First off, it is very important to understand what identity really is before one tries to discover it, just as it would be hard to find gold if you did not know what you were looking for. When I ask people, “who are you?”, they almost always answer with either their profession, or an activity that they love or excel at. But these things are NOT your identity. They may very well be a direct reflection or extension of your identity, but they themselves are not who you are. This is because at any moment, you could be fired from your job, or you could sustain an injury that keeps you sidelined from your favorite sport. In other words, these things could all be taken from your life in a manner that is ultimately out of your control. What I consider identity, is who you are inside at your very roots. It is a culmination of your core values, heart-felt beliefs, and innate characteristics. These things, unlike a job or activity, CANNOT be taken from you, they are completely in your control, and under your undisputed ownership.
After going through this thought process, and distinguishing for yourself who you really are, the next step in this model is to cultivate a purpose out of that authentic identity. This is done by taking the unique characteristics and beliefs that define you, and turning them into a “why”, or reasoning for everything that you do. If who you are, for example, is a loving person, then your purpose, or your “why”, may be to help and love as many people as possible. Formulation of this purpose provides and acts as a filter in your decision-making process that is built directly on the backbone of who you are and your identity.
From here, with every decision that a person faces, they are able to play through the scenario in their head, and if the potential result from the decision does not compliment, or enhance the purpose, or the “why” behind what you do, then it generally is not the best decision to make. In the end, by making decisions in-line with this individualized purpose, one is always following their personalized “mission statement”, which in turn is sticking whole-heartedly and authentically to their true identity.
Upon this discovery of identity, and cultivation of purpose, one is able to make a decision on what it is that they should and want to pursue as meaningful action. This is done by finding something, or a combination of things that one both loves to do, and is good at, and then from there, identifying something that the world needs. After establishing what these are individually, the ability to utilize proclaimed passion and skill towards a related societal purpose is opened up. By embarking on this journey, and committing to this way of thought and self-exploration, who you are can be translated into meaningful, purposeful action.
Again, in a more simple light, this is the unique model:
Identity(Who?) -> Purpose(Why?) -> Decision Making -> Action