In 2010 one of my closest mentors gave me a piece of advice that I won’t soon forget. I was asking him why I hadn't been given the career title that I thought I deserved and He told me to forget about the career title I desperately craved and start being who I wanted to be, regardless of anyone bestowing upon me the label. He said, "Be the person you want to be tomorrow, today." He went on to tell me that titles and positions will come and go and not to get caught up with where others are at and focus on developing the habits and skills to become the person God created me to be, not who others would tell me I could be. It seems simple in hindsight but is still something that needs remembering.
An area I’ve often struggled with, primarily as an adult, but surely throughout my entire life, is comparison. More than I’d like to admit, I find myself discontent with certain aspects of my life. If it’s not noticing someone a few years younger than me with the career title I think I deserve; it’s questioning why my ‘big break’ hasn’t come in some area I’ve wanted it. Even more subtly though, it can come across as comparing where I’m currently at with where I once was or where I ache to be. Why don’t I have the faith I used to have? Why aren’t my friendships as strong as they once were? Why can’t I find the right city to live in or church to belong to? I find that the little comparisons I make or think about during the empty moments of my day are the ones that have the most significant impact on who I am and my life’s direction.
When we consistently develop habitual lifestyles emphasizing what we lack, we end up building our identity around that absence, and in-turn, become defined by it. Instead, we should focus our attention on developing into who we see ourselves becoming and who we are created to be. To start, we need to realize that we might not be where we want to be. It doesn’t move anything forward by convincing ourselves we are somewhere we aren’t. I can tell myself and those around me that I’m a photographer, but until I start making images and learning the craft of photography, I’m not. Another example would be that I can’t become a husband without first going through the stages of dating and engagement. When we aspire to jump from the start to the end in one fell swoop and leap over everything in between, we only cheat ourselves. The process is important. For those I know who were handed things without the work, almost every time it ended poorly for them in some way or another, even if later down the road. It’s in the process we are refined. It’s in the process we overcome the small challenges that prepare us to surmount the significant struggles.
I remember once watching a video from Casey Neistat early during his daily vlogging days that echoed a similar sentiment. He said, “The only thing standing between you and everything you’ve ever wanted in life is doing it.” For many, myself included, it seems that we all have aspirations of where we want to be and who we want to become, but we ourselves are typically the guilty culprits of limiting potential. We define ourselves by who we are not instead of who we are. Words carry power. More than naught, the words we speak over ourselves are words of doubt, frustration, fear, and condemnation. Because we so often repeat the areas of failure in our lives, we become more prone to fail while striving to achieve greater heights. The glossary of words we use for self-description needs updating with words of life, meaning, and truth.
To realize our potential and reach our objectives, we need to set our sights beyond our desired horizons. It's imperative to fully believe, with both head and heart, that we can achieve our goals and walk into that destiny. However, if deep within our core, we don’t suppose we have what it takes or that perhaps God created us incorrectly without the necessary skills or ideas, we won’t reach our goals or ever even take the first steps toward them. A penetrating understanding of who God has created us to be is required. When we have misaligned perspectives surrounding our identity as people, we are prone to compare and become discontent because we are unable to see value in the things we have or who we are. There's a never-ending amount of words written and ideas shared around practical strategies to becoming the people we know we can be. However, if we don’t have the proper foundation and identity, we may just be building houses of passion and determination which easily fall flat when challenged by the first or second storm that comes our way.
It’s true, the only thing standing between us and our dreams is doing it. We can become the people today who we know we want to be tomorrow, but if all we are doing is building monuments to ourselves in an attempt to quench our comparison thirst, then we’ve never arrived at our ultimate goal. What is desperately needed to succeed, avoid comparison, and become who we are meant to be, is a right understanding of who we are in light of who God is. We are all shaped by something. Either our identity will be fashioned by God, in whom all things consist, or it will be formed through comparison and by a world that is always telling us what we have is never enough. Today is the day to become who you want to be tomorrow.