The Work Needed In Reclaiming Your Identity With Dr. Thomas Duncan

Penny ZenkerTake Back Time Podcast

TBT Reclaiming Your Identity


Due to many external forces out of our control and the unfair standards of society, we tend to stray away from the original paths of our lives. Unless you undergo the process of reclaiming your identity, you will forever wear masks and go on a downward spiral.

Penny Zenker sits down with Dr. Thomas Duncan, a family physician who practices functional and integrative medicine. Together, they discuss the massive power of doing incremental changes every single day, leading you back to your true identity.

Dr. Thomas shares four simple steps in reconnecting with your authentic self, the right questions to ask to empower yourself, and what it takes to get rid of your limiting beliefs.

Tune in to this enlightening episode and discover how to create a paradigm shift to change the course of your life.

Listen to the podcast here


The Work Needed In Reclaiming Your Identity With Dr. Thomas Duncan

Welcome to the show. In this episode, I feel that I am giving you guys a special treat. I have a dear friend of mine and an amazing thought leader and doctor who’s here with us. It’s Dr. Thomas Duncan. He’s a family physician who practices functional and integrative medicine in Olympia, Washington. He’s also, together with myself, a master neurostrategist expert, master in neurolinguistics. He needs no further introduction. He’s funny and smart. He’s going to teach us some great things, and we’re going to learn more about his book. Hey, Tom.

Thank you so much for having me on your amazing show. I’m very excited to be with you. It has been eleven years since we started this journey together with Steve Linder and Strategic Brain. I got the privilege of watching you evolve over those years. I cannot tell you how much you’ve inspired me to continue this path. There was a time not too long ago when I was going, “I don’t know if I can do this.” I had some limiting beliefs. I watched how every day you kept coming out. I was following you on social media, your message, your TED Talk, and how this has evolved. Your encouragement to continue to move forward has been very much appreciated. I want you to know that you’ve been a source of inspiration for me.

Thank you so much. You know that I could say the same about you. That’s what it is. We’re all sharing our experiences. Nobody’s perfect. We’re learning from each other. We’re learning ourselves. It’s all a great journey. I have also felt privileged to be on that journey with you as well. Where you are is you’re writing a book. I know you’ve been talking about this for a long time. I’ve even been nudging you and pushing you along. Tell us the book and the inspiration about why now and why you’re writing it altogether.

Thank you. I’ve been on a journey for about the last couple of years, but sometimes, we get lost. We forget what we’ve learned. We fall off the things that we know are right. In March 2021, during COVID, I read a study where it said that people that ended up in the hospital were obese and vitamin D deficient. I was five 5’8” and 235 pounds. I was tired. I couldn’t bend over and tie my shoes. I was, frankly, sick and tired of being sick and tired. I was seeing a lot of my patients coming in with the same complaints. It’s like going, “How do I help these people?”

I created this journey over the last couple of years where I’ve lost about 65 pounds of fat and gained about 10 pounds of muscle. Quite frankly, I feel better at 58 than I did at 38. It’s about doing the simple things better in small incremental changes over time. That was the inspiration for the book because I wanted to chart a path of what has worked for me. Maybe I can inspire somebody to say, “This is where I was.”

I was struggling. I’m supposedly a medical doctor and have all this knowledge, but yet again, I struggle with my humanity and the things like everybody else. I want to make it something that’s relatable to people so that they can say, “I’m a guy.” My good friend, Jim Brown, would say, “You’re not Jesus Duncan. You haven’t healed anybody.” I do cold plunges, but I don’t walk on the water. I am very excited to share that process with you.

I love the term simple things better. The simpler we can say it, the more it sticks. That’s a very sticky statement, simple things better. Let’s talk about some of those simple things. I know that we wanted to talk a little bit about our identity, who we are, who we want to be, and how we want to show up. What are some simple things better so that we can be more of ourselves and more true to ourselves?

It’s a little bit of self-exploration. As you and I know with our neurolinguistics, the strongest force in the human psyche is I am statements. I am a father. I am a husband. I am energized. I am passionate. Those I am statements are what drive it. Doing the simple things better is asking better questions. Who are you? More importantly, who do you want to be? You ask those questions of who is it that you want to be. In order to create that paradigm shift, people change for 1 or 2 reasons, either inspiration or desperation.

A person can only create a paradigm shift in life once they find either a reason for inspiration or desperation. Share on X

It’s usually desperation. Let’s face it.

Exactly. That’s where I was, quite frankly. My blood pressure was 165 over 95. My cholesterol was through the roof. My liver enzymes were elevated. I had all the signs of metabolic syndrome, which we know the number one cause of death in the United States is cardiovascular disease. 70% of us guys. I looked at my family history and I’m going, “It didn’t take a rocket scientist to say, ‘I need to look at creating more health.’”

I had to create a new identity to break out of that old thing of, “I don’t have time,” and these limiting beliefs. I had to create a new identity and go back to another identity I had before, which is I am athletic and I am vibrant. I had to ask better questions of, “Who do I want to be?” I said, “I want to be the doctor that people can come in and go, ‘You are walking the talk.’” I wanted to create that identity. One of the things that’s helped me stay on track is coming up with a new mission statement that incorporates both. I’m never going back and I’m always moving forward is my mantra.

Before you go to the four steps, hold on. I want to stay there for one second. I also want to share thinking back, even before we met each other, I didn’t know what to call it or whatever. When I was going through difficult times, I leaned back on, “I am the example for my children and the people around me.” That motivated and inspired me. Be the example.

If I wasn’t sure what to do, what could I be proud of? I could be proud of being an example. We can find those little things, like, “I am athletic.” For everybody that is reading, think of three characteristics that represent your future of who you want to be or who you are at your best. It doesn’t have to be that you’re someone else. You’re already that person. It’s about how you bring more of that out. Say, “I am,” and come up with three characteristics. I am whatever. What do you say to that?

I know that’s exactly it. You make it simple. You don’t want to overthink it. As we talk about the enemy of taking action is complexity. If you can make it simple and create that inside-out process of your purpose, which is the reason why we talk about that all the time, and then set your goals, and, as James Clear talks about in Atomic Habits, fall in love with the process.

I have a tool for procrastination. I combined Mel Robbins’ 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 from her 2013 Ted Talk to a cognitive behavioral technique of, “I’m going to do something for five minutes. After those five minutes, I can either continue it or stop it.” I do the 5-by-5 for procrastination. When I get into the cold plunge sometimes, I don’t want to do that, so I’m going, “5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Step in. “I can do it for five minutes, and after that five minutes, if I want to continue, I’ll continue. If not, I get out guilt-free.

I love that five-minute rule as well. I think about that when I’m working with my trainer and we’re going through different exercises that we’re doing. Some of the things that I really am not a fan of is rowing. I don’t know why, but it sucks the energy out of me in two seconds. Five minutes of anything, we can get through. That’s what I think of. I’m like, “It’s only a couple of minutes. I’m going to make it through this. I might throw up, but I’m going to make it through.” It’s true with that five minutes. Get started. If we keep that, it’s only a short timeframe. That makes it so much easier to get into.

As we used to say in the Army a long time ago, “I can gargle peanut butter for five minutes.”

Is that what you used to say?

Yes. It’s the thick, chunky kind.

That’s good. It’s a new one I haven’t heard yet, so I’ll keep that in mind. You were going to talk about the four steps.

The four steps are what we’re talking about. You ask yourself your question of who you want to be. We talked about the purpose, the inside-out process, and big enough the reason why, which is why you want to do that. My why and purpose is to inspire people to break their chains of limiting beliefs so they can unlock their true potential and experience the life of their dreams.

That’s my purpose. I want to help people take back control of their life and understand by doing the simple things better that they can get that momentum and that traction. In the power of compounding time, those small changes are going to lead to opportunity. Sometimes, opportunity knocks and lets you know that there’s a great thing that’s coming.

What we’re trying to do when we are moving forward with that is to create that inside-out process so it starts with purpose. We talked about the goals, and then we talked about falling in love with the process. Focus your effort on that process. What you’re doing with that is developing that grit, passion, and perseverance to stay true to what is it that you’re trying to do. That’s where that helps keep you focused on what is it that you’re doing.

We know that what we have are the limiting beliefs sometimes about what we’re trying to do. In order to become that new person, you’ve got to develop new habits. That’s what I talk about in my book. How do you develop those new habits? We don’t determine our future. We determine our habits, and our habits determine our future. When you reinforce those habits over time, you become confident and competent in those skillsets. Those skillsets build and reinforce that new identity that you’re building. It’s like this little flower that’s coming up out of the ground. You’re nurturing it. You’re bringing it up.

Be gentle with yourself during that process and give yourself a lot of grace to embrace that discomfort. As you continue to build that skillset, your confidence and competence are going to continue to grow. You’re going to get reinforced in those habits. You’re going to get that momentum. You’re then going to reinforce that new identity of who it is that you want to be.

I love that. Hold on. Let’s go back because I didn’t hear the numbers. People are reading, but they might not have caught the numbers. Let’s go through and give the numbers to each one of those. Number one was?


Number two?

Number two is goals. Number three is our BS or Belief System and how you reinforce your belief system by creating habits. I go into detail on how to create those habits. The last one, number four, is story. What story are you telling yourself? If you can change your story, you can change your life. You have to look at what it is that you’ve been telling yourself over the years and what the narrative is. We know how we communicate as humans. It’s our story that inspires us. The story can be inspirational or you can focus on the things that weren’t so good and keep you stuck in the past as well.

We forget that we are the authors of our own lives. There are lots of things that happen around us, but we determine what we make of that. Also, we can start writing a new chapter at any time. In my language, we can reset, take what we’ve learned from the past, see how we can apply those lessons going forward, and write a new chapter.

I know you’ve got this new book coming out that you’re working on. Maybe it’ll come out in 2023. We’re going to start wrapping up this part of the show. I’m going to have you back. We’re going to do version two and talk about how we can control our mood. Is there anything else that you feel that we didn’t talk about yet around identity that’s key for people to have a handle of before they get their hands on your book?

I talk about the steps of transformation. Before you can start changing your identity to who it is that you want to be, number one, you have to think about it. Number two, you have to believe it. Number three, you have to speak it out loud. Most importantly, you have to take action. We used to say knowledge is power. What I’m saying is consistently applied knowledge is power. It’s all about taking action is what’s most important.

That’s perfect. It’s clear. Many times, we know what to do, but we don’t do what we know. Having that knowledge can’t be enough. It’s in the consistent application of that knowledge. I love that. I ask everybody this question. I want to ask you 1 or 2 quick questions to align with what people might be thinking in terms of taking back time. Having a clear identity, a clear purpose, and a clear why, how does that help to make us more productive in our day-to-day and reach the goals and the things that are important to us?

We say clarity equals power. When you are developing these new habits that are empowering you and you’re creating health and vitality, what that’s going to do is to keep you resilient. When you start dealing with tough times or you’ve got a tough project and you’re able to push through, you’re going to have the energy to keep moving forward and deal with those projects.

Especially when things are going well, you’re going to be able to recover quickly because you’re going to be able to develop those new habits and routines with those habits and routines happening at the unconscious level where you don’t have to think about it. It conserves energy. That’s the whole point. Forming those habits helps you conserve energy moving forward and allows you to apply that energy in other areas of your life.

That’s awesome. Thank you. The way that I look at that, when you say conserving energy, is when we have that clarity, there are so many things that are predefined. We already know how we’re going to show up so we don’t have to think about it. It’s clear. We have a consistent way that we’re going to show up. That way, we don’t have to waste energy in that decision fatigue of constantly deciding. We know what to do when we get on and do it.

For my last question, I’m writing a new book, too, around reset moments. This practice of getting Aclear with who you want to be and showing up in that way, how does that relate for you in what I call reset moments? It is not the big a-has and the big transitions, but also the little everyday signals that we get to slow down, pay attention, and be more conscious of our choices.

When I think of the reset moments that you’re talking about, there’s no failure, only feedback. That’s one of the tenets of neurolinguistics, and it’s applicable. We talk about the four questions. What does it mean or what else could it mean? What can I learn from this? When can I apply it now? Who can I share this with? In those reset moments, you’re always getting feedback.

No matter what, as long as you’re learning from those results and applying it in how you can make it better by doing those simple things better, it allows you to go, “There’s no failure. There’s no feedback. I get to hit reset and do it again even better this time from a place of more knowledge and more learning.” My good friend would say more wisdom, which is a combination of learning and experience put together.

TBT Reclaiming Your Identity

Reclaiming Your Identity: Whether you are getting positive or negative feedback, what matters is how you apply them to make yourself better. Hit reset and do things better from a place of more knowledge and learning.


I do talk about it like that, too. It’s a feedback loop. When we live this or when we live that there’s no failure, only feedback, what I call that is a reset mindset. We don’t take things too personally. We don’t get upset at mistakes, or we do, but we don’t stay there. We’re humans and emotional, but we’re able to recognize that we can learn something from this. We can apply it going forward, and then we hit that reset button and that reset moment and decide how we want to show up and who we want to be going forward. Is there anything else that you want to say before we stop?

No. That would be perfect.

That’s awesome. Tell people where the best place to reach you is.

The best place to reach me is at My book’s going to be coming out. I have an online series. It is a twelve-hour downloadable program that’s streaming online that takes you through the process of doing the simple things better. It’s small incremental changes. It’s stacked with repetition because we know in order to be good at something, we’ve got to do it over and over again to make it go even smoother.

That’s awesome. Thank you so much for being here.

Thank you. It’s always great to share time with you.

Thank you all for being here. You got a little taste. You saw a little bit of that crazy humor that this guy’s got. I recommend that you go and check out this online program. Get in line and get on the newsletter so that you know when this book is coming out. Dr. Tom has some fantastic content. He’s also doing this daily plunge. You can follow him on social media. Please do follow him. You’ll be so glad that you did. There are so many golden nuggets that come from this. Thank you for being here. Be clear as to who you want to be and how you want to show up so that you can be proud of the choices that you make. I’ll see you in the next episode.


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About Dr. Thomas  Duncan

TBT Reclaiming Your IdentityDr. Thomas Duncan is a family physician who practices functional and integrative medicine in Olympia, WA. He is a master neurostrategist in neurolinguistics. Additionally, he is the author of the upcoming book Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired, 3 Simple Steps to Take Control of Your Life. Also, he hosts 1-day seminars called STB Simple Things Better.




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