I’m Not That Kind of Guy! – The Power of Self-Identity

This month, I’m finally getting organized!

I’m tired of being buried in paperwork, wasting time looking for things, and worrying about important information slipping through the cracks. So, for July (and, if it works, beyond) I’ve committed to trying a system based loosely on David Allen’s “Getting Things Done.”

Don’t worry–I’m not going to bore you with the details of how I utilize weekly planners or label manilla folders! This isn’t that kind of blog post! (I don’t find that stuff particularly interesting, and I doubt that you would either).

What I did find interesting, however, was noticing my immediate knee-jerk reaction while considering the system:

I’m just not an organized guy!

I’ve always been messy. I’ve never stuck with organizational systems. I like to keep my important papers where they belong: on the floor!

Me? Organized? “No way!” a voice in my head half-yelled, half-laughed. “I’m not that kind of guy!”

But then another voice–a quieter one–popped into my mind, asking:

But what if I were?

And then it hit me: maybe I don’t see myself as disorganized because that’s how I’ve always been–maybe I’ve always been that way because that’s how I see myself.

In other words, maybe my limiting self-identity has kept me in this rut!

Who knows how or why this self-identity got started.

  • Maybe when I was a kid I saw a poster that said, “A clean desk is a sign of a sick mind,” and thought it was funny.
  • Maybe I saw a picture of Einstein’s paper-strewn office (see below) and thought that having papers everywhere made you a genius.
  • Maybe I believed that artists, writers, and other creative types have to be disorganized. (I wouldn’t be a “real” writer if I had labeled, organized manilla folders, would I?)
  • Maybe, for whatever reason, I decided that being messy was “cool”…or maybe it was just an excuse to get out of the tedious work of cleaning and filing.

But now, if I so choose (and I do!), I can just as easily re-identify myself as an organized guy–or anything else!

Einstein’s office on the day he died.

The importance of self-identity extends way beyond organizing (otherwise I probably wouldn’t bother writing a blog post about it). It touches everything we do, who we are, how we see ourselves, and how we live every day of our lives.

How do you identify yourself?

An ex-smoker once told me that the most important step he took to quit smoking wasn’t hypnosis or using the patch–it was defining himself as a non-smoker. If he got an urge to buy a pack of cigarettes, he stopped himself by saying, “Why would I want cigarettes? I’m a non-smoker!” If someone offered him a cigarette, he’d decline by saying, “No, thanks–I’m not a smoker.”

And, much to his amazement, he soon realized that he was telling the truth!

The Power of “I AM…”

Not only are the words “I am” incredibly powerful on their own–they also bestow power on whatever follows them. So when you complete sentences that begin with “I am…” make sure that you really want that sentence to be true–that you really want to be the person you define yourself as!

Limiting vs. Empowering Self-Identity

This power cuts both ways: You can limit yourself by identifying yourself as “disorganized” or by telling yourself (and others) things like “I’m not a ‘Finisher'”–self-assigned labels that keep you from reaching your potential.

Or you can identify yourself in ways that support your highest vision of who you want to be: organized, a non-smoker, a finisher…or anything else you want to be–and CAN be if you so choose!

Like a snake sheds its old skin, you can shed your old, limiting self-identity and let a new, more empowering one emerge–one that embodies your higher potential, the person you’re becoming right now!

Labels are Self-fulfilling Prophecies!

Remember: the labels you assign yourself (like the stories you tell yourself) are self-fulfilling prophecies, so why not fulfill prophecies you actually like?

This doesn’t mean you should lie (or even “fake it ’til you make it”)–just label yourself with identities you can believe in…and WANT to believe in!

Mr. Organized?

So, for me, I might not (yet) believe that I’m “Mr. Organized”–but I can and do believe that I’m becoming increasingly organized. So I’ll identify myself in ways that are honest AND support this vision: I am diligent. I am conscientious. I am sincerely open to change.

Maybe one day I’ll embrace “I am organized,” but for now you can call me by my newest label: “Mr. Getting Organized”!

How do you identify yourself? How have your self-assigned labels helped or hindered you? Are there any old labels–in any area(s) of your life–that you’d like to trade in for new ones? How would your life be different if these self-fulfilling prophecies came true?

2 thoughts on “I’m Not That Kind of Guy! – The Power of Self-Identity

  1. Very insightful and honest, Dan! “I am” is indeed very powerful…you may have read Wayne Dyer’s latest book, Wishes Fulfilled. It’s amazing how automatic we are with following “I am” with what we aren’t or can’t do. I also agree that labels can really limit us–kind of like your last post about judgment :-)–we become limited by the judgment associated with labels. In any event, congratulations on claiming your power to redefine yourself as you see fit at any given point in time!

  2. Thanks for the nice comment, Alice. You’re definitely right that saying “I am…” something negative can be just as limiting as judging ourselves (or our judgments) negatively. Even if we were a certain way in the past, it doesn’t have to be a permanent condition if we don’t want it to be. Some languages, such as Spanish, make a distinction between being something permanently (“soy”–such as a man or a woman–although even that is optional these days!) vs. being something temporarily (“estoy”–such as happy or sad or tired). Maybe the lack of a distinction between these two versions of “I am” in English leads us to blur the lines–granting permanent status to things that don’t have to be.

    In any case, my “I am getting organized” is still holding true–a week into the new approach. Hopefully success with this can open my horizons for all the other “I am…” possibilities!

    Thanks for the ongoing encouragement and support–and best wishes for breaking through your limitations and fulfilling your own highest “I am”!

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