Nod your head if you’ve ever said or thought any of these sentences:
“I’m not good at things like that.”
“That’s just who I am.”
“I’m not wired like that.”
Done nodding? Good. Me too.
When we scripted Mark’s TEDx Talk earlier this year, we wanted to move Procabulary’s conversation forward from being centered exclusively around language towards the realities our words ultimately formed.
Mark had been sketching out the idea of Process versus Identity for a few months and we eventually settled on building the talk around the concept.
As Mark mentions in his talk, the official definition of the word identity is “the fact of being who or what a person is.”
The definition is complete nonsense of course. I can disprove it right now with one question:
Are you any different today than you were twenty years ago?
Now, we could argue the semantics of the word “is” in the definition – if we view “is” as active, then I completely agree. Unfortunately, few of us see identity as an active, fluid state.
Fat and out of shape for the fifth consecutive year? “That’s just who I am.”
Communication breakdown with your third consecutive partner? “I’m not good at things like that.”
This is called a self-imposed dead end. Articulated with Language. Manifested by Story. Perpetuated into Reality by a messed up concept of identity.
Process vs Identity
Let’s face it, identity SUCKS.
“That’s my identity.”
“That’s how I see myself.”
“I don’t identify with things like that.”
What do the Brits say? “Sod off” or something like that? In other words, who cares what you identify with? Identity is AT BEST an ego trap and AT WORST a way to prevent growth, experimentation and improvement.
Imagine a five year old kid playing with her/his friends, “Hide and seek is just something I’m not good at” OR “I don’t identify with games like tag” OR “I’m not wired for playgrounds.” Alert the authorities, this kid is a psycho in training.
Kids play. They experiment. They seek out. They improve. Naturally. No self-help blog needed. Because they are in “Process”.
Process is active. It is fluid. Process allows for us to grow, to transform and refine. Process allows for big changes and small ones. Process gets us out of Identity State Penitentiary.
Process People use different words
Let’s remix some of those earlier sentences with Process Language:
“That’s not something I’m good at…YET” or “I’m making it a point to get better at that this year by…”
“I’m not wired like that…CURRENTLY” or “It’s something I’m considering prioritizing.”
“I don’t identify with things like that” becomes “I PROCESS things differently” or “That’s another way of PROCESSING things that I’m unfamiliar with.”
See where this is going?
ACTION STEP: Think of an identity concept that has shackled you for years and TRANSLATE it right now using Process Language.
How does it sound? How does it feel?
One more thing, if you’re weak at something currently and getting better at it is a low priority, try being clear and accurate: “Improving at that is a low priority for me right now.”
The Tip of the Process Iceberg
If you liked this post and Mark’s TEDx talk then I have good news for you, we have a lot more Process vs Identity stuff in the works.
We believe that by reframing the concept of identity into something more active and aspirational, we can subtly and powerful encourage you to expand your boundaries and get better at whatever it is you want to get better at.
Swap the suit and tie of identity for the yoga pants of process starting today — and let us know in the comments about how you feel and what you’ve been able to do with it.
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