Most people have a desire to improve their lives in some shape or form. But as we all know, change can be hard. Instead of changing, most people stay stuck in the same repetitive loops that continuously repeat their entire lives.
But it’s a hidden attachment we all have to something we don’t usually think much about that directly sabotages our efforts and prevents us from seeing the changes we wish to take root in our lives.
What is this hidden attachment? It’s your attachment to who you are–actually, who you think you are–essentially, it’s your attachment to your self-identity that keeps you stuck.
Identity. We all have one. Have you taken the time to consciously think about yours lately?
You see, you’re not actually who you think you are, and this is, in fact, excellent news.
One of the keys to transforming your life is getting proactive about consciously creating and being open to continuously reinventing the “story of me“.
Psychedelics Can Help, But We Need to Show Up to Do Our Inner Work
Many people seek out psychedelics or sacred plant medicines because they long for change to transpire in their lives. There’s a common misconception, however, that we can just show up to the altar, and the plant medicines will do all the work for us.
Psychedelics and sacred plant medicines are powerful tools and allies for transformation. I believe they can help shape and forge us into leaders, entrepreneurs, creatives, and change-makers with the bodhisattva spirit so we can collectively hold a vision for a more harmonious future, and cultivate the courage to step out and lead the way towards that future.
Even though psychedelics can support us on the path, we need to be willing to show up and do our inner work. But what does that mean? And how do we do that? And what cognitive tools, conceptual frameworks, or even wisdom teachings can we draw upon for support?
We now know that psychedelics help support neuroplasticity, and also support fundamental changes in our personality––changes that are hard to make on our own––including a trait called openness. If we can tilt our personality scales towards more “openness,” one of the many ways we can benefit is by simply becoming more open to making changes, and opening our minds to new possibilities.
My philosophy is that we can leverage this window of heightened cognitive malleability that plant medicines offer us, to help us wake up to the better version of ourselves we long to align with.
In this guide, we’ll explore why you get stuck, how you can learn to consciously upgrade your identity, and the stories you tell yourself in order to truly transform your life, and how working with psychedelics helps lay a solid foundation for us to do just that.
The Story of You
Who you are–your identity–is simply the story you tell yourself. You have repeated this story so many times, over and over and over again, it becomes your personal narrative, and forms the basis of the repeated thoughts you think.
Now, here’s the catch: because you’ve repeated the same story so often, you fully believe the story you tell yourself…about yourself. Because you believe it, you don’t question it, but rather, accept it as face value. This is why we don’t really spend much time thinking about our identity and self construct because we just think that this is who we are, and we’re a little too close to the subject.
The raw materials that make up your stories are beliefs. Beliefs are like hidden contracts you signed with the Universe a very long time ago that dictate what you believe to be true, especially about what is and isn’t, possible.
Get this–about 70% of the stories you tell yourself are woven from self-limiting rather than self-empowering beliefs. Because of the well-documented negativity bias, the stories we routinely tell ourselves tend to focus on what’s wrong rather than on what’s right with the world. No wonder so many of us seek a break from ourselves and long for change!
We tell stories about everything–literally, everything. Politics. Religion. Family. Love. Science. You name it. Think of these stories as useful conceptual frameworks or mental models we build that are representations of reality that help us process, interpret, and understand the world around us and our experience within it. The use of stories is how we fundamentally create meaning for our lives.
One of my favorite thought-leaders of our time, Yuval Noah Harari, illuminates this so eloquently in his New York Times best-selling book Sapiens. Take the idea or the story of “economy”, for example. When you think about what the economy is, it’s actually just a concept. There’s nothing concrete that you can put your finger on and say this is it, this is the “economy”.
No — instead, the “economy” is a crafted storyline that we have collectively chosen to believe, that has mobilized hundreds of millions of people — billions of people—to work towards a shared vision. We essentially believe the same lie, which of course isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but a work of fiction nonetheless. This capacity to collectively believe stories of fiction is one of the primary reasons homo sapiens have been so successful as a species.
But of all the stories you tell and the mental models you build, the most reliable, robust mental model you’ve constructed and hold in your mind is the model of “self”–the story of “I” –which is your identity.
If you think about all the conceptual models you hold as one big pyramid, the mental model of “self” or “identity” sits high and mighty at the top. (And as we’ll see, we go to great lengths to defend that position.)
Although these models are necessary for our survival, the tricky thing about these conceptual frameworks is that we don’t realize that this becomes the singular perch from which we perceive reality.
We become so entranced and deeply entrenched in our stories we forget that the mental model itself directly influences and colors our view of reality. We, therefore, confuse our mental models (which are supposed to be representations of reality) with reality itself.
We confuse “this is how I think it might be” with “this is how it really is.” Make sense?
Imagine wearing a pair of green-tinted glasses that color your entire perception of reality. You’ve been wearing them for so long, and they’ve become so comfortably molded to your face, sitting so close to your eyes, you’ve forgotten about them. You just assume this is the way it is; everything looks green. You forget that you can make a new choice; that you don’t have to subject yourself to green-colored living your entire life, and that you actually have a lot more influence over how you experience reality than you think.
In every given moment, there are infinitely more options than green-colored-living to choose from. And this is the kind of “waking up” that psychedelics and plant medicines can help us realize. It’s why I also love working with plant medicines in conjunction with the wisdom teachings of the Bodhisattva, because these teachings–another form of medicine–provide additional daily support that keeps encouraging us to “wake up” from the illusion of our tightly held stories.
Deconstructing The “Story of Me” with Psychedelics & Plant Medicines
If you stick to the plant medicine path, sooner or later, it’s likely you will have an experience where those glasses–the perceptual lens from which you view reality–get completely ripped off your face.
Of course, this can be both freeing and liberating, but it can also be uncomfortable and in some cases, even terrifying. The full-blown version of this is known as “ego dissolution” which can be incredibly disorienting, and even psychologically destabilizing.
“One of the most robust mental models is that of the self. It is exactly this sense of self that psilocybin and other psychedelics seem to disrupt.” ~Merlin Sheldrake, Author of Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures
Knocking the Default Mode Network Offline
Thanks to psychedelic research we now have a better understanding of the underlying neurochemical changes that take place in the brain when we ingest hallucinogens. Psychedelics are called “serotonergic” because these molecules are similar in structure to serotonin. As a result, they act as “agonists” following similar pathways primarily at the level of the 5-HT2A receptor.
It seems that due to the flooding of the 5-HT2A receptors, psychedelics knock a very important network called the default mode network (DMN) offline. The DMN is considered to be somewhat like the neurological correlate to our sense of Self, often referred to as the “Me Network”.
This is the part of the brain that lights up when you get “likes” on social media, when you’re thinking about your past or future, or when you’re engaged in self-referential processing, or wondering what other people might think about you. This is called the default mode, because it’s where your mind wanders to when not doing or focusing on anything in particular.
The DMN is like a boss that sits at the top of a hierarchical brain, and it directs (and suppresses) the flow of information in order to maintain a cohesive storyline about reality.
Because the DMN gets knocked offline during psychedelic journeys, what happens is that our “models of reality”, including our “models of self” — essentially the stories that we tell ourselves about who we are as well as the world around us—become “violated”, and the integrity of the story begins to degrade.
This is the primary reason that psychedelics can be so transformative; they help us to dissolve our sense of Self–which means we become less sure of who we thought we were, opening a window of self-inquiry around who we might want to become.
Similar to mindfulness training, psychedelics also support a process called “decentering.” Remember that perch mentioned above? You’ve been glued to viewing reality from that one vantage point your entire life. Decentering is like moving 5 feet down and to the right of that perch only to realize you get an entirely different perspective on things, one that is much more objective and free from judgment. Using the other analogy, it’s like putting on a new pair of glasses with a different colored tint that supports a better way of looking at yourself and the world.
Psychedelics can offer us an experience of “self-transcendence”–a literal “moving beyond the self.” In the words of Matthew Johnson, a psychiatrist and researcher at John Hopkins, psychedelics like psilocybin “dope-slap people out of their story. It’s literally a reboot of the system…”
A reboot indeed. But now the question becomes: what baseline do we want to reset to? Can we get a little more conscious about how we reconstruct the storylines and inner narratives of our lives?
Before I get into some suggestions, I think it’s important to mention a couple of things.
The Trap of Self-Improvement
First, the whole notion of “self-improvement” can be such a trap. It’s easy to get caught in the inner narratives of “not good enough”, and “I’ll be better when…” These are just the kinds of limiting stories we tell ourselves that keep us repeating old patterns. Aspire to walk this path with a sense of lightheartedness and levity; we don’t need to take it as seriously as we often believe. This process of consciously upgrading our lives is a never-ending journey and takes time. It’s not about “getting there,” – there is nowhere to get–it’s about staying committed to the path of waking up, one humble little step at a time.
Bringing Patience, Love & Compassion to the Process
Second, we need to learn how to bring an enormous amount of gentleness and self-kindness to this process. When we have an experience in a ceremony where we see ourselves clearly and don’t particularly like what we see, maybe we recognize that we’ve been treating other people poorly, or did something we deeply regret. It’s easy to use what we see as ammunition against ourselves. Self- compassion is the remedy here, and we can use this essential tool to give ourselves the necessary courage to keep sticking to the path.
Reach for the Support You Need
Thirdly, the stories we tell ourselves that make up our self-construct is where we draw meaning from, and we tend to put all of our eggs in one basket. When the wisdom of ayahuasca illuminates our stories, and we see a crack in the whole mental facade, it can lead to a crumbling of our entire worldview, like pulling the one loose thread that unweaves the entire tapestry of our lives.
Sometimes we need to let things fall apart before we can pick up the pieces in a new, more functional way. Remember that the process of breakdown can ultimately lead to a breakthrough, and catalyze profound change. Needless to say, this can feel emotionally or even psychologically destabilizing.
This may or may not ever be your experience with psychedelics. If it is, and it’s challenging to navigate on your own, get the support you need.
“Rebuilding can be an incredibly challenging process. As we’ve seen, the work of growth requires detaching from and releasing deep-seated goals, identities, and assumptions, while also building up new goals, schemas, and meanings. It can be grueling, excruciating, and exhausting. But it can open the door to a new life.” Scott Kaufman & Carolyn Gregoire (Wired to Create)
A Note About Expectations & Ego Dissolution
The last thing I want to mention is that we hear a lot of talk about ego-dissolution in the psychedelic community these days. It’s good not to have any expectations about anything before going into a psychedelic journey or plant medicine ceremony. I’ve journeyed hundreds of times and have only experienced what I would consider “ego dissolution” twice.
I see this process of identifying our personal narratives more clearly as falling on a vast spectrum. Regardless of whether or not you have a full-on “ego dissolution” experience, you can still receive enormous benefit by working with these powerful substances. Psychedelics help give us what I call “root access” to the fundamental programs that run our lives so we can consciously write new programs that support rather than limit what we believe to be possible.
Trust the process. Trust your journey. The medicine always gives us exactly what we need. Trust the medicine. And trust your inner guidance illuminating the path forward.
Once again, all roads on the psychedelic journey always point back to the importance of integration. The integration process can be uncomfortable, but it also provides you with the opportunity to align with a more authentic version of yourself.
So how do we align with a more authentic version of ourselves? How do we leverage that window of mental flexibility after our psychedelic journeys or while working with microdosing? How do we get a little more proactive in the recrafting of our stories about what is and isn’t possible?
Let’s dive in.
It’s All Made Up Anyways. So What Do You Want to Create?
The best place to start is at square one. Start coming to terms with the reality that your identity is all made up–it’s a fabrication, albeit a very elaborate one. Having this realization, especially while on psychedelics or in the middle of a ceremony might make you angry, and then sad, but hopefully you find your way to the humor of it all.
I was recently in a ceremony with a young woman newly initiated on the plant medicine path. At one point, she started laughing in such a distinct way–a laugh I’ve heard many times–I could almost feel her cognitive veils of illusion lifting as she saw the truth of her reality from a much clearer perspective. When we spoke afterward, this was exactly it, she was laughing at the “cracks in her mental facade.”
When you start truly grasping that it’s all one big made-up storyline anyways, it’s almost impossible not to chuckle at the sheer irony of it all.
The mental framework that I labeled as “me” is just a story. Start repeating this to yourself on a daily basis. Write it on a sticky note and paste it on your bathroom mirror.
I truly believe that if you spend more time contemplating this during “normal” waking consciousness and then bring this contemplation with you into a psychedelic journey, you may be able to accomplish in one night of ceremony what might have required ten years of psychotherapy.
It’s your life, which means it’s your story. If it’s all made up anyway, why not tell a hell of a story? Tell a story that serves you and the story of who you are becoming.
Imagine that you are the main character in the titillating movie called (fill in the blank)
What would you call the film that tells the story of “Your Life”?
Realize that you’re not only the main character but also the director and the writer. Stop just taking the script that was handed to you (from your parents, your school, or the culture you grew up in.) Go within. Make direct contact with who you truly are and let that truth direct the show.
Wake up in the morning asking yourself: “Who do I want to be today?”
Before walking into any situation, ask yourself: “Who do I want to be on this phone call?” or “Who do I want to be in this meeting? And how would this person think, speak and act?”
Change Your Story, Change Your Life
You may recognize this famous saying: Change your story, change your life. I’ve heard everyone from Tony Robbins to Byron Katie use this line. It’s powerful and accurate, and yet there are many hidden layers that we still need to peel back to get to the core of transformation.
- Change your story, change your life.
- But how do we change our story in order to change our life?
- Stories are made up of thoughts.
- How do we change our thoughts?
- Thoughts are constructed from underlying beliefs.
- How do we change our beliefs?
- Beliefs are just patterns of neurons that repeatedly get “fired and wired” together, creating a superhighway of neural networks in your mind. The more difficult the emotional experience or trauma, the stronger it gets “wired” and so the more difficult to change.
So this leads to the question: how do we change our underlying neurobiology?
This is the million dollar question, especially when:
“Psychologists tell us that by the time we’re in our mid-30s, our identity or personality will be completely formed. This means that for those of us over 35, we have memorized a select set of behaviors, attitudes, beliefs, emotional reactions, habits, skills, associative memories, conditioned responses, and perceptions that are now subconsciously programmed within us.” ~ Dr. Joe Dispenza
The good news is that the latest research in neuroplasticity and epigenetics shows just how fluid and malleable our neurobiology can be. There are many ways to rewire our minds.
These could include:
- Consciously working with psychedelics, or microdosing that are known to support neuroplasticity,
- Cultivating a meditation practice,
- Enhancing your cognitive flexibility,
- Adopt a growth mindset over a fixed mindset,
- Adopt new mental models of reality,
In this guide, we’ll focus on how consciously changing your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and habits can be a very effective way to change the story of “you” and your identity.
Stop Believing Everything You Think
You actually don’t have to believe everything you think, yet most of us rarely live with this kind of meta-awareness of our thoughts.
We repeatedly tell ourselves:
- “This is who I am.”
- “I am this way, or I am that way.”
- “That’s just how I am.”
- “This thing happened to me as a child and made me this way.”
Start paying attention to any disempowering thoughts that construct the stories you repeatedly tell yourself.
- “I can’t do this.”
- “No matter what I do, it’s never enough”
- “I don’t know how to change.”
- “They are always going to be better than me.”
- “I have to be perfect.”
- “My life is harder than yours.”
Now start questioning! I love the transformative power of Byron Katie’s “The Work“, from her best selling book Loving What Is.
Use her questions of self-inquiry as potent tools for transformation to evaluate your thoughts. Exploring each thought/belief, by getting curious and asking yourself:
“Is this absolutely true?”
You can use cognitive techniques used in cognitive behavioral therapy to identify “faulty thinking.” You can also ask yourself:
- “According to whom is this true?”
- “Is this thought helping me or hurting me?”
- “What would I rather think instead?”
When you focus on one pervasive self-limiting thought, let’s say you keep thinking: “I have to struggle to make it”, close your eyes and imagine who you would be without that thought?
Consciously Influence Your Feelings With Your Thoughts
People who live passively allow their external circumstances to dictate how they feel. People who actively want to change their lives for the better eventually come to realize that no matter what happens, they can still choose how they want to feel. You have a lot more influence over your emotional reality than you probably give yourself credit for.
Use your thoughts to influence your feelings. Take the previous example. If you have the limiting belief that life is a struggle, engage in this visionary practice by closing your eyes and explore what it feels like in your body if you use your inner narrative to tell yourself the opposite is true.
What would it feel like in your body to believe you don’t have to struggle to make it? Can you really feel it in your bones? What if you could go within and imagine hitting the easy button, and drop the feeling of struggle to connect with the sentiments of effortlessness, ease, and grace? What would that feel like? Use your imagination and pretend to explore how that might feel….and then milk that feeling for all it’s worth.
Every time you influence the way you feel, you directly and consciously start laying down new neurological connections in your brain that take you one step closer to making that inner vision and inner feeling an outer reality.
Change your beliefs
Beliefs are also just stories. Most of the stories you pain yourself over defending aren’t even yours– they were handed to you as a child without your consent. You simply chose to keep repeating them.
Much of our neurological “hardwiring” was established in our first seven years of life.
It’s quite a miraculous feat of survival, really. The brain casts a wide neurological net in the early years of life so it can know how to adapt to a variety of situations.
If you were raised in a violent household, for example, your mind formed a conceptual framework that understood “this is the way it is” in order for you to create effective psychological defense mechanisms to survive.
Think of these neurological networks as a mental box that you formed and solidified. The mind has this uncanny ability to fit everything we experience in our present reality into these pre-existing boxes that were formed in the past.
The latest research in neuroscience now understands the brain is something akin to a “prediction machine.” You use your mental models to “predict” what is happening or going to happen. However, your mental models are created and highly influenced by your past experiences.
As a psychiatrist and Harvard Medical School professor John Sharp said in his TEDx talk, “It’s the story you’ve been telling yourself about who you are and how everything always plays out.“
Your past keeps influencing your present, which means your past keeps creating your future. This is why we often find ourselves playing out the same patterns repeatedly, regardless if these patterns keep hurting us. We repeat them because it’s what is familiar. As crazy as it seems, we’d rather keep hurting ourselves over choosing to change.
Another way of understanding how your past keeps creating your future is: you see what you believe.
Imagine that the neurological networks (that make up your beliefs, routines, thoughts, habits, behaviors) are like 3D blueprints from which you directly draw upon to construct your outer reality. Your inner world precedes the creation of your outer world.
I know, it can be quite a lot to wrap your mind around.
But if you understand that you see what you believe, you’ll start to understand that you’ll change what you see when you change your beliefs. In other words, when you change what you believe, you then change what you experience.
Even though your beliefs seem “solidified”, they are still flexible and malleable neurological networks in the brain.
Out of all the different modalities I’ve explored, the most efficient ways I’ve found to access our “root operating systems” of the mind to rewire beliefs is by combining the work we do with psychedelics (either deep dives or microdosing) with this understanding that our lives are a story and we are the authors.
This entire topic requires a lot more explanation, which is beyond the scope of this guide, but one simple technique you can learn to work with, and is especially useful to draw upon while working with psychedelics is what’s known as “reframing.”
Reframing Your Narrative
Reframing is a powerful technique in and of itself, and it is also helpful to use outside of therapeutic psychedelic journeys. But because psychedelics are so effective at opening up the subconscious mind, which allows deeply rooted memories to come to the surface, it’s a very effective way to explore our inner narrative.
When something traumatic happens in childhood, these events or experiences imprint the mind and nervous system. Sometimes, the mind has an intelligent way of casting these memories outside of our perceptual field of awareness as a psychological defense mechanism.
In addition to psychedelics, there are a variety of healing modalities that can help us get in touch with these memories.
Recently, a client of mine in a psychedelic integration session told me about a vivid childhood memory that surfaced in their last psilocybin journey. It was of a particular experience in a store where her parents favored her brother over her. This led to the belief that she wasn’t good enough, doesn’t deserve anything of value, and is unworthy.
Because this is what she taught herself to believe, she keeps creating different versions of the same reality that proves those beliefs to be true.
When we reframe a memory, we consciously start reconstructing the narrative around what happened. We can connect with a sense of compassion, and explore if we can create an alternative storyline that feels genuinely possible, true or accurate.
In the exploration with my client, the potential alternative narratives included:
- “My parents were doing the best that they could.”
- “My parents were under a lot of pressure and stress, and they were afraid my brother was going to have a tantrum in the store, so they bought him what he wanted.”
- “My brother was going through a really hard time that I wasn’t aware of, and my parents were trying to help him get through it.”
- “My parents really did the best they could to take care of me too.”
One of the reasons that reframing is a powerful technique to combine with psychedelics is because we can lay new memories on top of old ones.
In order to do this effectively, it requires that you enter into a heightened emotional state of being and you really feel the feelings of the new memory, like moving into a deeply felt state of forgiveness for our family members, as well as ourselves for simply doing the best we knew how.
As many would attest, psychedelics have a way of moving us into these deeply felt emotional states of being and it’s this e-motion, the energy in motion, that allows the healing to transpire.
Reframing is a powerful way to start adjusting your narrative and lay the foundation for new beliefs, allowing you to reconstruct a more aligned sense of identity. But it’s not about repressing. Allowing ourselves to make deep contact with the emotions rising to the surface is a big part of this work. As the saying goes: the feeling is the healing.
“The Story I’m Telling Myself Is…”
The mind doesn’t like ambiguity and is constantly in “meaning-making” mode; always looking to uncover and extract meaning from what’s happening. One of the ways that the mind seeks meaning is through stories; regardless if the stories are true or false.
Have you ever experienced someone not calling you back? Notice how the mind automatically starts telling stories about what’s happening and why?
By understanding how we relentlessly use stories to define ourselves and our lives, we can start inserting a little breathing room, so we don’t continue to suffocate ourselves with the stories we tell.
New York Times best selling author and researcher Brené Brown has found that people who score high on the resilience scale use one single phrase, as an inner narrative on a daily basis to prevent the mind from spiraling out of control with false stories.
That phrase is: “The story I’m telling myself is…”
Simple, I know. This single-sentence technique actually happens to be an excellent cognitive strategy that supports our psychological well being, simply by inserting a little breathing room around what you think to be accurate.
Scenario: someone doesn’t call you back. Instead of saying, “he’s ignoring me!” try saying: “the story I’m telling myself right now is… that he might be ignoring me. I don’t know if it’s true, but it’s where my mind keeps going.”
See the difference? Acknowledging that it’s all a made-up story will bring with it the many benefits of resilience.
You Are Not What Happened to You
Another method you can use to change your beliefs is by choosing not to confuse things that happened, with who you are. There are things in life we can control and things in life we can’t.
If someone bullied you when you were a child, that, unfortunately, happened to you. You don’t have to shove it under the rug and pretend like it didn’t happen, but you also don’t need to let it dictate your life, or wear it as a badge of honor. Telling yourself that you’re hopeless or unlovable is how you’re taking the content of what happened and using it as ammunition against yourself.
You can use the content of anything that happened to you to consciously weave a new story of empowerment. You can start shifting your inner narrative by acknowledging that this happened to you, but it isn’t you.
“This happened, and I overcame it. I’m stronger than I was before.”
Anything and everything that we experience contains within it the fuel for awakening. It’s all just a matter of how we tell the story and what vantage point we want to view the content of that story from.
You may also want to consider refraining from telling that particular story altogether; who needs it anyway? The choice is yours.
Your Behaviors Construct Your Identity.
If you really want to understand how you define yourself, look at what you do. When it comes to self-identity, actions or behaviors reign supreme.
Every time you do something, you’re affirming to yourself that this is who you are. We strongly identify ourselves with the actions we take. In psychology, this is called “self-signaling.” If you go to the gym, you begin to identify yourself as someone who works out. If you cut out meat and dairy, you start identifying yourself as a “vegan.”
Your actions directly construct your sense of self.
Psychological research indicates that behaviors precede our psychological states of mind, which means actions build identity.
Leverage Your New Identity to Change Your Habits…To Change Your Life.
We all know that change can be tough. When we keep repeating habitual behaviors, it moves into the realm of the subconscious mind. Like riding a bike or driving to work, your body takes over and runs on autopilot. There are thousands of programs running the show of your life. When it comes to change, most people focus in the wrong direction. They try to change the behavior first, rather than consciously changing their identity.
New York Times bestselling author of Atomic Habits, James Clear, talks about the importance of identity-driven change versus behavior-driven change.
If you want to quit smoking and someone offers you a cigarette, there’s a difference between someone who says: “I’m trying to quit” versus someone who says, “I’m not a smoker.”
See the difference? We don’t like to act incongruous with who we think we are. Change your personal narrative, and you’ll support your behavioral change.
If you keep telling yourself: “I’m just not a morning person” or “I’m just not very organized”, then you’re likely to give up on making changes in your life before you even try, because you’re already too invested in who you think you are, rather than who you want to become.
Identify who you want to become. This is what it means to become the visionary of your own life. Take time to imagine this person. Then start looking at the behaviors that make up that person and start embodying those behaviors and adopting those new habits.
This makes changing our deeply entrenched habitual behaviors a little easier–although we can admit that behavioral change can still be a challenge.
But when we focus on our identity first, the outcomes we seek from the changes we make becomes a natural by-product of our new choices.
If you focus on trying to lose weight (behavior) and spend all of your energy focusing on your weight, it can become very frustrating to actually lose weight. I know I’ve found this to be true. When I try to lose weight, and I start narrowing my focus in on weighing myself every day, it’s like I get into this active grapple with my weight and it feels like a shitty struggle.
When I shift my attention towards embodying someone who values taking care of their health and enjoying their life, I easily align with my natural weight because I’m not even focused on it. When I value my health, I go for a walk every morning, because this is what makes me feel good. I eat healthy because I value taking care of my wellbeing. I’m just focused on feeling good and embodying someone who takes good care of my body.
When you focus on what it is you want your life to look like, and more importantly, feel like, and then clearly identify what you need to do to support that vision, you set the stage for transformation.
Archetypes & Role models Can be Helpful
Who do you look to as a role model? Why do you view them as role models? What archetypes do you identify with?
Role models and archetypes can be so helpful because they can offer us a blueprint, guiding our way forward, as we pay more attention to who we want to become. When we read books, or listen to teachings or study these role models or archetypes we’re actively re-wiring our minds to model them, directly laying down the neurological framework to completely transform our lives.
Some of the archetypes I look to are:
Looking at our role models can also shine a light on our limiting beliefs. I’ve always identified myself with the Visionary archetype; because of my father, that’s always come naturally to me. Even though I deeply resonate with the Bodhisattva teachings, I know I’m a long way off from ever being able to truly call myself a Bodhisattva, although that doesn’t deter me from aspiring to walk the path.
The Creative archetype, on the other hand, has been super challenging for me. When I starting hearing over and over again that creativity has been identified as one of the most valuable and important skill sets for the 21st century, especially for leaders and entrepreneurs, I felt pretty screwed!
I’ve never considered myself to be creative, in fact, quite the opposite (I’m still horrified to draw.) This particular archetype held up a very large mirror to many of my self-limiting beliefs.
I realized the importance and benefit of re-writing my personal narrative around creativity. I’ve had to re-write many deep-seated limiting beliefs and face many fears to slowly give myself permission to say, yes, I am creative, and here are all the ways my actions prove it.
And now, ironically enough, I spend a large majority of my time teaching and writing about psychedelics and creativity.
Re-writing my personal narrative with the help of role models and archetypes has opened up countless new doors of possibility.
Use Visionary Practices
So much can be said about the power of mental rehearsal. But for now, I suggest focusing on stretching your mind, and reaching higher to align with the best version of yourself and then taking time to bring that vision and heart-felt aspiration into the inner realms of your mind.
Use your mind to focus on creating your reality from the inside out. Instead of living by the blueprints of the past, use your mind to lay down a new neurological framework to create a road map to a new future.
Close your eyes and go within. Imagine yourself embodying this new, reframed identity. What do you see, hear, smell, feel?
- What do I need to believe in order to embody this version of myself?
- What new thoughts do I need to think, to become and align with this person?
- What new behaviors do I need to engage in?
- What new daily routine do I need to adopt?
- Imagine yourself waking up in the morning and run through the most incredible day you can imagine. Where are you waking up? Who’s next to you? What are the plans for the most perfect day?
Vision it. Feel it. Look forward to it. Anticipate it.
The power to create your life starts in your mind.
You can combine this potent and transformational visionary techniques of mental rehearsal with journaling. If you have a hard time “seeing in your inner mind”, journaling can help you connect with that inner vision.
Run through all the previous questions and write them down in your journal.
What does your perfect day look like?
Make a list of 3 new beliefs, thoughts, and habits you want to adopt to more deeply embody and align with the person you are holding the vision of becoming.
You can also journal with higher self questions like “who do I want to become” leading the way.
Whatever It Is That Scares You, Follow That Feeling And Go There.
If you want to grow exponentially and deeply challenge old beliefs, lean into what scares you. We hide from what we’re afraid of.
We’re often so afraid to give and be generous. Can you lean in and start exploring your edge. I know, it sounds crazy, but it’s true, we all have our limits on what feels safe and comfortable to give and what might ruffle our feathers and strike fear in our hearts. Giving $5, no problem, but $1,000…yikes!
You may be afraid to do stand up comedy or improv theater, or afraid to draw. I’m terrified of all these things. But why? What’s underneath the surface there?
Fear: fear of failure, fear of not being good enough, fear of being too good, fear of looking stupid, fear of being ridiculed.
Addressing the things that scare you reveals hidden depths to who you tell yourself you think you are and what you believe is possible. When you face these fears you can make a conscious choice if you want to keep being that person that might be holding yourself back, or if you’re ready for an upgrade.
Stop Defending Your Story
For some strange reason, we all have this primordial desire to defend our self-identity, usually at any and all costs. The mind goes to great lengths to subconsciously filter out and ignore whatever doesn’t match up with your self-image. You don’t like the way a friend perceives you? You unfriend them. Don’t like what someone comments on your Facebook feed? Delete it.
We do all sorts of wild and crazy things and go to great lengths (like spend $2,000 on clothes for burning man) to solidify our identity and convey who we think we are to the world.
In Buddhism, they refer to this as ego-clinging. We don’t like to face the truth of impermanence on any level, so we do whatever we can to solidify our reality, including concretizing our sense of self.
In reality, our self-concept is a lot more weak and unstable than we convince ourselves it is, that’s why we feel like we need to protect it.
It’s like we erect a solid brick wall, brick by brick to make sure no one takes a stab and our identity. We are afraid because even though we deny it, we know the fragility of our sense of self. But the more bricks we cement in the wall around our hearts, the more we cage ourselves in and the more pain we feel. This sense of defending who we are comes at a steep price. It causes us to feel cut off and disconnected from our world, through feeling self-righteous, superior, inferior, better than, less than, you name it.
We don’t like it when someone holds up a mirror that directly contradicts who we think we are, so we turn away from, rather than lean into exploring if this is really true. It brings up a lot of fear and makes us nervous because we’ve invested so much into our sense of self-identity.
When our identity is at stake, knee jerk reactions and emotional turbulence strikes. And when emotional turbulence strikes, that’s when we leap headfirst into irrational behaviors.
You may think to yourself, this doesn’t apply to me, but just think about the next time someone says something to you, maybe about the way you look or the ignorance of your political views and notice the knee jerk reaction to defend at all costs. You’re even willing to lose friends or maybe even go to war over this kind of defending that takes place. And we all do it to some degree or another.
When we defend, we inadvertently shut down.
This shutting down is the exact opposite of waking up. This is how we stay stuck in the cycles of solidifying who we were rather than who we want to become, and hopefully, that’s a more open-hearted, kind, and compassionate human being.
The irony is that defending causes us pain and prevents us from seeking the changes we so desperately want to make. On top of it, this concrete identity we cling to is heavy, it’s outdated, and it’s weighing us down, yet we keep lugging it around with us. It certainly doesn’t leave room for the unknown elements of surprise or spontaneity.
When we stop trying to defend at all costs and wake ourselves up from this common human delusion–that our identity is who we are, and that it’s this fixed thing– you can start to transform your life and witness profound changes start to unfold and take place.
It’s exhausting to defend and we don’t need to keep holding on. Actually, it’s to our great benefit if we don’t. It does however require facing the initial fear of letting go, but once we do let go, we can reap the many benefits that await us on the other side, including: our own freedom.
Hold it All lightly
The last thing you want to do is go through the process of consciously reinventing yourself and upgrading your identity, and then go on to defend that new version of yourself, get sucked in yet again to concretize that version of yourself. Adopt the mental model that you are always growing, changing, and evolving. Learn about what it means to have a growth over a fixed mindset.
Keep Reinventing yourself and never stop pushing the boundaries of what you believe is possible. Not only is this beneficial for your growth and evolution, but it will be incredibly useful for navigating these wild times we now live in.
Psychedelics Are One Tool Among Many
Working with psychedelics can be powerful allies to transformation and can bring huge benefits. But as I like to remind people, they are only one tool in our toolbelt of transformation. Choosing to consciously work with psychedelics while intentionally leveraging the understanding of your mind, (whether from the latest research in neuroscience, psychedelic studies, or from wisdom teachings that have withstood the test of time), you can focus your efforts in the most supportive ways to truly bring about the changes you wish to see transpire in your life.