When legal issues cost you your identity- Go find it again!

What is it that makes you who you are? Is it your position and job title with your company? Your connection to your spouse or kids? Or your home and country club membership? A lot of external things are reflected back to us and, for better or worse, give us a perception in our minds about who we are. And then, when a criminal case happens, it seems to pull the plug on our life source; and like the vivacious gorilla on top of the car dealership, without a constant source of forced air to pump us up, we wither and fold.

But, the truth is, nothing outside of your own mind and spirit can truly define you. Therefore, any prison sentence that makes you believe that you have lost your identity, purpose, or reason to carry on is something that can be dealt with and overcome. Unlike the inflatable gorilla, you have what it takes to stand on your own. You can lose your profession, your spouse, your house and your life savings; but you can never lose yourself.

A federal prison sentence and the ancillary consequences cause huge, sweeping changes in one’s life- loss of finances, licenses, spouses, homes, and more. And the way that people who have success after prison is simple: They redefine themselves. Well, the concept is simple, but the reality takes dedication and effort. The key that these successful people realize is that they may no longer have their profession, but they still have the drive, internal power, and strength that got them there. That can never be taken away.

There are a couple of important things you can do when you find that the rug that gave you meaning has been pulled out from under you, leaving you to feel like you no longer have an identity.

First, take an inventory and accounting of all the things that have not been taken away from you – your training and abilities, your knowledge of an industry, your education, your personality, your smile, your good hearted nature, your legs, your tools, your car, your connections and family – everything you can think of. Now, add to that all of the things you’ve always wanted to do, the things that inspire and motivate you, your untapped talents and skills. You can’t do your former job any more? Consult or teach.

The second thing to do is to look at the blank slate of your future as an opportunity to try something and succeed in ways you never thought possible before. If you think about it, there are probably thousands of people in the world who have never picked up a golf club or tennis racket who would have discovered that they were “naturals” if they had ever taken a swing. The same is true for every job, sport, or activity. You can look at potential jobs, friends, and challenges in a whole new and empowering way. You are no longer limited by that old definition of who you are. Time to get started on the next best chapter of your life.

To learn how I did that, feel free to check out my book, Things Fall Apart.

Hilary Neiman


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