In both of these, bolded emphasis is mine:
“Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience. As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes. This goes on and on… So it would seem foolish, would it not, to adjust our lives to the demands of a goal we see from a different angle every day? How could we ever hope to accomplish anything… The answer, then, must not deal with goals at all… We do not strive to be firemen, we do not strive to be bankers, nor policemen, nor doctors. WE STRIVE TO BE OURSELVES. But don’t misunderstand me. I don’t mean that we can’t BE firemen, bankers, or doctors…but that we must make the goal conform to the individual, rather than make the individual conform to the goal… Beware of looking for goals: look for a way of life. Decide how you want to live and then see what you can do to make a living WITHIN that way of life.”Hunter S. Thompson, (source)
The key to mitigating these losses of identity is to redefine yourself such that you get to keep important aspects of your identity even if your particular role changes.
“I’m an athlete” becomes “I’m the type of person who is mentally tough and loves a physical challenge.”
“I’m a great soldier” transforms into “I’m the type of person who is disciplined, reliable, and great on a team.
“I’m the CEO” translates to “I’m the type of person who builds and creates things.
When chosen effectively, an identity can be flexible rather than brittle. Like water flowing around an obstacle, your identity works with the changing circumstances rather than against them.James Clear, Atomic Habits
Had the strange experience of thinking that Hunter S. Thompson and James Clear might have had a lot to talk about.
Or, at the very least, they’d agree on the idea that it’s not about goals or titles, but about knowing what you’re about.