Architects rethinking their identity

Our identities are often tied up with our way of thinking. By rethinking our identities we begin to overcome habitual thinking that might be holding us back.

Our ways of thinking become habits that can weigh us down, and we don’t question them until it’s too late.”

Adam Grant

Our ways of thinking connect to how we perceive ourselves and what we do. They’re part of our identity. It’s uncomfortable discarding one part or other of your identity, your way of thinking. It might challenge what you do, why and how you do it – which I would argue is a good thing. You might ask, what fills the void left by shedding a part of your thinking? Depending on your perspective this is either a scary prospect and to be avoided, or an opportunity to be embraced.

To those that might feel uncomfortable rethinking identity, what might you be missing by not rethinking who you are, what you do and why you do it? Perhaps there are new ways of working you might discover by rethinking what you do or how you do it, or perhaps new projects become possible when you rethink what it is that you do.

Looking back to when you started architecture, who were you then, how did you think? It’s unlikely that you’d still identify with that person’s way of thinking. It’s more likely that you consider you’ve learnt a better way to think. What changed? It was learning. You learnt new skills. You have new knowledge. You have more experiences, both professional and life. Yes the learning and the change was incremental, but it was more rapid because you were open to that possibility. You created new learning opportunities for yourself.

The challenge is to identify which ways of thinking are habitual. What ways of thinking are no longer serving you? What do you need to rethink? How might you embrace new learning?

Keeping in mind that when we’re close to something it can be a challenge to see the whole picture. It’s necessary to either stand back, or if that’s not possible have someone describe what it is that we’re not seeing. Is there a way of thinking that you do but are too close to to really see the full picture? Is it also possible that you have stagnated and stopped choosing to learn in a way that challenges your thinking or leads you to new ways of thinking?

If you consider a way of thinking as a habit to be broken, does that help you to see what has been habituated? Something that might be worth rethinking? Try describing it,
“My habit is to think ‘this way’, I’m going to rethink that and do it ‘another way.'”
It’s literally a thought experiment. It shouldn’t be too scary. It doesn’t change anything until you adopt it as your new habit. Start small and identify steps. Take them one at a time.

Keep going until you find a new habit, or way of thinking, worth adopting.
It’s worth thinking about.


Note: This post was previously titled “What architects can learn from super heroes”, but I rethought that title. I wrote about why I did that in my next post “On the right words


Image by Laker on Pexels [cropped & edited]

Hi! I’m Michael

I’m an architect and coach. I help architects rethink their practice and support them as they uncover better ways to work. I’ve worked in architecture for over 25 years, and I ran my own practice for 14 years. I understand architectural practice from the inside out. Fun Fact: my NSW architect’s registration is #10 007 and I have a license to skill.

I believe improving practice takes asking hard questions and deep listening.

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