Identity Driven Goals

lead with people Jan 01, 2024
You. That's Where It All Begins.




We all want to have something.

We want to have things, relationships, opportunities, impact. We have dreams we want to come true. What do you want to have? What are your dreams?

When I was a kid, I wanted to be a builder. I loved piecing together Legos and reading blueprints. I remembered being so excited when we finished our basement.

My dad and I watched a construction worker take a sledge hammer to the concrete floor. I eagerly told him how I wanted to be a builder.

He smiled and offered me the heavy sledge hammer.

Proudly, I grasped the tool tightly in my hands.  As I pictured in my mind breaking the floor into a million little pieces, I swung the hammer down onto the concrete with all my might!

Nothing happened.

Not even a dent. (Remember, I was only in elementary school at that time.)

I was crushed! With a swing of the hammer, my dream of becoming a builder was smashed into a million pieces.

But here’s the thing. Dreams are great, but they don’t magically come true. They are just wishes unless you put action behind them.

If I wanted to become a builder, then I needed to not just dream about it but also take practical steps to achieving that goal. I’d have to earn a college degree in architecture, complete an internship, and pass the licensure test. It would have taken 6-8 years.

When you map out your dreams into actionable goals, break them down, and take tangible steps toward completing them, that’s when the magic happens. And hard work, of course.

Setting a focused goal is proven to drastically improve our productivity.

But, did you know that most Americans don’t set goals? My guess is because they realize the odds are against them when it comes to achieving their goals. It’s true; most of those who do set goals don’t achieve them. Why?

The top reason people give up on their goals is because they lose motivation.




For his psychology dissertation at Carnegie Mellon University, Edward Deci conducted a study in 1969 to learn about motivation. Participants were asked to solve a series of puzzles using block pieces. Though at first glance, the extrinsic motivation of money spurred participants to work harder, in the long run, those participants ended up losing motivation and did not work as hard to solve the puzzles. However, the participants who were not extrinsically but only intrinsically motivated continued throughout the study to increase the level of their work, out performing the other participants.

In his book “Drive”, Daniel Pink explores this and other studies, discovering the power of intrinsic motivation. Assuming that the employee’s basic needs are met (they are receiving fair compensation that they can comfortably live off), these are the three primary forms of effective motivation:

1. Autonomy

When a person has the freedom to make decisions, such as spending a day working on a project they think is important but not directly related to their job description or determining their own work schedule, productivity goes up.

This is why some companies empower their employees to work on side projects and have flexible work schedules. For example, Google has a 20% time rule where employees set aside one day a week to focus on side projects and learn new skills. Google employees have complete autonomy and ability to choose what they want to work on for the day.

2. Mastery

People enjoy a challenge and learning something new. This is evident when people spend the weekends working on a hobby or volunteering. When companies encourage and provide opportunities for employees to grow their skill set, we see greater employee engagement and retention because increased effort and mastery provide a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

“Effort is one of the things that gives meaning to life,” writes psychologist Carol Dweck. “Effort means you care about something, that something is important to you and you are willing to work for it.”

3. Purpose

Having a sense of impact beyond oneself is proven to motivate. People want to know that what they do matters. This internal desire pushes people to volunteer their time and donate to worthy causes. Satisfying these higher internal desires to help make the world a better place within the work context provides higher levels of purpose and employee engagement. 

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, known as the “Father of Flow”, a term referring to being in a state of optimal mental performance, is known for saying, “One cannot lead a life that is truly excellent without feeling that one belongs to something greater and more permanent than oneself.”

People are motivated when their work and goals are aligned with who they are, what they want to do, and how they want to do it. We are motivated when our abilities reflect what we are pursuing and we have some skin in the game and are growing as individuals. We are motivated when our passions and values are incorporated, living with purpose beyond ourselves.

This intrinsic motivation is all about being who we are and doing the very thing our unique abilities, passions, and values have designed us to do. It is important that we build our goals around who we are - our identity.




With years - even decades - of scientific research, we have learned that to achieve our goals we must go deeper than checking off a to-do list to implement a lifestyle that reflects the type of person we want to be. When we go beyond making a list of goals and develop who we are, our autonomy, mastery and purpose, we are in position to thrive.

What dreams do you have? Do your goals reflect your unique set of passions, abilities, and values? Who are you becoming to turn your dreams into reality?

Knowing what you want, what goals to set, and what steps to take is challenging.

That’s why I have compiled years of research and boiled it down into the short 40 page interactive ebook, "Breaking Free From the Lemmings: A Guide to Charting Your Own Course." Crammed with over 50 questions, activities, and diagrams this ebook leads you through a proven 5-step process to articulate identity-based goals and implement the systems you need to be successful.

Use this ebook to help you articulate who you are and flesh out identity-based goals in a way that will keep you motivated.

I lost all motivation to become a builder when I wasn’t able to smash the concrete with the sledge hammer when I was in elementary school. Yet, despite not becoming an architect, my love for building new things has continued to grow. It’s still a big part of who I am and is incorporated in the things that I do. I’ve been a part of several startup organizations, including Speak with People.

What do you genuinely want to do with your life? What do you want to accomplish? What type of impact do you want?

Don’t just follow the status quo. Choose your own adventure. Craft goals that are unique to you and implement the systems to make your dreams turn into reality.


By Caitlyn Neel - Cofounder, Speak with People

As a certified life coach, Caitlyn empowers clients to connect with their passions, abilities, and dreams so that they can live a life of purpose, feeling confident as they strategically accomplish their goals.