Identity Is Only Thought Deep

What if you could wear different skin for a year? I have a friend who did that.

Did she literally put on a completely different skin-suit? No, she just wore the clothes that were already in her closet.

It was a huge change for her.

“I grew up,’ she explained, “With parents who bought things: additions to their collections, new furniture, new appliances. If they needed it, they bought it. If they wanted it, they bought it.” Contrast that with her husband’s parents. If they needed something, they tried to figure out how to use something they already had, or they did without. They improvised.

My friend enjoyed fashion. She loved looking at the latest looks. Shopping energized and entertained her. Like her parents, if she found shoes she loved, why not buy them? She wrapped herself in outfits and felt comfortable and secure.

As the beginning of a new year rolled around, my friend thought about what she might do differently in the next year, she reflected on the way some people like her in-laws avoided the yoke of purchases and also, how tied up she was in buying new clothes. What if she changed? What if, for the next twelve months, she didn’t buy any new clothes at all? Could she change her habit of frequent buying, she wondered? How would it feel to be a ‘not-buying’ person for a whole year?

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.” If thoughts ultimately shape your destiny, how do you shape your thoughts?

I’m not being scientific or a philosopher here, just thinking about what makes us think what we think. I think Emerson missed a piece. Your identity, who you think you are, should be in that mix somewhere. At the beginning, I think. “From your identity, you sow your thoughts.”

Let’s think about that. What if our thoughts flow from our perceived identities, our ‘I am a person who…’ narratives. If you believe you are a person who doesn’t spend money often, or is organized, or who never finishes what they start, or messes up relationships, then it is almost like you cannot be responsible for what you think and ultimately for your destiny.

I can image someone thinking, for example,

No pressure to hit send on that application for a new job. No need to as I never finish what I start.

Why bother thinking of the right thing to say when, of course I’m going to say the wrong thing, I always do.

What if you stepped into a new identity, a money-saving, organized super skin that doesn’t fear taking action or taking a relationship chance? Would embracing that identity change not just your thoughts, but your habits and your character?


Many years ago, as I ran along a trail in a local park, a woman ran past me going the other direction. I knew this woman’s younger brother had just turned fifty. That meant she was fifty-three or so and she was still running. Amazing, thought forty-three-year-old me. I decided right then as I ran down that path, that I, too, would be a person who would still be running at fifty-three. Almost twenty years later, I still run three miles three times a week. Most people who know me know I hate running. Just Hate It. Still, I  run. One day, I will wake up and I will not physically be able to run anymore. I know that. So, today, I run. I run because I can. I run because I am a person who runs.


“Have you heard of ‘Live Strong; Die Fast?’ ” a friend asked me over lunch? “You exercise and train with determination now so that you will be strong and able to fully function as you rack up the years,” he explained. As someone who has seen sixty come and go, the concept fascinated me.

As this year began and I considered goals and habits for the upcoming year, I focused less on what I wanted to accomplish for the year and more on who I wanted ultimately to be. Keeping in mind what my friend said about living strong, what if I were still running three times a week when I turned eighty? Will it still count as running if I have to use a walker, I pondered. Sure, why the hell not. Run, walk or crawl, I said to myself, I will lace up running shoes and go three miles three times a week. I wrote it down; it felt right.

Now here comes the interesting part.

Since I am a person who will still be running three miles three times a week at eighty, I have work to do!  I started skipping fewer days. I started running just a little bit faster, training harder. I joined a gym so that I could still get a run in during the short, dark days of winter. All because, how will I ever make it to 80 as a runner if I don’t start killing it now?

My thoughts have changed. My actions have changed. My habits have changed. Way off in the distance, it looks almost as if my destination has even shifted a few positive degrees to the right.

Most people like to think of destiny as something pre-determined. Something set for you by some outside force. I don’t know; maybe we are in a simulation and there is a gamer in the sky pushing button sequences that will determine our fate. Or maybe we adult humans are actually, individually responsible and where we end up is based on our self-accepted identities or our thoughts.  If that is true, then what if…

What if my fashion-friendly friend, by changing her buying habits, changed how she thought of herself?

What if by seeing myself as a crazy running granny, I changed my destiny?

What if we can pick out new, better skins and by thoughts and habits grow into them?

What if?

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