Would you describe yourself as 'a runner' / 'a cyclist' / 'a golfer' / 'a surfer' - or a [insert whatever that activity is}?
What about what you did 5, 10 or 15 years ago? What did you do then?
How would you have described yourself?
A 'sporty' kid?
A 'gym junkie'?
Or... a 'couch potato' (or similar!?).
It's funny how sometimes we see ourselves in the same way, but most often, the way we see ourselves can change.
And this is important (and quite powerful) because the way we see ourselves plays a big role in what we continue to do, and, how often.
Who am I??
'Identities' are how people define themselves, and the relationship they have with themselves.
And, just like any relationship, they evolve.
So how do your audience see themselves??
We've spoken before about knowing how the relationship is between you and your participants, and, we must also understand what relationship they have with your activity, in terms of how they see themselves in relation to that activity.
This is not so much about your organisation, it is more about them and the actual activity you offer, as that relationship can have an overriding effect on whether they will be involved, or not.
For example, in my book (and earlier blog) I give the example of Nicole, who as a young woman never saw herself as 'a runner’ but as she got into parkrun her relationship with running grew, her self-concept changed, and she now describes herself as "a runner".
What that meant for Nicole and the activity providers around her was that as her identity changed from ‘I’m not a runner!’ to ‘Yeah, I am a runner’. She needed and wanted different communications, different information, and experiences than what she’d needed when just starting out.
When she wasn’t a runner she needed basic support, the removal of barriers, and a lot of encouragement, as she just didn’t see herself as fitting into a runner’s shoes.
But now that she is a runner, she needs different things to feed her sense of self. She needs to feed her accomplishments, her progress. Not the basic information; that’s not so relevant anymore. She needs information and activities that fuel her sense of status, her belief in being a ‘runner,’ and support the life she now leads.
So, if you can understand if your activity or sport fits into their sense of self, you can identify with them more appropriately. Everyone in your audience has their own sense of identity, but if you can segment them based on how they see themselves, you can communicate and support them accordingly.
Helping people be 'that' person
As the best-selling behaviour-change author, James Clear, has called out, identity shapes behaviour, but behaviour also shapes our identity.
Each time for example that we turn up for a workout, a swim, or training, people are placing a ‘vote’ on who we are, and who we want to be. As James has said “Your current behaviours are simply a reflection of your current identity.”
We spoke in a previous blog about Chris Nikic and his dad striving to be ‘1% better every day’, and they act on this, they do things to become better every day.
And so, our role (I think) in providing our events and activities, is to give people the platform to build their identities, moment by moment, ideally along a journey with you and, ideally, to become an active person in their own minds, and in their lives.
You might be doing that enough already, but if you think I can help with that influence please let me know.
Let's start creating a more active world, together. Getting more people involved - more often, for longer!
The right triggers for the right people at the right times.
If we understand that identity influences what people do, and we can help influence that identity, we can attempt to provide the right triggers to connect with and build these beliefs. If we can apply it in the right way for each person, they may feel that reward and want to keep showing up again and again.
We can help them build positive beliefs by influencing them with the right triggers, and the cues that are relevant to the aspiration and capacity they currently see themselves having. Plus, we need to be aware that these identities change, and that it goes both ways. Just like other relationships, when someone who was active with a sport or club, they can become alienated by that activity. The same can happen in the expectations of themselves. They may not see themselves as a runner or a parkrunner anymore.
Therefore, we need to keep assessing the relationships and self-concepts people have. So again, your communications, interactions and experiences need to speak to people in a way that is meaningful to them and meets them where they are currently with their own sense of identity.
Offering different emails, having variety in your social posts, and having different experiences, areas and staff at the activity catering for these different personas will enable people to connect with the things that are right for them. And then, they feel valued and gain value from the experiences you offer.
What is important for you to take away and action here is that different people will have different identities, so knowing this and acting on it is most important.
It is fundamental to either find people who have identities that match what you’re offering or support people to build this sense of identity so it matches what you’re offering. And by interacting with people with triggers that are relevant to them, will help you, help them.
How would your participants describe themselves?
How would they define themselves in relation to the activity you provide?
What do your people value?
Does what you provide match those values?