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The Year of the Whole You


The conventional wisdom on New Year’s resolutions is that the more modest the goal, the more likely it will last through February (e.g., going to the gym, saying thank you, not interrupting). But going small is boring, and it’s not always a sure recipe for success. I dare to propose going in the exact opposite direction and making it the Year of the Whole You (YOWY). To borrow a phrase: Go big or go home.

This is not something I randomly cooked up. In fact, I got the idea from articles I’ve read over the past year that were about marketers and recruiters developing “personas” to help them better understand their buyers and job candidates, respectively. For business-to-business marketers, personas are based on a composite of a company’s key stakeholders. Recruiters use them as a template to assess both relevant skills and culture fit.

All of us have several different personas — or ways of presenting ourselves — depending on where we are and with whom. Our work or business persona is different from our non-work persona, which is different from our family persona or the one we fall back into when we’re at a high school reunion. Unlike our changing personas, our foundational behaviors, habits and perspectives tend to be more intractable. This is why, when I refer to the “whole you,” I mean the whole “public-facing” you that shows up to work every day.

Changing who you are is hard, changing what you project is far less difficult.

What I’m suggesting is not so much Dr. Phil as it is a rebooted “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy.” You will no longer look like a poor slob, but you still will harbor the deep-seated behaviors, perhaps even pathologies, that caused you to be a poor slob in the first place. Which is OK — particularly as there are many examples of people actually morphing into the personas they project. For example, you may recall that several years ago Ryan Gosling leaped to a woman’s defense as she was accosted on the streets of downtown NYC. I find it hard to imagine that if Gosling’s career ended after his stint as a Mouseketeer, he would have had the requisite “action hero” instincts. If I were in the habit of making puns, I’d say that he is a man of many parts, as are we all, as are we all.

Changing your persona takes practice and commitment. If the changes are dramatic and strain credulity among your co-workers, it will take extraordinary discipline to not break character in the teeth of all the eye rolls, smirks and occasional belly laughs. Tinker, tweak, make sure you like the new you, move around in it for a week or so, and when you’re comfortable in your new skin, just stroll into work and be the best version of you that you can be. If by March you’ve managed to convince your co-workers, then you may start convincing yourself, and that’s when the magic happens. Happy #YOWY!

Charles Epstein Bio Image

Charles Epstein is president and founder of BackBone Inc. Follow him on Twitter. 

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