potential areas of business for expansion.
  • The next step is then to ask yourself if any of these identities conflict. In my case, the responsible parent and strategic businessman are in conflict. Because if I am a responsible parent then I would allocate my time to be with my children and not put that time into developing new business.
  • The last step is to reconcile these conflicts by either aligning them – for instance, a responsible parent is one that strategically expands his business so as to provide for his family. Alternatively, you could end up creating a new identity altogether. In my case, I could create “a go-to guy for leading an engaged life”, which would mean that my role is to help people create a purposeful life that engages others through contributory growth. In this new identity, I no longer struggle to reconcile the behaviors but what I’d need to do is to establish if and how those activities are aligned to this new identity.

Question: what are the identities you hold in the different domains of your life? And are they in alignment or are they in conflict with those activities that you must engage in in order to achieve your goals?

Father thank You for Your unfailing love, because that’s who You are. Father help us achieve that alignment in our identities in the three domains of our lives but most importantly guide us to shape our identity into who You have intended for us to be. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.