Whenever anyone becomes a parent, someone at some point will always ask: “So, how does it feel to be a mom/dad?”
The correct answer, of course, is “exhausting” with a large dose of “confusing” thrown in for good measure. It takes time before new parents start to think of themselves as moms and dads — and then the change happens. People who never thought it their business to tell anyone what to do start laying down limits on television-watching, sleep hours and cookie-guzzling. The power they exercise becomes broader not through choice but because of who they are.
And it feels natural. Of course moms and dads punish and reward. That’s what they do. It’s expected. It comes with the job description.
Fitting the Bottle to the Label
Labels may just be sticky things with words on them then but they do have real power. And just as they give “parents” the freedom to control their children without feeling like despots, so positioning yourself in this way can deliver a wider range of possibilities in any walk of life.
Just deciding that you are already what you hope to be in the future can give you the confidence and the freedom to do the job now.
Tell yourself — and others — that you’re a “programmer,” for example, and you’ll feel a need to justify that claim by learning more programming languages, reading the computing press and creating programs.
Call yourself an “entrepreneur” and talking to venture capitalists will no longer feel like chutzpah. It’s what people like you do, and having the confidence to do it will increase the chance that investors will have the confidence to give you the funds you’re looking for.
Describe yourself as a “blogger,” and you will feel the need to write posts every day, understand image licensing and become if not an expert, then at least knowledgeable about traffic generation, blog platforms and online advertising.
Of course, it’s not quite as simple as that.
Calling yourself a Nobel prize-winning novelist and you won’t get a million dollar check and an invitation to give a speech in Sweden. But it can kick-start a process of learning, delivering the skills you need to justify the position you’ve taken.
Or rather, the positions you’ve taken — and this is where things can start to get complicated.
How to Be in More Than One Place at the Same Time
In practice, no one is ever just one thing and if we were to apply labels to ourselves, we’d probably be covered in sticky paper from head to toe. We are all many things at the same time, some of them apparently contradictory. It is possible to both call yourself someone’s parent, for example, and to be called someone’s child. It’s also possible to be an employee from Monday to Friday, and an entrepreneur when you step into your garage at the weekend.
Fortunately, occupying multiple positions doesn’t seem to create any real problems. Shifting from one position to another happens naturally and smoothly, and without requiring prescriptions for schizophrenia. It just means that you have to put more work into making the most of the potential that life-positioning supplies.
That starts with deciding who you want to be in every walk of life. Making lists always sounds like an ineffective way to organize these sorts of things — they always get lost for one — but you can do this mentally. Divide your life into “professional” and “personal” categories, and tell yourself what labels you’d apply to yourself for each of those categories, and what labels other people would apply to you.
Really throw in every label you can think of, every position your job or status forces you to take. A typical list might include your job title as well as your relationship to other people. It could say “designer” for example, as well as “boss,” “employee,” “assistant” and “student,” and all at the same time.
Similarly, your personal list could include “brother,” “friend,” “colleague” and “neighbor.” Each of those titles brings their own skills and their own codes of behavior and each position always has the potential to be filled in a better way.
Once you’ve understood where you can improve your life now, you can draw up a third list, for “potential.” Here you would include all the positions you’d like to take. Those could include “business owner,” “Webbie award-winner,” “engineer.”
Believe that you already fit those labels and you won’t just be becoming better today, you’ll be becoming better for tomorrow too.