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Think of yourself in a supermarket, for example, at the candy aisle. You’re wondering what you should choose. The options seem endless.

This is exactly the kind of choice we face in adolescence and young adulthood. There seem to be many interesting treats, but how do you know that a particular candy is worth choosing and whether you can actually choose it? Maybe you’d like to try all the options, or most of them, or the sheer number of choices is enough to make you dizzy. Some of the candies you choose, you already know because you were exposed to them in your childhood family or they are recommended by your friends or family: choose this one.


By making choices – setting goals for ourselves – we build an identity and a sense of who we are. Change, freedom, and the uncertain nature of the future require active choices and investment – the conscious construction of one’s identity. The requirement for us to manage our own lives and navigate in the best direction is particularly evident in the formation of education and career paths.

The conscious construction of one’s own identity happens

  • by setting forward-looking goals
  • by going through different identity options
  • by committing to a particular life path

Sometimes, we are unable to make choices and must live in uncertainty about our choices and future. Planning for the future does not give us the confidence we need to manage our lives. Life feels like a search tinged with endless worry: what do I want from life? This can easily lead to feelings of hopelessness and lack of control, or even depression and exhaustion.


Listed below are six ways that can help you find and clarify your identity.


Make your search both wide and deep. Consider your options, find information. Make a list of your wishes for your life. Try to make it as extensive as possible. Think of all the situations in which you could see yourself. In this broad search phase, try to be as open as possible; you want to give yourself lots of options.

It is important to activate the search, especially in situations where the number of possibilities is either very high or where everything seems impossible from the outset.


Choosing is very difficult. It is very easy to get stuck in a choice situation, and sometimes we let other people or circumstances choose for us. For those who would like to choose all possible options, it may be helpful to know that in today’s world, choosing is first and foremost about eliminating options and leaving some things for later in life. This leaves us to think about what we can leave undone and what we can do at a bare-bones level so as to save our energy for our most important goal.

When facing choices, it can also be helpful to remember that in this world, we cannot make choices for the rest of our lives. Rather, we should try to choose what to do next.


Making choices is closely related to goal setting, but these are still two distinct things.

Therefore, pay attention to the kind of goal you set for yourself. The very act of setting yourself a concrete goal will clarify your identity and give you answers to the question of who you are. A good goal is, above all, clear and concrete. Think that the goal must be directed outside of yourself.

Goals such as “I want to become a better person” or “I want to be happy” do not work for identity formation, because they make it difficult to grasp what we should do next.

When you have several dreams, it is good to know that active introspection, or what is known as deep searching, is also important psychological work for clarifying your identity. In other words, consider whether the direction and goal you have chosen fit in with what you consider important in life. Also consider whether what you’re trying to achieve fits in with what you’re able to do.

On the road to a clearer identity, it is essential that you believe you’ll be able to achieve your goal. It is also essential that the target is realistic. It’s good to keep your dreams big but set your goals at a level that can be achieved. A good goal must also feel worth pursuing, and this links it in a special way to your identity.


The importance of making an effort cannot be overemphasised. In the world we live in, many things happen very easily and effortlessly. This can trap us into thinking that everything could be, or should be, easy. But making difficult choices, setting goals, and working towards these goals is not effortless.

Making an effort requires time and hard work, but also trying, failing, repeating, and enduring boredom, over and over again. We are constantly surrounded by temptations that invite us to give up on our goals and take a seemingly easier route.


The four previously mentioned methods are individual-centric. The focus on the individual is one of the reasons why forming an identity is so difficult nowadays. We imagine that everyone has to solve the question “Who am I?” on their own. If we find ourselves thinking this, we should stop and reach out to others. So, ask for help and help another person asking for help. In particular, we need help and support for weighing our options, rather than advice that solves everything.

The more strongly you feel that the future has nothing to offer and does not look bright, the more important it is to ask for help. Help is also needed if you are worried about what you want in life and are stuck worrying. In a situation like this, talking is especially important because, in the midst of your own hopelessness, you may feel that everyone else has these things figured out and you are alone with these problems. So, in moments of despair, it is crucial to talk to someone about your despair.


Ultimately, the process of forming an identity is carried out together with other people. As well as reflecting on your identity with friends, parents, and acquaintances, you can also offer others a good perspective and support in their own “Who am I?” reflections. Communities have power and a potential for experiencing a sense of meaning. This provides us with valuable resonance and a sense of belonging and ultimately also reflects a picture of the kind of identity we are constructing.