“That’s Just Who I Am. . . ” (Or 3 Ways To Think Outside Of Your Box Right Now!)

3 ways to think outside the box

It’s a popular stance in our culture, “That’s just who I am and they/you just need to accept that.” Who hasn’t gotten into an argument with a loved one only to have them retort, “that’s just who am and you have to accept me for who I am.” At the surface this makes sense, right?

I hear this from clients:

  • “My staff wants me to be more focused during meetings, but that’s who I am – I’m creative!”

From my kids I hear:

  • I’m just not clean, I just can’t remember to put away my shoes every day.”

And from friends I hear:

  • “Why is my husband always frustrated when I’m late, that’s just par for the course with me.”

The problem I find with these statements (and believe me, I use plenty of them myself!) is that they sabotage your ability to grow, change and engage in the world in a different way. When you declare yourself to be one thing, and stick to it, you close off a whole world of possibility for yourself and your life.

Do you want that? I didn’t think so!

Here are my top 3 strategies to think outside of your box and keep yourself in growth mode, even when you want to keep hanging on to what feels comfortable and retort, “that’s just who I am!”

Strategy 1: Who ELSE Are You?

You are a combination of many strengths – not just one. If one of your strengths is that you are very efficient at getting things done – perhaps another strength is that you build productive teams.

So if your team is complaining about the pace of your meetings, you could move your meeting focus from getting things done, to how to improve team dynamics and work more cooperatively. This could facilitate your team to work better together . . . eventually helping your achieve your productivity goals even though it’s a different pace.

Strategy 2: What Have You Previously Changed In Your Life?

My husband was reputedly very shy as a child. Then as an adult, he decided he wanted to be comfortable speaking in groups. Talking to him now, you would never suspect his previous “hiding under the table” ways.

Just as you have stories about “who you are,” I suspect you also have instances where you’ve stepped up, jumped through the flames and worked to change something that previously felt like it was who you were.

Sometimes looking back over your history and finding the times when you stepped up to the plate to take on a personal challenge and/or habit can give you a sense of your own power and capacity – your ability to re-create yourself and what’s possible for you.

Strategy 3: What Means More To You Than Staying The Same?

At the risk of sounding like a cliché, if you’re still unwilling to change, then you just haven’t found the right “price.” Many of us wait until things are really broken to change, such as when our job or marriage is on the line, when we might default on our mortgage, when we thought we’d never be THAT weight. Whatever your breaking point might be, might I politely suggest that you consider addressing this sticking point before you’re at that point?

A lot of the things you want are often just out of reach. And a lot of the change that you need to do to get there is just slightly more than what feels comfortable or easy to do.

So at the risk of telling you the obvious, next time someone is asking you to step up in a way that “just isn’t who you are,” consider what might be possible for you if you were a little less wedded to who you are, and a little more curious about who you could become.

Comment below about something that you think is “just who you are” but you are being asked to change.

And P.S. If one of the things you want is more visibility at work, my free Leadership Assessment tool has some great exercises for creating effective new habits that can become the “new-who-you-are.”

Jo Ilfeld, PhD

An executive leadership coach, Jo helps C-suite leaders, executives, and high-potential managers develop the flexibility, skill, and frame of mind to meet the challenges of the next five, ten, twenty years…. and beyond. She works with individuals, teams and organizations on four core areas of leadership development. Check out Jo's bio page for more information.

Leave a Comment