If I ask you this question you might answer with your profession, ethnic or religious identity, sexuality, political beliefs, or nationality.
Or you might give an entirely different answer.
But an even more important question is who do you want to be?
We often avoid this question because it seems so open-ended or vague. But it doesn’t have to be.
10 steps to figuring out what kind of person you want to be
1) Find role models
One of the smartest steps to figuring out what kind of person you want to be is to find role models to look up to.
As youngsters, we have adults, teachers, coaches and parents who have qualities and skills we admire.
And as a young adult, a middle-aged person, or even a senior you still have role models from your past and present who embody what you want to be.
Study how they talk, walk, make decisions and conduct themselves in life. Then aspire to that.
Pay particular attention to those in our society who care about those around them.
“A role model is other-focused as opposed to self-focused. Role models are usually active in their communities, freely giving of their time and talents to benefit people,”
writes Marilyn Price-Mitchell, who studied the effect of role models on young students.
“Positive role models are also linked to self-efficacy, the ability to believe in ourselves.
In fact, the young people in my study admitted that had they not learned to believe in themselves, they would not have been capable of believing they could make a difference in the world!”
This is great advice for any student of life! Role models to look up to is one of the most essential steps to figuring out what kind of person you want to be.
2) What are you missing?
One of the best steps to figuring out what kind of person you want to be is, to be honest about what you’re missing.
Do you struggle with opening up emotionally to others and are seen as incommunicative?
Do you have anger problems and lash out harshly when there are basic frustrations in life?
Do you have a serious issue with impatience to the point where you want to cut in line or swear under your breath when you have to wait too long at the bank?
These are all qualities that can be built up.
As Michelle Williams writes, her personal weakness revolves around feeling not good enough and scared of being rejected.
“My main weakness has always been fear of rejection. This is not uncommon, but it can be crippling,”
“Fear of rejection can stop you from doing many things throughout your life. It keeps you from taking chances, making friends, asking for help and effectively communicating with other people.
It has cost me jobs, two marriages and opportunities for romance. Ultimately, it has stunted my growth as a human being.”
3) Listen to what life’s telling you
Be honest about your faults and past shortcomings in terms of life experience.
You may be the successful CEO of a Fortune 500 company or have a loving wife who praises your attentiveness, but deep down you know the company is actually failing and your wife is cheating on you.
Life is telling you to be upfront with shareholders about the company’s financial state and to find the courage to confront your wife.
Sometimes being too nice can actually be a problem.
If you want steps to figuring out what kind of person you want to be, start with figuring out what life and the universe are telling you.
It may be warning you that you’re too nice, or it may be telling you to become more organized, harder working, or more compassionate.
4) Be honest about your relationship and family priorities
One of the most important steps to figuring out what kind of person you want to be is to make some hard decisions about relationships.
This includes friendships, family ties and romantic connections.
Take a long, honest look at the ten most important relationships in your life. Then decide which ones are leading you to become the kind of person you want to be, and which are dragging you further away from that goal.
This could require prioritizing some relationships over others or even ending some.
“Relationships take time and effort. Prioritizing relationships enables fulfillment of your personal vision and mission by establishing the importance and precedence that each relationship has in your life,”
“This choice consciously addresses the question of “Who will be most important in encouraging me to become the person I would like to be now and into the future?”
This is exactly the right question to be asking.
5) Make an action plan
All the plans in the world won’t do a lick of good if they never get put into action.
That’s why it’s crucial to turn your ideas of who you want to be into an action plan.
If you want to become a highly generous person then write five ways you can enact generosity in the coming month.
If you wish to become more honest then call yourself out with a punishment:
Every single time you tell a lie – even a white lie – no beer (or insert thing you enjoy) for a week! Try this out for a month or two and you’ll begin seeing rapid results moving you closer to the kind of person you want to be.
6) Breakthrough the programming and modern myths that are imprisoning you
Many of us are subject to strong media myths and self-limiting programming that traps us into an unfulfilling and shallow life.
If you want to know the best steps to figuring out what kind of person you want to be you need to clear away the static and hear what the universe is saying to you.
It’s impossible to get in touch with your inner authenticity if you’re trapped in a little cubicle designed for you by people without your best interests at heart.
If you just follow the script then your life will go something like:
- Believe what others do and what keeps you accepted by the group
- Consume, buy, enjoy and have fun
- Don’t question the overarching power structures running your life
- Or if you do question them, make sure to use the right hashtag and corporate-sponsored logo
As the shaman Rudá Iandê says:
“Unless we understand the trap, we’re fated to be turned into pawns of the social machine, wasting our lives in the pursuit of the impossible, going down a rabbit hole whose end has nothing more for us than frustration and pain.”
7) How do you want to be remembered?
Sadly, all of us will one day be physically gone from this world.
But whether or not you believe in an afterlife, what we do here has a big impact.
How do you want to be remembered by future generations and your children and loved ones after that happens?
If you believe in God or the spiritual world, how do you want to be judged or welcomed into that world based on the life you’ve led?
Is your life something you could look back on and feel a sense of pride and joy.
Or would you look back with dread and wonder what the hell you’d been thinking?
Now and then try thinking about this deep and hard.
“Many of us lead lives dictated by old programs formed in childhood about how we should be or do.
This can lead to being cautious, people-pleasing, controlling, resistant or even rebellious. Is this who we really are or want to be?”
8) Make an eight-word bio that will stand the test of time
At the bottom of this page is a short author bio about me. It focuses on my work.
I want you to create a powerful eight-word bio that summarizes the eight key qualities and skills you wish to be known for and have applied to you in this life.
This is one of the most effective steps to figuring out what kind of person you want to be in life and the roles and skills that mean the most to you.
Here are two totally different examples for fictional people doing this exercise.
Linda is a single 31-year-old from California. She’s always dreamed of moving to Texas where her family used to live when she was a young girl. She loves the environment and is also a devout evangelical Christian. Here is her eight-word bio for who she wants to be.
Linda: mother, loving girlfriend, protector of nature and our environment, real estate agent, gardener, Christian, consoler, Texan.
Linda wants to become a mom, work to help the natural world, and grow in her Christian faith.
Why would Linda include “Texan” in the bio of the things most important to who she wants to be? Have you ever been to Texas? Trust me it’s a thing.
Next up we have a 44-year-old Haitian-French university researcher called Jean-Luc.
His family immigrated to French when he was 15 and he lost his dad to cancer two years later. He’s researching cutting-edge medical technology and hopes to one day cure cancer so his son won’t have to experience losing him, too.
Jean-Luc: honest, tech innovator, lover of hip hop dance, curer of disease, family man, generous giver, Buddhist, calm person.
9) Write out goals that align with qualities you want to embody
It’s very important to align your goals with your values and the qualities you want to embody.
If you want to be better at empathizing with others, don’t take a job as a repossessor or a bounty hunter.
If you want to stand up for boundaries and encourage a culture of self-responsibility then maybe do take a job as those things.
If your goal is to get married at 30 and buy a house, ask yourself why you want that goal. Is it something truly deep inside you or a value you’ve been conditioned to by the outer society?
If you want a life of freedom and flexibility ask yourself why that’s such a motivation for you. Is it true to you or is it just inspired by some movies you’ve seen and a vague aversion to commitment?
Align your goals with who you truly want to be, not society’s version of you.
“What do you value most? What do you stand for as a human being?”
“Once you have a clear picture of your personal values, you’re more likely to put into place goals that are congruent with who you are as a person.”
10) Strive to keep growing, not to reach a plateau of perfection
We often crave to know what’s at the end of the journey or when we’ll finally “hit the jackpot.”
But this mentality is what keeps us on the hamster wheel, always chasing that moment when everything will be “perfect.”
I’ll spoil it for you right now: that moment isn’t coming.
The epic French poem Parsifal, made into an opera by Richard Wagner, explores this theme well also. The hero searches for years to find the Holy Grail but goes about it incorrectly.
He tries again and after years of struggles, he gets a second chance. Then the poem ends…
The point? His journey is our journey, and the ending isn’t the point.
The truth – as blogger Matt Williams observes – is that the real meaning of life comes in the journey itself, not in the destination.
“Do you set goals? Of course you do! But goals are not destinations. Goals are guideposts along the journey,”
“The journey was the point all along.”
Becoming your best self
Hopefully, this guide has given you some helpful insights on what kind of person you want to be.
Deciding who you are and your future goals is outstanding.
However, clarifying who you want to be and the qualities you want to hold to in the future are crucial to building a life of authenticity and purpose.
By having a clear vision of who you want to be down the road you can start taking the first steps to becoming your best self.