There are no perfect paths in life, nor has anyone spent their entire existence happy, secure, and moving forward towards all their dreams. Dark moments and rough patches are part of every person’s life, but you don’t have to let your failings or mistakes define you.
At the end of the day, we are responsible for the way we show our face to the world, and if we want to change our lives, then we must forge a new identity. Never let someone else tell you who you are or what your role in the world will be. If you want to be a commanding, powerful figure, then play the part. To paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi, Be the change you want to see in yourself.
People have been overcoming adversity to achieve great things since time immemorial. Instead of lying down and letting others tell you what your purpose is, you must reach out and make your own way in the world.
Consider the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, who was involved in a deadly car accident in 1969 that left his female companion dead and many unanswered questions floating around in the waters around Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts. Instead of allowing the controversy to break his spirit, he instead resolved to succeed and became a dedicated public servant and served as a respected U.S. senator for four decades.
The point is, wielding power in the wider world begins by taking control of your own life, avoiding meaningless excuses, and holding yourself accountable to your limitations and your potential. Being honest with yourself about your weaknesses is a great place to start, and that sincerity will come off as authenticity to others, which is important when you’re redefining yourself.
As Socrates once said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” You must first accept your mistakes and limitations and put them behind you. Once they are safely in your rear view mirror, you can focus on your strengths, which will be the foundation for this new, brighter, and better version of yourself.
However, the most important element in re-creating yourself is the mindset you carry with you. You need to be bold, shedding your old fears, trying new things, living purposefully, and appreciating the opportunities in your life as they arise. After redefining who you want to be and what you want to achieve in life, every situation will feel fresh, and each day will feel like a new opportunity for discovery. The face you show to the world must be bold, confident, and determined not to let anyone else shape your life. Traditions, expectations, and limitations foisted on you by others will only hinder the re-creation of your identity.
Jimmy Carter was the 39th President of the United States, but his life story is one of perpetual recreation. Following a successful career in the Navy, he was elected as a United States Senator, and then the governor of Georgia, before winning the US presidency in 1976. Most people would be satisfied with being the Commander in Chief, but Carter followed his presidency with his most impressive identity recreation. For more than 30 years, the Carter Center has been a beacon of hope for millions around the world, supporting human rights campaigns, affordable housing, international conflict resolution, and disease prevention. Jimmy Carter was even awarded the Nobel Prize in 2002 for his groundbreaking work, and remains the only US president to receive the prize for his work after leaving the White House.
Perhaps now you can see how identity is far from concrete. The creation of our identity never stops, and we must look at ourselves as malleable clay that we can shape as we grow. In a sense, we are artists, painting the masterpiece of our lives. Recognizing this opportunity can spark the process of re-creation, empowering us to grow up, take risks, make more mistakes, and eventually find greatness.