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The Importance of Identity -Miriam Gunn

[00:00:00] if you wanna learn how to play the piano or the cello or hit a baseball or whatever, you can do it on your own for sure. And if you can set up a mirror so you can see what you’re doing or videotape your progress and watch your films, yeah, you can get better and better. And as people, we are amazing at our ability to look and grow. But you can like two x three x 10 x that when you have a coach.

So a lot of times I’ll ask people, where do you wanna be in six months or a year, or five years or 10 years? What are the actions that you need to do to get you there? Now, what is the mindset that’s getting in the way of doing those actions?

Because what. People do. It’s super weird. But what people think really impacts what they do and what they do impacts how they feel and what they feel impacts how they think. It just goes around and around.

[00:00:57] Intro to Miriam

Miriam is a leader and a coach of leaders. She has [00:01:00] advised and mentored hundreds of individuals towards better performance communication, and.

At the heart of her coaching is her conviction that your work is too important to feel anything less than your best. She works with leaders who are ready to challenge the status quo. Her clients bring their experience, vision, ideas, and curiosity. She brings deep listening, optimism, curiosity. And the ability to draw our insights from what she hears and observes.

I hope you enjoy this one.

Rebel Diaries

Hi, I’m Scott Fulton, the host of the Rebel Diaries podcast.

Having spent over 20 years leading disruptive high performing teams who have won international awards for their impact, I’ve now dedicated my career to helping coach and train leaders and to deliver more value and impact at work whilst reducing the risk of burnout, overload, and wasted effort. This podcast is dedicated to you and thousands like you, who know work can and should be better.

Hi, Miriam. Welcome to the Rebel Diaries podcast.

Scott, it’s so good to be here. I’m glad that we were able to make this work for the benefit of our listeners. Where are you abouts at the moment? Obviously this is [00:02:00] UK based podcast, but where are you right now?

Yes. I live in northern Utah, which is on the west side of the Rocky Mountains, and the area I live in is a little valley. It’s not exactly rural, but it’s not really urban either. We live on a little farm and we have animals and mountains and it’s a good thing.

Sounds very peaceful. Yeah, I, I think that outside, the trees, the sky, all of that reduces your heart rate. It’s good for your mental health. And along the way, we just tried to rescue as many animals as we could. So I think we have five or six different species and several individuals of all of those. And it’s just a little bit crazy, but super fun here.

[00:02:44] How I Got Here

So how did you get into your line of work? What was the trigger for you to say, I’m gonna help people grow their identity and all those things you help people.

Initially I would say I’ve always been interested in self-development, and [00:03:00] when I went to the university quickly, I departed from my original degree and I was working for a mentoring program with students and I did that for quite a while. And in the context of that, I realized that they needed a lot of help with their mental health.

And at that point I got a degree as a licensed marriage and familytherapist. . And as I started working with people who were older, I realized the people I enjoyed the most were the entrepreneurs. And at that point, then I got dual- certified in coaching.

And that’s what I do currently, is that I work with business owners and high performers helping them reach their next level.

But I think throughout, if you looked at the arc of my life.. There’s just been this pattern of listening, finding out where you’re roadblocked, and then helping you go over or around or through that roadblock and reaching that next level of you, you version 2.0 or [00:04:00] 3.0 or whatever.

When to Get a Coach

Great. And what kind of stage in the process to people get in touch with you? Do they wait till everything’s on fire, and it’s, I really need some help, or do people have the self-awareness to try and get help sooner, or is it a bit of amixture?

You know how with people, there’s always a bit of, you’ve got a spectrum of things. So I definitely have had entrepreneurs that did not reach out to me until things were on fire.

But I also have had some people, and usually these people are a little bit younger who say, Ooh, I actually don’t know where what I’m doing, but I know I’m gonna go far and I wanna invite someone into the mix with me.

Okay. Do you think there’s a trend to people being more accepting of coaches? Obviously high performers and athletes have had coaches for a long time.

[00:04:51] Business Coaching

Do you think in the business world coaching is growing Because I seem, I know quite a few coaches, I dunno, maybe it’s cuz I’ve run a podcast now, but is there a, an increase in people [00:05:00] seeking help from coaches?

I really think that it depends on where you live, and I think it depends on what you’ve seen modeled. I mentioned earlier, I live in a semi-rural area and I watched this happen with therapy. Therapy was and is, depending on which area you live in, considered kind of a, a negative, oh, you must be broken, you need therapy.

And if you go to the coasts of our country, whether it’s the east coast or the west coast, everybody’s super proud of their therapist and they’re like, oh my gosh, I love my therapist so much.

I’m seeing the same thing with coaching.

In my particular area, I would say like almost all of the people I coach live outside of my area because in my area that like therapy is just becoming accepted and coaching is viewed with suspect. However, if you go to the East coast or the west coast of the United States, everybody has a coach. If they are trying to become a high performer.. [00:06:00]

Learning and Improving

And as you mentioned athletes, I always say, okay, if you wanna learn how to play the piano or the cello or hit a baseball or whatever, you can do it on your own for sure. But you can like two x three x 10 x that when you have a coach,

I remember at one point in my own life inviting a coach into my life and I, the power of a question can shift your mindset. And what I find to me interesting is sometimes people look at progress in a linear fashion and they’re moving along this.

And they’re getting better and better at X, like for example, better and better at playing the piano. And sometimes a coach will come in and say, have you ever considered the cello? That person had never considered the cello, but maybe they’re uniquely designed for that, and all of a sudden they just take off.

And so in the business world, it might look like [00:07:00] someone developing this program and they’re. Eeking along, additionally, one plus one, and the coach comes in and asks exactly the right question and it sits inside the person and all of a sudden they just take like a little bit of a turn, either mentally or physically in an action.

And now they’re talking about exponential growth. Instead of one plus one. Now it’s 1, 10, 20, a hundred. Actually, I, it’s not 20, it’s 10 a hundred. Et cetera. So that’s why I like coaching so much is that it gives you the opportunity to 10 x yourself.

And what are the main themes that you are helping your clients with? Are there any specifics?

[00:07:43] What is Your Mindset?

You know what I find to be interesting is that everybody comes with a different problem per se, or a different goal, but the solutions all seem to be really similar. I think that solutions come down to: what are you [00:08:00] thinking? What is your mindset? What are the values that drive your actions, which are usually habits And it, I find that if you can get people to assess what are the actions they’re doing today that are contributing to the life they have right now, those actions were usually created about six months earlier in terms of their view of themselves, their identity. Something happened about six months ago and they started shifting in such a way, and you’re seeing the downstream effects of that now.

So a lot of times I’ll ask people, where do you wanna be in six months or a year, or five years, or 10 years? What are the actions that you need to do to get you there? Now? What is the mindset that’s getting in the way of doing those actions?

What people think really impacts what they do and what they do impacts how they feel and what they feel impacts how they think. It just goes around and around and if you can get somebody to push on one of [00:09:00] those things, then you get movement.

So you breaking the cycle then of almost self-sabotage. So you, are you seeing things like people lacking confidence and imposter syndrome and not thinking they’ve got it in them, and are those the kind of things that you’ll see?

Sometimes. I think that is a really common thing that people have.

Imposter Syndrome

What’s fascinating is that self-confidence and imposter syndrome show up for everybody at some point in their life, and usually it’s when people push into that next level. So there’s a certain level of behaving and relating that you’re totally comfortable with. It’s like the last year’s version of you.

I remember the first time I did a podcast. There’s the first time you do your own interview and there’s the first time you are interviewed. And each one of those come with these feelings of, “I don’t know if I know how to do this” and that imposter syndrome. Then you [00:10:00] take the action and you learn from it and you iterate and all of a sudden it doesn’t get you in that same space anymore.

Then you end up having confidence and you end up having, this ability to say, I’m. , I can do that. Because now your identity has shifted a little bit.

Yeah. I had a podcast guest recently who, it was her first podcast episode and she was told me she was really nervous and I said, you don’t need to be, she’s given like public talks and everything and I didn’t, she didn’t come across as nervous.

It was a great episode and it’s done really well and now on LinkedIn and she’s like popping up. But like I said, I’ve messaged her and said, you’re prolific now. She’s been on like four different podcasts since my episode about a month ago. And she said, you helped me get the confidence to do it. So that was nice.

[00:10:46] Your Identity

So one of the things I know that you look at is identity and people’s identity and how that affects their, their thinking. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Sure. I think that we as human beings really want to be [00:11:00] congruent within ourselves. And so what that means is that what’s happening on our inside is what’s happening on our outside.

And an example of dis congruity or incongruity would be someone who has a really high value of not stealing, and then they end up stealing something. And maybe it’ll happen accidentally, like maybe something will be on the bottom of their shopping cart and they didn’t see it, and they walk out and they’re going to their car and they’re like, oh my gosh, I didn’t pay for this.

When someone has the identity of “I am not a thief”, or “I am an honest person”, they’re going to walk that back in even though nobody notices, nobody cares, whatever. And they’re going to find somebody. And it might actually be a hassle because now the computers are all shut down and the transaction is finished and you have to go find somebody in customer service and blah, blah.

Um, but people who have that internal identity of “I am an honest person”- [00:12:00] they will walk it back and they will find the customer service person and they’ll go through all that hassle because they need to stay congruent within themselves.

The Next You

So within business and high performing, whenever you wanna make a new leap into the next version of yourself, you have to work with your identity.

And the identity is weird because you’re not always aware of what’s happening in your thoughts. Some of these thoughts happen in a millisecond and you have to actually train yourself to hear what is happening between your thoughts.

I’ll give you an example. So I’m in midlife and I wish I had started the business journey in my twenties and thirties, but I didn’t. I did these other things.

So the other day I was developing a product, . And this thought went through my head, Miriam, you’re too old for this. You don’t have enough time. You don’t have enough runway to make this happen.

And I caught it. Like most of the time, I wouldn’t catch that thought, but I [00:13:00] caught the thought and I went, “hang on a second”. And then I Googled people who had incredible success after 55, and it came up with the guy who created McDonald’s didn’t buy his first franchise until he was 55.

There were like five or six people who were like name brands of different things. This person wrote their first book at 65 and made a whole huge series over it. All of that. So I ended up looking up these things and saying, “okay, here’s my thought- that is a previous identity. Miriam, you’re too old for this. And I started working with that thought and going, I’m not too old for this.”

[00:13:43] I Can Make it Happen

The identity of I can make it happen. Some people have that identity in spades and other people have to develop that. I. So in my case, first I started with new information.

Here’s a whole bunch of case studies of people [00:14:00] who developed things later in life.

Then I started saying, what actions would be consistent with somebody who could make it happen?

Action First, Confidence Second

A lot of times people wanna feel the confidence before they take the action, but it’s actually the opposite way. You take the action and then that gives you the confidence.

Yeah, there’s the, just take that first step, even if it’s very small, isn’t there, so that you actually start to just move, even if it feels completely daunting, just do a tiny bit, just open the book or put the trainers by the door. It just gives you that slight nudge to just start.

Yes. Yep. And if you, determine success. Not by completing X, but by starting X. So if it’s a workout, your success is not determined by, did I work out by for 40 minutes doing this, that, or the other? The success is did I change my [00:15:00] clothes and put on my shoes and drive to the gym or pick up the weights? Did I start? Because usually if you start, your brain will say, you’ve already spent this time to get here. We may as well finish it.

Yeah. So when you’re helping people form these new identities, is it, is there some internal resistance there or do people, I guess what I’m trying to say is the people that come to you for coaching help already probably have a kind of growth mindset because they’ve sought help.

So are you pushing it an open door with that, or is it quite difficult for some people to change identity.

I don’t think anybody changes identity in a flash. I think it’s more like a sunrise where it’s dark, it’s, is it getting lighter? Is I’m not sure, is it? And then you’re like, oh, the sun is up. So I think that a change of identity feels a little more, gradual.

The Right Question

Although I will say sometimes the right question will cause someone to something inside ’em kind of snaps and they’re like, oh yeah, I can [00:16:00] do that.

I do find that if I try and champion an identity in someone, “ah, I see this in you. You can do that, or whatever, blah, blah.” There’s internal resistance. But if I ask a question and say, ” what evidence have you seen in yourself that you could be this kind of a person?”

What evidence is, have you seen that you could move into the next income bracket? , I’ve developed a new product and I’ve got this email sequence, or I have this many new clients, or I am doing X,

– so I help them see they’re already taking the steps. Or, what is an action you could take that would be congruent with this new person that you want to be?

Then there’s some silence. And then they’ll say, I think I could do X.

And when you hear someone say, I think I could do X, you’re like, okay. Now it’s almost like you have feet across a stream and one foot is on this [00:17:00] side and one foot is on the other side. They’re straddling this space in their brain, and there is a moment in time where more weight is on the back foot than the front foot, and then somehow that shifts and more weight is on the front.

Then you know that they’re moving into that newer identity.

[00:17:19] How the Shift Happens

And that shift for you. How do you think that happens? Is that because of your coaching or because they’ve just had time to like get used to the idea? What makes that shift happening, do you think?

I think it’s different for every single person, but usually there’s some form of vision that is caught by the other person and it could be this internal desire that they have to be a different person. It could be a book they read. It could be someone else modeled something and they said, “Ooh, I could do that too.” It could be the championing of a coach.

There’s lots of [00:18:00] reasons. I do think it has to start with a vision of a possibility. I could go here or I want to go here. and then it becomes, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Is it the actions or the ideas that, I don’t know.

One of the challenges for people in life, and I know being an entrepreneur myself, can be just overload of, of choice and what do I do next as just so many things I could and should be doing. And then you can, if you don’t like, try to prioritize and get structure. Just get lost in it.

Did you help people with that to try and fi find their way through that, that feeling of overload and overwhelm?

Yes. I think that boundaries are incredibly important and what is fascinating to me is we do get to make a whole bunch of choices.


If you think about a pipe and if you keep this pipe really wide, And you put the same amount of water through it, or you make it really narrow, you’re gonna get different speed. And so for [00:19:00] some people, I wanna know, how important is it that this make enormous amounts of money quickly versus , what is the role of this business venture or this next level of view in your own life and your income structure, et cetera.

Because the answers to that are really gonna determine- do you get to meander and explore? There are some people who wanna start a business and they’re currently working for something else, and they want to transition into their own business- I’m gonna use the word someday, but they don’t have a lot of pressure to do it next week.

They’re gonna be allowed to take a much more meandering course of action than someone who’s, I wanna quit my job in six months, I hate it, blah. .

So the first person has a wider pipe and the second person has a narrower pipe because you have to create more velocity in a shorter amount of time.

So the narrower pipe means you [00:20:00] get to choose one solution to one avatar, and you work on systematizing that solution. , and then you work on your customer base. So that’s going to be ads and marketing and all of that sort of thing. And it’s going to have to happen in a very short amount of time. So you’re going to, you’re gonna need to have some rules.


Entrepreneurs are very positive and they get pulled by all sorts of shiny objects

Oh, I could do this. Oh, what about that? And before you know it, you’re actually not going anywhere. So you either have to be incredibly disciplined to say, I’m going to give this one idea and this one avatar, and this one solution X many months.

I was interviewing somebody, two months ago, and he said, I saved up this much money and I’m gonna give this six months, and if I don’t make any money after six months, then I’m going to go elsewhere.

[00:21:00] Those were his rules and somebody else would say “I’m giving myself a decade and I’m gonna iterate and test and learn as I go. And I don’t need this to make my income. I’m doing this for the joy of it.”

And then there’s everything in between.

Yeah. Everything’s different, isn’t it for people? So your entrepreneurs can, I’ve heard there’s quite a lot of depression goes on and people are burnt out, and obviously it can have an impact on personal life and family life if you’ve got that narrow pipe as you described. “I gotta get this business off the ground.” You may have lost their job and they’ve, now I’m gonna go it alone. They’re gonna feel significant pressure to, to, to just work all the hours under the sun and we know that can be bad. Are you helping people in that space as well?

[00:21:47] The Systems

Yeah. There’s every kind of coach and there’s every kind of person.

I personally am the kind of person who is not going to encourage anybody to burn a bridge without having a [00:22:00] place to land. So it’s don’t quit your job so that this entrepreneurial thing can work. Like get this entrepreneurial thing to work and then quit your job.

Now it’s different if somebody’s been laid off and that’s sort of a situation, but even then, I almost think I would say get another job, even part-time. So the, the weight of your finances does not fall on this venture.

When the weight falls on the venture, people get really desperate. They start putting things on credit cards and taking out loans, and now they have just this incredible amount of stress that’s happening, which then fuels into working 15 hour days and terrible sleep, and now they’re not eating and they’re not exercising, and it’s just really negative downward spiral that I have seen entrepreneurs do.

That isn’t really my coaching style. I’m gonna say take care of yourself. Because if you take care of [00:23:00] yourself, you become less desperate. And if you become less desperate, then you attract the kind of customers you want. You don’t have to start making kind of crazy deals and working for nothing.

And I just don’t think it has to be that way. My business model is “let’s learn ways our business can succeed, but our lives get better and the people we’re around, like their experience of us is better as a result of all these changes we’re making.”

And do you coach, is it just one-to-one individuals or do you coach teams as well?

I have coached teams. I think that my preference is one-to-one.


I do some small group kind of things, and that’s just fine. There is so much power in just having that space for that individual to be able to pause or go on a rabbit trail or come back. So that’s just my preference.

But I have done, groups also are powerful.

I’ve been a part of some groups [00:24:00] where the coach asked the question, but the, the gem in all of it was as it went through the various people, some other entrepreneur had been there first and they said, this was my experience. I think that there is a lot of benefit that can come from having a tribe of people in a similar space.

Yeah. And you’ve to come with that, you’ve gotta have that team safety haven’t you, to have open conversations and you’re not, cuz potentially you wouldn’t get the real people in the room if they depend, if there’s tension between people and politics and all that stuff. So I can see how one-to-one would be much easier in that regard. You get probably the real person.

Yes, I would. I would agree with that. Yeah. A lot of times, because I am also a marriage and family therapist, there is this emphasis on systems. Understanding that if you are part of a team and I can help you change- you by definition, change them. Like the whole [00:25:00] system kind of changes as the individual changes.

Some people like to work with teams with all the people in the room and other people like to work with teams with only one person in the room, but knowing that person is gonna go back and push on the system and get it to change.

And I think I’m more the latter.

[00:25:17] The Victim Mindset

Yeah, that’s fair enough. So one of the other topics I know that you help people with is having a victim mindset. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

Sure. Yeah. Except I would gently correct you and say I helped them with not having a victim mindset.

Sorry if I phrased that question badly. . .

Yeah. Uh, people don’t like th that term victim mindset. And if you say to anyone, do you have a victim mindset? Oh, they’d all be like, “no, I don’t.”

But really what a victim mindset means is that you hold them- I’m gonna put them in air quotes, you hold them responsible.

Outsourcing Power

So it was [00:26:00] that person. I’m sad or frustrated or angry or less than or whatever because of them, because they did X. Instead of saying, “I am a person with control of my life. I get to control my decisions and I get to de control my actions and my emotions.”

I have heard people say that policeman always hides in that one street and it’s, it’s just his fault. I got the ticket instead of saying, “yeah, I was going 15 over the speed limit, which is why I got the ticket.”

Or it’s because you did X that I’m upset. In a way, you’re outsourcing your power to the other person. They have the power to make you mad. They have the power to wreck your life. They have the power.

I always say to people, you all, you have so many more choices than- you may not like those choices, but you do have more choices.

You could have a conversation with them. You could basically go into a [00:27:00] space of, I’m going to be separate from you until we get some help. Or you could get a divorce. There’s lots of options and people will say, I’ve tried this, I’ve tried that, I’ve tried everything. And it’s just them.

You have tried it, but you haven’t tried it effectively yet, and unless you’re dead, there’s usually something that you can do to make the situation better.

Locus of Control

I like, Phrase of internal locus of control or external locus of control.

If I have an internal locus of control, I can say, okay, here are the circumstances. Maybe my paycheck was less than it should have been, or maybe it’s rained all day, or maybe my kid came down with covid. Those things I have no control over. What control do I have? How I respond, what I think my next action? Is there anything I can do that’s going to make this situation better. And sometimes the very first thing you need to do is just take a [00:28:00] breath and get a little clear about what’s going on and then decide which way you wanna chart your next action.

Yeah. It’s how people interpret the events around them, isn’t it? Cuz you know that can, how you internalize it and interpret it affects how you respond and you, it’s easy to say obviously, but if you can get to a place where you can interpret things in a more positive way, that can change everything.

I’ll give a tiny example of this. Last week I got a notice that my virtual assistant was going to take a full-time job elsewhere and I employ her part-time and I love her and she is like my outsourced brain.

I was super sad and for a moment, I contemplated letting a variety of things go, a whole list of things going. Well, if she’s going, maybe I shouldn’t do this, maybe I shouldn’t do that.

That to me feels like a victim mindset. Well, this person has [00:29:00] gone and so now woe- is -me. I can’t do this, I can’t do that.

[00:29:04] Reframing

It took me just a minute to wrap my brain around the whole thing, and I said, well, how could I reframe this? What if -I’m sad that this is happening, however, this does give me an opportunity to evaluate everything that she was already doing, make some changes, cut some things out, add some things in.

And then I said, what other opportunities are here?

I thought she probably knows some other people who are also, she’s really good at crossing the T’s and dotting the, i’s, very organizationally savvy. And I said she probably knows some people like that. So I asked her for a list of people like that, that she knew, which she gave me, and then I made the decision.

I interviewed one and made the decision to hire her before this other person’s last day, and I asked her to train the new virtual assistant.

It’s not something I would’ve wanted, but it’s turning out to be okay and good, and it [00:30:00] really came down to: how am I interpreting what is happening and now what are the actions I’m gonna take about it? I have a lot of optimism toward the whole thing.

One Book

So one of the questions I ask all my guests is, if you could take one book with you to a desert island, what would it be?

You’re gonna say, this isn’t fair. There is a compendium of Cs Lewis’s Narnia series, and the Lion, the Witch, and the wardrobe, the whole thing. And I know they’re children’s books, but I love them because I read them a gazillion times as a child. So when I read them as an adult, it compresses time and it brings now and then together. But also what CS Lewis did with this series is take these universal principles and concepts of Christianity and he married them to delightful stories.

When children read books, they made pictures in their [00:31:00] head. And so when a movie comes out on a childhood book, everybody’s disappointed because it isn’t the way they thought it was gonna be in their head. And I love that those books do that for me, that when I read them, I can see it and I’m taken to another place.

Even though they’re very simple, it’s not like they’re complicated, but it’s a wonderful way to just go into a different space. So that’s what I would do.

[00:31:24] Where to Find Miriam

So if anyone wants to work with you, how do they get a hold of you? I have a website. Leave better as in you can leave better L E A V E B E T T e r.com and you can reach out to me via that.

Or Miriam, m i r i a m at leave Better. I have an Instagram at leave Better. I’m on LinkedIn. I would love to hear from people. I love working with people in other countries and as long as we can figure out the time zone, we’re good.

Brilliant. I’ll get all those linked in the show notes.

Miriam, it’s been great chatting to you. Thank you for being on the show. Thank you,

Scott. It’s been really fun.

A big thank you for listening to the Rebel Diary Show. Your time is precious, so it is appreciated. If you enjoy this episode, be sure to hit that subscribe button in your podcast app of choice so you don’t miss the next one.



End Credits

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Music by Tom Sherlock.

head shot Miriam Gunn

If you are curious to know more, please contact me!

As someone who has been a therapist for over a decade and has been coaching people for over three decades, I am uniquely qualified to address your concerns.