The recent passing of Sean Connery, coupled with finalizing the video content for the Path2 Program course, brought my James Bond theory back to top-of-mind; it’s also timely as we look toward a new year. My James Bond theory complements my junk drawer metaphor and illustrates the concept of “no-self,” which is vitally important in making any kind of self-improvement change.
In its simplest form, the James Bond theory acknowledges that James Bond has one continuous and cohesive story, and even though his persona and characteristics varied, he was always the same character. As viewers, we accept that a different looking person, with a different charisma, presence, and demeanor, is still the character with the same history. Similarly, we too can have different versions of our “self” while still maintaining a continuous story. This is key for embracing personal change… but first, let’s look at James Bond.
The James Bond films ask viewers to accept that the character James Bond is defined by – but not bound by – the actor portraying him. Said differently, James Bond is one person that is represented by different personas; they are NOT different variations of the character. Each actor portraying Bond brought different attributes to the character, and even with those differences, they all are the same character. Sean Connery gave us a classic alpha male version, whereas Roger Moore gave us a version that was softer and more charming. Timothy Dalton revealed a dangerous and darker version of Bond, but Pierce Brosnan offered a smooth and appealing charisma to complement it. And then Daniel Craig gave us a primal yet dashing version, and we await another variation (and another).
Despite that we likely have personal preferences over the different versions of James Bond (some we might adore and others we might cringe at), we don’t dispute the existence of the others or disavow the stories of those other versions. This is different from characters that are rebooted in movies, such as Batman or Superman.
Importantly, acknowledging favorable and unfavorable versions of ourselves allows us to appreciate the attributes we like the most in our “self.” Using the James Bond theory, I can look at my current self and lovingly say, “Rob, you’re very Dalton right now. Let’s get back to Craig or at least Brosnan.” I can even look back at my George Lazenby era (read: hiccup) and say, “what were you thinking?!” By embracing our different versions without self-flagellation or criticism, we can set about changes to recapture those attributes we prefer and bring them into new versions.
The reason continuity in the James Bond theory is important is that it allows us to accept a reality of our own life: we can recognize our different versions and we can change radically without disrupting our story. A common barrier to personal change is the fear of losing our sense of identity or the risk of changing our story.* The James Bond theory reminds us that we can refine and change our attributes without losing our sense of self or where we belong in our story.
We can go through a personal transformation and still maintain the same job, the same family, and the same baggage but feel and see things differently and present ourselves in a new and improved way. We are always moving forward; we don’t retrace our steps and try to get it right the 2nd or 3rd time through. We can accept shortcomings in the past or present, and make the changes we want going forward without feeling trapped in a version of ourself that no longer fits the stories we want to live into.
The James Bond theory is helpful whenever we are presented with the start of new chapters or phases. We are free to change the actor for our next film. We don’t reshoot the old ones or put the character in a completely different story. We can implement powerful change in our story just by changing the attributes of the lead actor (you).
As you look at the upcoming new year, ask yourself which version of your James Bond will star in your upcoming film.