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Identity Goals

I was four years old when I first remember being asked what I want to be when I grow up. My mom had a friend named Steve and whenever we visited my Grandma he would stop by and say hello. One afternoon my brother and I were throwing dirt clods at each other in the yard when he asked us what we wanted to be when we grew up. Ben picked up another dirt clod, wound up, and threw it as hard as he could at the barn before saying confidently, "A professional baseball player."

Steve laughed, "How about you?" Nodding in my direction. I thought about it for a few seconds, and shrugged. I knew my brother loved baseball, but the only thing I loved was Dinosaurs. I didn't know the word "paleontologist" yet so I just picked up another dirt clod and went on with my afternoon.

I don't think any adult that asks kids what they want to be when they grow up have ill intentions, but I do think there is a better question we can ask. A question that may seem the same at first, but will help people make intentional decisions about their future. A question that will help people focus on identity instead of achievements.

We always ask, "What do I want to do?" Rather, we should be asking, "Who do you want to be?"

The term for this is identity-based goal setting. It's an important piece of goal setting that has been left out of the conversation for too long. We ask students what their GPA is, but we forget to ask if they're the type of student that helps others learn. We ask athletes how many points they scored, but we don't ask if they encouraged their teammates when things weren't going their way. To be successful, we need a solid combination of performance based-goals and identity-based goals.

Performance Based Goals:

Goals based on how you perform. Success is defined by a number or metric. They are based on outcomes.

Identity Based Goals:

Based on who you believe that you are. Starts with the person and leads to desirable outcomes.

Want to lose weight? Become the type of person who make consistently healthy decisions.

Want to be financially responsible? Become the type of person who makes budget based decisions.

Want to be intelligent? Become the type of person who learns something new every day.

If there is something you want to do, start by evaluating what type of person does that thing, then become that person.


Change your social media bio to who you want to become, even if you aren't that person yet. Changing behavior starts with believing you're the type of person to behave that way.


What is one performance based goal you have? How can you change it to an identity based goal?


"Goal Setting is about the direction, not the destination." - Kareem Saqer

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