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The Invisible Force That Controls Your Life

The Invisible Force That Controls Your Life

Aroosa Khan
By Aroosa Khan on August 18, 2023
Mental Health

There’s an invisible force that controls your life. It rears its head in every decision you’ve ever made, and works hard to steer you onto a singular path — forsaking all others.

You might think it’s the same one that voices those whispers of doubts, fears, and insecurities that can hold you back from achieving your full potential. But while that’s a familiar foe, this force is something else entirely.

Any ideas?

Don’t worry, we’ve got the answer for you: It’s the identity-inertia illusion.

Could you imagine sitting through a TV show where the actors deliver the same lines over and over again — and nothing interesting ever happens — it’s the same dull routine. You would probably (and rightly so) lose interest.

Yet, surprisingly, this kind of parallels how we tend to approach our career and life choices — unconsciously following a monotonous script with only minor deviations.

Whenever you’ve gone through the process of applying for a job, you’ve likely engaged in the familiar routine of revising your resume to maintain a seamless narrative. During job interviews, you might have encountered the classic question: “Where do you envision yourself five years from now?” The expectation is to offer a coherent projection that aligns with your present self.

At the heart of this lies the identity-inertia fallacy: the misleading idea that our past identity dictates our course of actions in the future. This subtle yet potent influence shapes our decisions whenever we stand at the crossroads of choice.

Past actions dictating the future moments

What exactly is the identity-inertia illusion?

While it’s unquestionable that our past holds sway over our future, we tend to place limitations on ourselves that don’t actually exist. This phenomenon goes by many names, each discipline giving it a unique label. Psychologists call it the “continuation bias,” economists dub it “path dependence,” and philosophers grapple with it as a clash against determinism. But I’ve dubbed it the identity-inertia illusion.

The identity-inertia illusion is why you might choose a new job based on what your past roles have been, and why you feel the need to stay within your field of study even if your interests have evolved.

Interestingly, it’s also why we maintain the same roles and behaviors in our relationships, like always being the “quiet one” or “the helpful one” in our circle of friends even when we feel a desire to express ourselves more authentically.

The same goes for our health choices. You might stick with your running routine and miss out on the potential benefits of other activities like yoga or weightlifting.

Some of these may seem unimportant, but when you add up all of the ways the identity inertia illusion affects your life’s decisions, it all adds up to the equivalent of a single movie genre taking over your life. You’re holding yourself back. But the good news is, we can rip up the script and write a new one.

Breaking free from the identity-inertia illusion

Undoubtedly, our past decisions and present convictions contribute significantly to our identity, yet they mustn’t morph into artificial constraints dictating all of our future choices.

In the words of famous economist, John Maynard Keynes: “The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping the old ones, which ramify, for those brought up as most of us have been, into every corner of our minds.”

In other words: you are a verb, not a noun! You are a dynamic being capable of introspection and growth.

If you need a little nudge in the right direction, here’s a few questions you can ask yourself next time you have a burning desire to switch things up:

  • Have I brushed aside potential opportunities due to their misalignment with my current path?

  • What uncharted avenues could I venture into if my past decisions didn’t restrict me?

  • If I were to begin with a clean slate, what would my dream career encompass?

The Crown helps me slip into other worlds

When I’m feeling uninspired by my routine or questioning if I’m making the right decisions, I usually put my Crown on, write these questions down, and answer each of them with all my focus.

It’s my version of slipping into the multiverse and figuring out what actions the alternate versions of me would choose.

The Crown allows me to really hone in on these questions, and it enhances my answers. It empowers me to approach this kind of decision-making with unprecedented clarity and concentration.

So there you have it…

These questions aren’t meant to prompt you to abandon your current path. Instead, their purpose is to encourage you to embrace opportunities that might not immediately align with your present priorities.

These opportunities could be those “unconventional” projects that spark your curiosity, playful ideas that don’t seem to offer obvious professional gains, or collaborations with long-standing friends that don’t seem directly tied to your career.

The realm of the unknown often holds the most fertile ground for learning and development. The narratives we’ll weave in the days ahead might take on unconventional, unexpected shapes, but they’re sure to be anything but dull.


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