Many people experience this unsatisfying gap — they are in place A but would like to get to place B. But they have no idea how to bridge that gap.
Fortunately, there are ways to get unstuck. Adopt the right behaviors, and change won’t be long in coming
Learn how to become the person you want to be, why you must seek out challenges, and what role self-awareness plays in all of that.
1. Increase Your Self-Awareness
To become the person you want to be, you must get to know yourself first. You must understand who you are, where you are coming from, and what motivates you.
The problem — most of us are blind to ourselves. We have never learned to listen to ourselves, to closely observe what is going on within us. In essence, we have been sleepwalking through life.
In this state of oblivion, we cannot choose a direction. One moment, we will be running after one option, and the next moment, we will be running after another option. Everything seems equally enticing to us.
To overcome this, you must systematically work on increasing your self-awareness. These are the four tools that I recommend:
Reading forces you to take up the viewpoint of somebody else. You get to know how other, more aware individuals go about observing and assessing the world. Over time, this will improve your attention to detail. You still start picking up on things about yourself and others that you were previously missing.
To be clear, when I am talking about the reading, I am not talking about the new John Grisham. Think the classics of world literature. Think the classics of philosophy. Think the foundational texts of psychoanalysis. Even some self-help authors can be eye-opening (Harry Browne comes to mind).
Another great tool to increase self-awareness is journaling. Reflecting on your thoughts in writing will force you to pay closer attention to yourself. You will discover certain dysfunctional patterns that you are prone to. And you will start pondering the root causes of these patterns. Therefore, make journaling a daily habit. 5–10 minutes are all it takes to make progress.
Consider working with a therapist or a good coach. Where you are blind to yourself, an observant outsider will see right through you. They will also push you toward facing your delusions. This process will save you a lot of time and energy in the long run. You will become more aware and therefore be more effective in life.
Two tips for getting the most out of this process.
First, try more than one therapist or coach. The first person is rarely the right person. You have to keep looking around until you find somebody you truly click with. The business maxim of, “Hire fast, fire faster,” also applies to therapy/coaching.
Second, go with someone who pushes you without overtaxing you. There is no point in working with a professional if they are just pampering you. Their job is to challenge you. At the same time, they must challenge you only as much as you can take it. If they expect too much too quickly, you will crash. Look for someone who knows how to walk this thin line.
All tools mentioned so far rely on the conscious mind to become more self-aware. But that is only half of the equation. The other half is to learn how to step outside of your conscious mind and watch yourself, just being. That is the essence of meditation.
The two — self-analysis and meditation — are often played off against each other. But they are partners, not opposites. The first can give you clarity. And from that clarity springs action. It will help you to accomplish your goals.
But when you are so fixated on becoming, you tend to forget about being. Meditation will fix that. It will pull you back into the now. It will enable you to deeply appreciate the world around you.
You need both. You need to make the unconscious conscious (= self-analysis). And you need to be able to exit the conscious mind whenever you need a break from it. That’s the fullest expression of self-awareness.
Do the Work
I realize this all sounds kinda wishy-washy. You came here to learn about “How to become the person you want to be” and I am telling you to read, journal, do therapy, and meditate. Could I be any more vague?
Also, all of these activities require a lot of time and effort. That is why so many people don’t bother with them. They would rather focus on tangible projects — landing a good job, starting a family, or finding a fun hobby. But if you always opt for the tangible and skip the “ethereal” work, you will eventually hit a ceiling. You won’t be able to realize your full potential.
Stop putting this off. To succeed with “How to become the person you want to be,” you must develop self-awareness. It might be a long journey with an uncertain outcome, but it needs to happen.
2. Pick an Archetype
Whenever you aspire to become something new, we are essentially talking about archetypes. These are idealized roles passed down to us via cultural narratives. Here are a few examples:
- The entrepreneur. “I would like to be this ultra-successful business person, founding one unicorn startup after another.”
- The vamp. “I would like to be this daringly attractive woman that men lust after and that other women are jealous of.”
- The gangster. “I would like to be this tough guy who is not scared of anything, but who has everybody scared of him.”
- The kind soul. “I would like to be this caring type, somebody who looks out for the less fortunate.”
- The adventurer. “I want to travel the world by myself and face all kinds of unexpected challenges on the road.”
- The artist. “I want to express my existential crisis through my abstract paintings and be surrounded by other artsy types.”
There are many more of these archetypes, too many to list here. If you are interested, go check out my article on sexual archetypes. The Jungian system of archetypes is another interesting starting point.
What it comes down to — everybody has an archetype they feel more drawn to than others; the trick is to find yours and cultivate it. When you have clarity about your archetype, many things will fall into place.
To start this process, make a list of all the people you admire and find interesting. Think of:
- Fictional characters in books and movies
- Mythological figures
- Friends that you are impressed by
- Celebrities like actors or singers
Try to come up with at least 10 to 20 examples. Now, look at commonalities. Are there certain roles or character traits that keep popping up? This might hint at your archetype.
Another method you can try is to ask your friends. Pose the following question to them: “In my best moments, what fictional or mythological figure do I remind you of?” Then take the names they gave you and analyze what archetypes they represent. This might be you.
To be clear, I am not advising that you blindly buy into a stereotype. Archetypes are a starting point, not a dogma. You are of course free to put your individual twist on them. The goal is not to put you in a box but to help you understand who you want to become.
3. Think About Your Goals
The next, more specific level is to think about your goals. What do you actually want to accomplish in life?
A good starting point is to think about core areas of your life and define goals for each of them, such as:
- Your job, aka what you do for a living
- Your finances, aka how much you ideally want (or need) to make
- Your sexual and romantic relationships, aka the type of person you would like to be intimate with
- Your friends, aka the people you enjoy spending time with
- Your hobbies, aka the things you do for fun and to unwind
Be careful though — many people are too quick to jump on readymade goals, like “get a promotion at work,” or, “get married.” They will go with what everybody else does, either for lack of creativity or for fear of deviating from the social script.
Don’t let that be you. “How to become the person you want to be,” is not an exercise in living up to other people’s expectations. If you would rather start a content business than show up at your cubicle each morning, go for it. If you would rather go to sex parties than have vanilla sex with your husband, find a party nearby.
Another great method to come up with goals that excite you is to think about your ideal day. If you got to pick what to do each day, free from any commitments, what would you do? Live in a beach villa? Spend your time skiing in the Alps? Design your own clothes? Practice the guitar?
Be specific. Plan your whole day, from getting up in the morning to getting ready for bed at night. Once you have a clear vision for your perfect day, then backward engineer your ideal life. What would need to happen on a global scale to have one ideal day after another? What benchmarks would you have to hit, e.g., in terms of income or skill set?
4. Live Outside the Box
Many of us, when we ponder our goals, quickly settle for the trodden path. We end up doing what everybody else is doing — go to college, get a job, get married, have kids, etc. It either never crosses our mind, that there could be other options out there. Or if it does, it scares us witless.
But if you always just follow the herd, eventually, you will come to regret it. There will come a point when you start to notice more and more cracks in the facade:
- Most people hate their 9-to-5 jobs and would never continue to do them unless they had bills to pay.
- Most people hate being stuck a in monogamous marriage and hence resort to porn, cheating, and mutual resentment.
- Most people come to regret their blind consumerism, with student loans, mortgages, and credit card debts suffocating them.
Hence, think twice before blindly buying into the white picket fence life. Deviating from the social script might seem scary at first. But long term, it might also save a lot of pain. At least try out more non-conventional forms of living first (e.g., online entrepreneurship, non-monogamy, minimalism). If you don’t like them, you can still go back.
5. Revel in the Pain
A lot of mainstream self-help advice boils down to, “You are good enough.” There is no need to change or take action. Just learn to accept yourself as you are, that wonderful individual who has so much to this world, yadda yadda yadda.
Don’t buy into this nonsense.
It might not be a popular opinion, but most people are not good enough. They are full of shortcomings and currently offer little value to the world.
If you try to paint over these glaring deficits by telling yourself “I am good enough,” you will never address them. You will never experience the level of success and satisfaction that you are indeed capable of — if you put in the hard work.
Don’t try to dodge the pain. Glare at that large gap between where you are currently and where you would like to be. Use that as fuel.
It comes down to this:
- You can be in denial about your deficits and evade the pain for the moment. But you will pay the price for your delusional behavior later.
- Or you can acknowledge your deficits, and experience the pain now. But by letting it spur you into action, you will be much better off further down the road.
6. Stop Blaming Others
Many people claim they would like to improve their lives, but then cite all kinds of reasons why it’s not meant to be.
“My partner is not supportive of my dreams.”
“The economy is really bad right now, no point in starting a business.”
“How can I be successful with all these immigrants stealing our jobs?”
“I am clearly not getting promoted because I’m in a minority group.”
There is no point in blaming others, even if you happen to be right. You will just waste your life away being angry.
Also, many people enjoy playing the victim card. It gives them permission to postpone action. If the “system” is broken (whatever that means to you), it is the perfect excuse to stay where you are. You don’t have to push against your comfort zone.
The solution is to take radical responsibility for yourself. No matter where you are in life, no matter what happens to you — assume it is your fault (more often than not, it is). And when everything is your fault, it follows that you must fix the problem. You are responsible, and nobody else:
- If you don’t like how a certain person treats you, find a better person.
- If you don’t like your 9-to-5 existence, quit your job and start a business that you are passionate about.
- If you don’t have many sexual or romantic options, work on becoming more attractive and charming.
- If you don’t like the political situation in your country or how they tax you, move to a different country.
There is never a point in complaining. There is only a point in taking action — radical action — and making things better for yourself.
7. Understand Consistency
To create yourself, you must understand consistency. You become what you repeatedly do.
If you start practicing the guitar today for 3–4 hours each day, 10–15 years from now, you will be a professional musician.
If you start training in BJJ today and show up to class every day, 7–10 years from now, you will be a black belt.
If you start a content creation business today, e.g., a blog or a YouTube Channel, and spend 4–6 hours on it every day, in 2–3 years, it will pay the bills.
There is no uncertainty here. Do the thing, and you become the thing. It’s as sure as death and taxes.
8. Start Small
Most people, when they try to change the trajectory of their lives, get carried away by their initial enthusiasm.
“It’s a brand new me. I am going to get ripped / start an online business / get over my social anxiety, etc.” (whatever their vision might be).
But this energy wears off quickly. Within a few short weeks, they back to ordering takeout and watching Netflix.
The problem — they start big. They sign up for the gym and start going there every day for two hours. They start a reading habit and commit to reading 50 pages a day.
In the beginning, when you are still high on enthusiasm, this works. But as the energy wears off, you start to slip up. Then you slip up more often. Then you stop altogether.
To succeed, you must do the opposite of what everybody is doing — you must start small. Start so incredibly small that the effort seems ridiculous. Do one push-up a day. Read one paragraph in a business book.
Keep doing this every day for a week, no matter how silly this feels. In week two, go up to two push-ups or two paragraphs. In week three, three push-ups or three paragraphs.
At the end of the year, you will be doing 50+ push-ups per day or reading 50+ paragraphs per day. That is significant. Keep with these habits, and they will change your life.
Understand that self-discipline works like a muscle — the more you train it, the more it adapts. When you start small, you give your self-discipline muscle the time it needs to grow. Now you can gradually take on bigger workloads without breaking down. But overtax it, and it will break down.
Going small is the shortcut.
9. Let Go of Perfectionism
Many of us never take action because we unrealistic expectations. We want to get it “right” the first time, or not bother with it at all.
“I am either going to write a bestseller or not write a book at all.”
“I am either going to win this athletic competition or not participate in it.”
“I am either going to buy the absolute best camera equipment or no camera.”
Don’t get me wrong — I am all for aspiring to excellence. In the long run, that is what’s going to set you apart from the competition.
But it’s not how you start. In the beginning, it is perfectly fine to take imperfect action. In fact, there is no way around it. You are trying to master a new field. How could you expect to get it right the first time, when it took others in the same field 10 years or more to master it?
The root cause of perfectionism is narcissism. “I am so extraordinarily special, I should be able to master whatever right from the get-go.” So, to not prove yourself wrong, you simply don’t get started. It’s a very convenient excuse.
Don’t let that be you. Remind yourself, “I have to look a fool first to make it look effortless later.” It’s a cheesy self-help cliche but it’s also true — you fail your way to success. Don’t let your ego get in the way of your results.
10. Expose Yourself to Challenges
To become the best you can be, you must expose yourself to challenging situations.
This is the opposite of what most people do, especially in the West. We grow up extremely sheltered and then continue to avoid all hardships as adults.
But hardships build character. By facing and overcoming obstacles, you learn to keep your calm under pressure. You condition yourself to look for solutions. You experience yourself as capable.
Fortunately, you can still expose yourself to challenges as an adult and reap the benefits that come from it.
A few activities that I suggest:
Start training in a full-contact martial art like MMA. Experiencing and learning how to deal with physical violence (in a controlled setting, of course), will build your resilience and your character like few other activities.
Talk to strangers. Whenever you see an attractive stranger, reach out to them (figuratively). For example, you might tell them, “Hey, I know it’s a bit unusual, but I just saw you walking by and thought you looked really attractive. So, I had to come over and say hi. Hi, I’m Niels.” It sounds innocent enough, but you will be surprised by how much inner resistance you will encounter. It will feel like a Herculean task — this is how much we fear rejection. But do it every day anyway, and you will grow with the challenge.
Start a side hustle. In business, most social niceties go out the window quickly. There is money to be had and people want that badly. By starting a side hustle, like copywriting or working as a virtual assistant, you will get to experience that competition (even if just on a small scale). People will try to get freebies out of you, not pay due invoices, or steal your great idea. It might come as a shock at first to see the underbelly of the market. But you will also grow from it. You will let go of certain delusions and learn to assess people. You will understand when to be nice and when to play hardball.
My final suggestion — try long-term travel. Taking yourself out of your usual, safe environment will do wonders for your personal development. This is even more true if you travel outside the West and skip the touristic destinations. Haggle with Egyptian taxi drivers, trying to rip you off. Go to boxing class in macho Ukraine. Have a yelling contest with your crazy Greek date. To be clear — I love all of these places. But life works differently outside of the US and Europe, as you will find out quickly when you actually go live there. And that’s a good thing. It will open up new perspectives. You will start to question everything — your upbringing, your values, your social norms, even your sexual identity. It will be hard at times, and you will feel lost at times, but it will also induce massive growth.
Bottom line — seek out challenges, seek out hardships.
11. Surround Yourself With the Right People
Any learning process, any process of becoming, will be greatly enhanced by the right people. If you move in circles that are supportive of your journey and possibly even provide you with role models, your quest of “How to become the person you want to be,” will almost be guaranteed to be successful. You really become who you hang out with.
So, if your growth process is about wealth and financial independence, hang out with other entrepreneurs. If your process is about becoming a tough guy, join the Marines. If you striving for spiritual enlightenment, move to an ashram in India.
It sounds silly when I put it like this. But it works. If everybody around you is obsessed with the same goal as you are, their energy and commitment will rub off on you. Not only that, but you will also supercharge your learning curve. Nothing teaches you a new skill set like living around practicians.