In fact, “who do you think you are” is the most important question you can ask yourself. Alongside its close cousin, “what do you think you want”, it is the very bedrock on which you build high performance or not.

The identity you have assumed for yourself affects how you perceive and respond to what is going on around you. It feels so deeply familiar to you that you don’t even realise the power it wields or how little resemblance it bears to reality (and indeed to how others perceive you).

It regulates every idea you have, each decision you make and every action you do or don’t take. In other words, it is what makes you ‘show up’ in the ways you do. If you could recognise and calibrate for this hidden lever, you could open up a whole world of new possibilities for your company and yourself. But is it possible to hack your own identity?

Nature or Nurture

There is evidence to suggest that some aspects of our personality are transmitted through DNA. But our identity is a function of the story we hard-wired into our brain during our formative years. It’s a complex representation of ourselves that we created through our observations and interactions.

Our identities help us locate and keep ourselves safe as we navigate through the world with all its complicated social interactions, hazards and opportunities. Sometimes our sense of identity propels us forward, excitedly and purposefully pursuing what it is we want. If this is what your identity does for you, you will have no reason to want to hack or interfere with it.

But most people’s sense of identity tends to limit and restrict their options and actions. It leaves them with a nagging doubt that they are somehow not enough or that the outcomes they want are beyond their levels of confidence, resilience and capability. This self-created cage has a positive if miscalculated intention; to keep you safe.

Noticing for identity

When I am working with people, I search for indications of how they see themselves and their situation relative to the others in the room. The labels they apply to themselves, the strengths and weaknesses they articulate, the things they say are all linguistic clues to the identity they are holding.

I also notice how people position themselves in the room and relative to each other. These subtle ‘tells’ reveal how people compare themselves to others. And everyone is holding a position of either dominance, subservience or equality, which shapes how they ‘show up’.

This skill was developed over time by paying conscious attention to it and remaining present to what is happening. It’s possible to do it with others and yourself, opening up to the possibility of self-awareness, the gateway to transformation.