There exists a well-known relationship between identity and action.

So much of how you and I navigate our lives comes back to identity.

If, in your internal world, you think of yourself as someone who is passionate about fitness, you will be more likely to get to the gym or go on that run.

If you think of yourself as an effective and persistent problem solver, you’ll eagerly jump into creating solutions for hard problems, instead of giving up when they seem too hard.

On the other hand, if you think of yourself as stupid, you’ll probably shy away from problems that look too complicated to solve.

If, when you think about yourself, you think of someone who is stressed and anxious, you’re less likely to take any action to leave the habits that are keeping you in stress and anxiety.

Identity informs and leads to action.

If you can solidly reorient your identity, your actions will follow closely behind.

It’s, of course, possible to take action that is incongruous with our understood identity. But never for long.

The personal-development implications of this are well-known.

But I’ve been finding myself further pondering the social and leadership implications.

When we talk about someone we disagree with, do we attack their actions or their identity?

Do we call people stupid, or do we say that what they’re doing is stupid?

Do we say that someone is a bad worker, or do we critique their work instead?

Our words have power, both for ourselves and for those around us. How we encourage and critique people matters.

Choosing the path of dignity will always lead to better results.

If you want less bad behaviour, critique actions.
If you want more good behavior, encourage identity.