Sahil Bloom is a W…
The Magic of Character Invention
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Welcome to The Curiosity Chronicle, a weekly newsletter where I provide actionable ideas to help you build a high-performing, healthy, wealthy life.
Today at a Glance:
- We all struggle with some degree of self-doubt and fear of failure. It’s particularly common among ambitious high-achievers, who, by definition, are constantly putting themselves in situations that are on the edge of their current competency level.
- Character Invention: Create a character in your mind who can show up in the way you want to and teach yourself to “flip the switch” to become this character when necessary.
- Character Invention in three steps: (1) Identify the situations where you’d like to show up as the best version of yourself, (2) Envision the character you would like to embody in each situation, and (3) Get yourself some reps by turning on this character in those situations.
The Magic of Character Invention
Have you ever felt like your fears were holding you back from your full potential?
Have you ever experienced imposter syndrome that prevents you from showing up as the best version of yourself in a situation?
If so, rest assured, you are not alone.
We all struggle with some degree of self-doubt and fear of failure. It’s particularly common among ambitious high-achievers, who, by definition, are constantly putting themselves in situations that are on the edge of their current competency level.
It can crop up in a variety of contexts—backstage before a big speech or performance, at the gym as you try to build a new exercise habit, or at home as you transition from work to home mode for your family.
It can be crippling.
While there are a variety of techniques for managing these feelings to rise up and own the moment, in today’s piece, I want to share the single approach that has made a difference in my life: Character Invention.
Main Character Energy
By the late 2000s, Beyoncé was already a global superstar. Few were aware that she had struggled with nerves and anxiety throughout her career, dating back to her days performing as a child.
In 2008, to combat these struggles, she created Sasha Fierce, an alter ego stage persona that embodied the fearless, brave characteristics that she would need to perform at her best in front of millions.
Image Credit: Matt Schnuck
Beyoncé had engaged in a textbook example of Character Invention, a technique grounded in drama therapy and Neuro-Linguistic Programming in which the user creates a character that can show up and perform in the situations that induce fear or self-doubt.
Kobe Bryant famously created the “Black Mamba” alter ego in a similar vein, a character that was relentless and fiercely competitive who would show up in big moments on the court.
They’re not alone in using the technique: countless top performers across a range of fields have used Character Invention to rise to the occasion. Not just pop-stars, celebrities, and athletes, either—many of the world’s top executive coaches teach it to their clients.
The general strategy: Create a character in your mind who can show up in the way you want to and teach yourself to “flip the switch” to become this character when necessary.
Creating Your Own Characters
You may not have to perform in front of millions on a regular basis, but Character Invention can still be an incredible tool to show up as the best version of you across a variety of situations.
As an example, here are a few situations you may encounter during a typical day:
- You wake up in the morning and need to get ready for your day. This may involve getting your family out the door for their respective activities, getting yourself dressed and ready, and handling any household chores.
- You go to the gym before work to get some exercise in before the day inevitably becomes chaotic.
- You go to work and have a few big projects to present to your managers and team.
- You get home after work and want to unwind with your family. You want to turn off work mode and be the present parent, partner, or friend that you know you should be.
In each situation, there are different versions of you that must “turn on” in order to perform at your best. For some, it can be very difficult to navigate all of the context switching within the confines of your persona, especially as your energy is getting depleted throughout the day.
Character Invention can help. Envision the character that you would like to embody in this situation:
- What traits do they possess?
- How do they interact with their surroundings?
- How do they physically appear to others?
- What is their mentality?
The next time you enter that situation, “turn on” your character and take on the moment with new energy.
To bring this to life, here are three characters that I try to turn on during a typical day:
- The Morning Monster: This character is built of cold, emotionless discipline. He doesn’t worry about how he feels on any given day, as he relies on discipline, not motivation, to take action. This character is built to hit the cold plunge and get in my weight training and cardio.
- The Deep Work Machine: This character is focused on a single task with the highest priority. He doesn’t get distracted by notifications or pulls of urgency. This character is built for creative work.
- The Dad & Husband of the Year: This character is present, emotionally and physically. He doesn’t use his phone and he doesn’t make excuses. He is there, with his son and wife, and embraces every second. This character is built to be the Dad and Husband I admire.
Identifying the characters allows me to enter new situations with a clear and specific mentality and approach. I fight the fear and self-doubt because I know exactly how I want to show up in a given situation and know I have the energy within me to do it.
Who Are Your Characters?
Character Invention has been a wonderful addition to my life. If you’ve ever struggled with fear, insecurity, or imposter syndrome in your day-to-day life, I’d encourage you to give it a shot.
Here are a few steps to incorporate it into your life:
- Identify Situations: Identify the situations where you’d like to show up as the best version of yourself. This can be as big as performing in front of millions or as small as having dinner with your family after a long day. Any situation where you want to be your best.
- Envision Your Character: Envision the character you would like to embody in each situation. What traits do they possess? How do they appear and interact? What is their mentality and energy level?
- Get in Character: Nothing works without practice. Get yourself some reps by turning on this character in those situations. See how it feels to show up as your best self in these moments.
Remember: Your daily actions shape your identity. When you embrace this, your whole world can start to change.