The ClientWise Blog

"You define yourself by what you can do, not what you can't!"

Posted by Chris Holman on Mar 22, 2011 9:59:00 AM


You may have noticed the mythic tale of Anthony Robles, born without a right leg, who won the NCAA 125-pound wrestling championship over the weekend.

More complete stories of his heroically epic story can be seen here and here. What caught my eye was something this young man said:

“You define yourself by what you can do, not what you can’t.”

This reminds me of an excellent essay that I once read by Marshall Goldsmith, the author and executive educator, “Change the Way You Define Yourself.”

Goldsmith says that we all have characteristics and behaviors that we use to define who we are. On the success side, we might describe ourselves as, “intelligent”, “results-oriented”, or “persistent”. On the not-so-success side, we all have some self-definitions that frame us in a negative light, e.g. “stubborn”, “opinionated”, or “inflexible”.

Goldsmith points out that one of the greatest challenges that we face, when seeking to improve ourselves, is the challenge of changing the way that we define ourselves. We do this by pigeonholing ourselves with absolute characteristics and say, “That’s just who I am”, or “It is what it is”.

The problem becomes that we use “That’s just who I am”, as a rationale NOT to change…even when change is desirable and possible.

As Goldsmith goes on to say, unless a behavior is shaped by genetic preconditions (born that way) or environmental factors (external factors that prohibit us from changing), very few behaviors are immutable to change…should we have the motivation and desire to do so.

And as Anthony Robles has demonstrated, sometimes “genetic preconditions” can’t stand in our way either!

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Topics: Change