Theresa Byrne deconstructs a wildly popular meme.
I shared a pin on the site Pinterest 46 weeks ago and a few weeks ago it was suddenly shared in the hundreds. From all over the world. This had never happened to me before. I don’t have many “followers,” but this little guy had become its own pin inspiration. “Pinspiration.” Bam. Its own word. “When a pin on Pinterest starts generating interest or inspiration all on its own.” (I made that definition up, but it’s not my best work).
The pin itself wasn’t a photo but a quote, known as a meme once it circulates widely. It had been just quietly sitting on a board where you keep your pins. I had no idea what was driving all this interest, only that this particular meme hit some kind of nerve.
What was the meme?
YOU ARE AND
WHO YOU WANT
IS WHAT YOU DO
Do these words inspire you?
As I began my search for the creator of the original quote (hopefully with the correct punctuation), I was astonished to find out it was none other than Bill Phillips, the international fitness and transformational guru behind “Body For Life” which was published in 1999. Now that’s a quote with some staying power. 1999, wow. Nice work, Mr. Phillips.
In psychology we study something called ‘cognitive dissonance,’ which is the uncomfortable feeling of having conflicting beliefs. So here’s the rub: what if our idealized version of our best selves is vastly different from who we are right now, wouldn’t that be a difficult dissonance or disharmony to live in? What if ‘who we want to be’ is within reach, but we aren’t quite there yet?
What if there are steps we can take to reach that best version of ourselves? Isn’t that why listicles have always been so popular? “6 Simple Steps to Have the Career/Partner/Body/Life of Your Dreams.” (The other side of cognitive dissonance is that we can rationalize our behaviors to suit the version of ourselves that is in our heads and justify our discordant behavior, but that is another article completely.)
A traumatic brain injury from a 2014 car accident showed me the epitome of cognitive dissonance: my former weapon of choice was now (currently) broken. My brain was on injured reserve. Unable to function at even half my brain’s normally high capacity, I was put into a darkened quiet environment for over a year. And that effected my body: the professional martial artist of screen, television or kicking butt in the studio I used to be was no longer someone I was right now. Ugh. Talk about constant cognitive dissonance.
But then I saw something interesting: how much more our brains are capable of; even when parts are injured, other sections take over. I was seeing into different times/perspectives and possibilities—more than I have ever understood was possible before the injury. And I’m just one case study in brain trauma. I was shown that the way we “think” the world is, or the way the world “works,” is far from the only way. And we can be limited by our own vision and perception. By our own brain’s messages. My new brain creatively revealed this.
I’ve always been a firm believer in using the power of imagination, ideas out of the box, creativity, genius, unusual methods, positivity, possibilities, and sparking them into something that doesn’t quite exist into form yet. And using all that mental power to put something into being (like creating new words, one of my favorite pastimes); however there’s only one thing that will actually put them in into our 3D reality: Action.
Yet with the power of action, or “what you do” we are equipped with the power necessary to bring these new things into existence.
Let’s say you want to be a happy person, a kind person, a successful person, a wealthy person, or a person in a loving relationship. What makes those things true in reality (not just in your head) is doing the same things a kind, successful, wealthy or loving person does. It’s the actions. You do what that type of person would do: you become your best version of yourself by your actions. You bring your imagination, dreams, and goals into reality. You become who you want to be.
Since I’ve been teaching martial arts, defense and fitness for many years I’ve used this concept to help students overcome unwanted and limiting behavior patterns. For example, when someone thought of themselves as a victim, I offered ways to help them switch their thinking of themselves to that of a victor. What does a victor do? How does a victor act? What kinds of things does a powerful person say or do? And while that sounds simple, sometimes it takes years of unlearning to move past unwanted patterns (but it does happen).
Take the example of some I admire, successful entrepreneur and social media coach, Eric Graham. To finally remove the excess weight that he’d put on over the years, (he travels for business and does a great deal of his work on computers), he changed his thinking. Eric showed exactly what I taught my clients: become who you want to be. Eric told me he “started thinking like an athlete again.” He started eating like an athlete and instead of “exercising” he was “training.” That’s what athletes do. And the result was that this incredibly successful businessman was able to apply his business acumen to his health/fitness and lost over 50 lbs.
So who do you want to be? And more important, what kind of things does the person you want to be do?
That’s my take on the meme anyway. It’s a reminder to us that the person you want to be is not only possible, it’s within reach. All you have to do is act like that best version of yourself. Do the things. Take on the actions. The rest is internal consistency, a kind of self-harmony.