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Developing Identity

At what point on the line of consistent routine does a habit accelerate from a regular part of your life to a major part of your identity? Put another way, if we are what we repeatedly do, at what moment does what we do become us? It may be that moment when you can’t imagine doing anything else but this habit now and forever. But I think it’s a notch beyond that: when others see you as that character you’ve developed into and that habit is reinforced and self-perpetuates.

Consider a friend who has only been consistently hiking for maybe ten years. Her identity developed around hiking and she’s gained hundreds of followers on her InstaGram account because people associate an activity they want to do more of with her. Or consider my bride, who has run consistently since she was a teenager. Half the town knows her as that lady that’s always out running. Heck, I sometimes think of her as that lady too. Consistent routine develops identity. Identity becomes the essence of who we are.

But both of these women began with a first awkward step out into the unknown. Both learned what worked for them and what definitely was not going to work. The essence of who we are is derived from what is essential for us. The rest is marketing. You either inform the world of who you’ve become or wait for them to see it for themselves.

Like a river carving its deepest channel on its truest route, what we say yes and no to as we favor our chosen path becomes the deepest part of our channel. In a river oxbows gather silt and are eventually cut off altogether in favor of the channel. Likewise, some things that were so very much a part of our identity peter out and die from lack of attention. I once fancied myself a sailor, yet I don’t currently have a boat. A friend also fancied himself a sailor and purposefully accelerated and reinforced that identity by trading up to bigger and bigger boats and forgoing career advancement for a log book full of hopes and dreams realized. Who’s the sailor?

I’m about to click publish on this blog, as I’ve done every day for a few years running now. Does that make me a writer? The answer is what you want it to be. Decide what to be and go be it. And then inform the world (and yourself) with your consistency.

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