So you think you know who you are?

Releasing our true potential begins with how we think. Getting clear on who we are and what we stand for is essential before embarking on massive positive change. The trouble is, you’re not who you think you are.

Most of us believe that we know our closest friends and family pretty well. We also tend to assume that we have an even better idea of who we are and what our strengths and limitations are. After all, we have been living as this person for some time.

Unfortunately, the situation is not actually that straight forward. It turns out that all of the memories that you have of every person that you know; details such as their character, likes and dislikes, and personality are just data that you have gathered over time. If a person exhibits the same behaviour over a prolonged period, you come to the conclusion that this behaviour describes an aspect of that person. This is not entirely accurate. You have data based on your perceptions, yes, but you do not truly know the actual person. This is why people always have the knack of surprising us, from time to time. They exhibit behaviour that we have not modelled in our own brains. In truth, we don’t truly know anybody; we only know the models of them in our heads.

Okay, you might say: if I can’t truly know other people, at least I know myself, right? Unfortunately, this is most likely to be false as well. In much the same way that you can only know models of other people in your head, you actually only have a model of yourself in your head. The data that your self-model is based on has been collected over your lifetime, thus far, and is based on your experiences, and your interpretation of those experiences.

“You” are a concept developed in your own brain.

There is freedom in this. If who you think you are presently is merely a model that you carry around in your own head, then that means that all of the weaknesses that you associate with this representation are potentially false. It also means that you can choose a whole new model of yourself; a new fiction to replace the old one, that is more conducive to achieving your goals.

Anybody who has played computer games has experienced the power of this kind of role-play, but for shorter periods. Whether it be a role that the player consciously creates, or one into which they are led by an engaging narrative, assuming a new context serves to focus our minds in novel and unique ways, and to solve problems and process experiences that are otherwise foreign to us. Playing a new role opens up new and very real possibilities for performance and the release of potential.

Over time, as you act from a new vision of yourself, some interesting things start to happen. For a start your brain actually adapts to accommodate it. This is because of the phenomenon of neuroplasticity, the ability of your brain to continuously adapt and change. As you continue to engage in the role of you-2.0, your brain gets better at acting as that person, and it gets integrated into “who you are.” On top of this, your brain’s reticular activating system begins to let you see the world in whole new ways. If you have ever had the experience of buying a car that you don’t see many examples of on the road, only to see loads driving around after you have bought yours, then you have experienced the power of this particular nerve bundle. It is this system that filters the huge amounts of data assailing your brain through all of your senses every second, and packages just what you need to be aware of as a conscious experience. By buying the car, you have “primed” this system to notice cars of the same type, which you previously ignored. Similarly, when you practice a new version of yourself, you prime the reticular activating system to look out for stimuli that match your new framework. You spot different opportunities, meet new people, and are drawn into situations that align with the “new you.”

It’s more about “what” you are.

Another question you might ask is: “If this is true, is there a real me lurking somewhere in here?” The answer to this question is less about the who and more about the what. The one thing that unites all of us is that we are human. This is something that is not to be taken for granted. For around 200,000 years modern humans have been walking the planet. Back then, life was incredibly hard, filled with disease, other murderous human beings, predators, and scarce food sources that were much competed for. The very reason you are here, today, is that your ancestors were tough, resourceful, adaptable, and creative. They were survivors. In fact they survived long enough to pass on their genetic survival toolkit, which would eventually find its way into you. This means that you, too, are an incredibly adaptable survivor. You can adapt to any situation and find a way to solve any problem.

If you are sitting there believing that this does not describe you, then there is a very good reason for this: The current model of yourself that you are holding in your brain. You are in your way.


Think of an ideal version of you. Write it down, just to get clear on it. Include all of the characteristics, abilities, and personality traits that you would like to have. How does this person live, what is their life like. Once you have done this, understand that this is who you are going to be from this day. To drive it home, learn about people who already have these characteristics whom you admire. Learn how they behave, then take on similar behaviours. Build yourself anew. If you need to take on new skills, learn them. We currently have unprecedented access to vast amounts of information to help us grow, use it. Remember, your primitive ancestors gave you the gift of dynamism and resilience that you probably haven’t even begun to tap. All we are doing here is augmenting who you think you are now to create a new vision that aligns with all your ultimate goals and dreams.

Be bold. Step forward as the person you want to be, with all of the possibilities they have, trust that you have what it takes, merely by being human.

Don’t worry about unseen challenges, you can solve them as they come. To help you along, we will be discussing how to tread an uncertain path next week.