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How often do you think about your three possible selves?

Today is January 22 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you think about your three possible selves?” The work of Hazel Rose Markus and Paula Nurius introduced the concept of three possible selves: the ideal self that we would like to become, that we could become, and that we are afraid of becoming.

“To suggest that there is a single self to which one ‘can be true’ or an authentic self that one can know is to deny the rich network of potential that surrounds individuals.” Navigating the chaos and practicing the art of living well involves asking what ‘self’ we want to be.

  • Are you working towards the ideal self that you would like to become?

  • Are you working towards the ideal self that you could become?

  • Are you working towards the deal self that you are afraid of becoming?

Have you asked yourself any of these questions? If this is the first time you are asking yourself these questions how does that make you feel? Which ‘self’ are you working towards: who you would, could, or are afraid of, becoming? Remember, the answer to these questions need to be on your own terms. Ignore what your friends, parents, or others would want you to answer. Whichever version of self you are working on is fine, as long as you have reflected upon the answer and revisit it over time.

Author Joan Didion reflected upon the search for her self and said "I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be.” Author Lewis Carroll echoed similar sentiment and noted “It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” What a beautiful sentiment!

Both Didion and Carroll experienced the transformation, maturation, and development of their ‘self’ over time. They understood what so many who navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well realize, their lives unfold over time and they develop a new self over time. Actors Robert Downey Jr., Daniel Radcliffe, and Danny Trejo each ‘lost touch with people they used to be.’

Downey engaged in hard partying, reckless behavior, and drug use. He would eventually spend time in jail and rehab; two events that would spell the end of most careers. For Downey, however, he was cast on the television show Ally McBeal seven days after leaving rehab. Billed as the ultimate comeback the once golden boy of Hollywood was ready to show the world he was a changed man.

For a while it worked as he helped increased the show’s ratings. But he continued his previous ways, got arrested two more times, fired from Ally McBeal and hit rock bottom. For the second time in his career he began to tackle his demons. Unfortunately, his legal and drug issues prevented him from getting insurance as an actor. With help from his now wife Susan Levin, and Mel Gibson who cast Downey in a small movie and put himself on the line to get Downey insured, Downey’s second personal turnaround succeeded.

Between 2003 and 2008 Downey appeared in a variety of movies demonstrating to Hollywood that he was reliable and clean for good. In 2008 he appeared in his first Iron Man film which would become a blockbuster. By 2015, he was one of the industry’s highest paid actors.

Daniel Radcliffe is best known for playing Harry Potter in the Harry Potter film series during his adolescence and early adulthood. He has been outspoken about his battle against alcohol addiction throughout much of his adult career. According to Radcliffe “A lot of drinking that happened towards the end of Potter and for a little bit after it finished, it was panic, a little bit not knowing what to do next — not being comfortable enough in who I was to remain sober.”

Sober since 2010, Radcliffe pulled himself out of the darkness of alcohol abuse with the help of close friends, who genuinely cared for his well-being and offered great advice. Upon reflection he said "It took a few years, and it took a couple of attempts. Ultimately, it was my own decision. ... I woke up one morning after a night going, 'This is probably not good.' "

Throughout the '60s, Danny Trejo was in and out of jail and prison in California. He has suggested his physical appearance contributed to his constantly getting into trouble. While serving in San Quentin, he became a champion boxer in that prison's lightweight and welterweight divisions. During this time, Trejo became a member of a 12-step program, which he credits with his success in overcoming drug addiction. In 2011, he recalled that he had been sober for 42 years.

While Trejo was working as a youth drug counselor, a teenage patient asked for his assistance dealing with cocaine problems on the set of Runaway Train (1985). While there, Trejo was offered a job as an extra in the film's prison scenes. Edward Bunker, himself an individual who was formerly incarcerated and at the time a well-respected crime author who was writing the screenplay for the film, recognized Trejo, with whom he had done time at San Quentin and offered him $320 per day to train Eric Roberts, one of the movie's stars, for a boxing scene. Director Andrei Konchalovsky liked Trejo's work and decided to offer him a small role in the film as a boxer.

  • Have you lost touch with people you used to be?

  • How often do you think about the person you would like to become, that you could become, and that you are afraid of becoming?

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