3 Better Questions to Help You Overcome an Identity Crisis

I was talking to a couple friends the other day who were having an identity crisis after a major life change.

He’s got a successful company, but doesn’t like the term “entrepreneur.” He’s writing a book, but “writer” doesn’t feel appropriate. He’s built a large YouTube channel off being a physician, but he’s decided to leave medicine to create more content to educate and inspire people to live their best life.

Will his channel suffer because he isn’t relying on his credentials anymore?

Who is he if he isn’t a doctor?

She just had a child move out of the house, so “empty nest syndrome” is kicking in. She’s been CEO of multiple companies over the last 15 years, but wants to step down and pursue other projects. She thrives in the chaos of the business world, so all this calm feels terrifying and selfish.

Will she lose credibility if she isn’t a CEO anymore?

Who is she if her kids are self-sufficient and she doesn’t have a fancy title anymore?

Neither of them knows how to describe themselves now, because the titles they’ve hung their hats on all these years aren’t there anymore.

And they’re not alone.

An identity crisis is common after a big change.

You ask:

“Who am I if I don’t do X anymore?”

“I’ve achieved what I set out to do. What now?”

The issue is most people think they have to attach their identity to one thing, like checking a box on an application.

But we’re too complex for any single identity to encompass everything we are.

There’s a better way to approach a major life change and overcome an identity crisis.

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Laying the Foundation

First off, there are two assumptions that make up the core philosophy of how I approach my own life and how I help my clients:

1. Most people die regretting not having done more with their lives—they let fear keep them from pursuing fulfillment.

2. Clarifying your core value is the first step toward building a fulfilling life.

So how do these play into approaching a major life change?

Instead of trying to find a single word to describe yourself:

  • entrepreneur
  • writer
  • podcaster
  • YouTuber
  • whatever

Answer these 3 questions:

•••

1. “What is my core value?”

Most people don’t know what makes them tick on a fundamental level.

Without clarifying this, the future will always look hazy.

When you figure this out, you’ll know what matters the most to you.

If you want help clarifying yours, pick up the Core Value Clarification Toolkit.

For example, my core value is freedom. So I’ll use it as an example for the next two questions.

•••

2. “What would a life aligned with my core value look like?”

Be as specific as possible.

Fulfillment isn’t “being a CEO” or “being a writer.”

It may mean:

  • “building products that change the world”
  • “helping people live their best life”
  • “the freedom to travel anytime”

So for me, a life aligned with my core value of freedom looks like being in control of my schedule, not having to do uninspiring work, being able to travel anytime I want, exploring my creativity, being able to dress however I want, and controlling who I work with and what opportunities I say yes (and no) to.

•••

3. “When I’m on my deathbed, what will I regret not having done that I still have time to do now?”

The first two questions tell you where you want to go in life and why you want to go there.

This question puts a deadline (in the most literal sense) on it and can help you overcome fear.

So in my case, I would regret not having taken the chance on creating my own business, creating content around psychology, and putting myself and my ideas out into the world to help people be more intentional with how they live, work, and create.

•••

Wrapping Up

Spending time deeply thinking about these questions has a way better ROI than worrying about what label to give yourself.

Maybe you’ll find a label you like along the way.

But focusing on it is a waste of your time and energy.

Because how you describe yourself is irrelevant compared to the impact you want to make in the world or building a meaningful, purpose-driven life that fulfills you.

It doesn’t matter who you are.

It matters what you do—how you live, who you love, and why you do what you do.

No one has an “Action Crisis.”

So focus more on taking action and less on putting yourself inside a box, because you’re so much more than any box can contain.