Identity Based Habits
The program Cindy and I coach for is all surrounded around habits. Habits are around 50% of what we do every day. Driving is a habit, what we shop for at the grocery story is a habit, how we respond to situations in life is a habit. Much of these habits stick around in our lives (whether they are good or bad) because of how we view ourselves. The quality of our lives many times depends on the quality of our habits.
What I have been learning about and teaching recently is about Identity-Based Habits.
Identity based habits focus on who you would like to become. For me I want to be about 175lbs, healthy and active. I want to be someone who is active daily in some way (walks, biking, hikes, exercise etc.). I want to be the guy who doesn’t have an addiction to sugar and carbs. I don’t want to have to make a conscious decision about making the right decision as to what I eat. I just want how I live and eat (what I just mentioned) to be automatic. I want it
to be a habit and just who I am. So when I am tempted by things that don’t serve me, I won’t be tempted because that is just who I am.
So am I there yet, nope. But I am getting there. With identity-based habits this is where you start. You determine who you want to be first and then you build the systems in your life to lead to that outcome. This just doesn’t apply to your health. Nope, this can apply to all areas of our lives. It can be in our relationships, in our careers, in our marriages, in our parenting...I think ya get the idea.
In the book, Atomic Habits by James Clear he gives a great illustration of someone who changes how they identify themselves and their habits. There are two smokers that are both trying to quit smoking.
The first smoker is offered a cigarette. The smoker says, “No thank you, I am trying to quit.” This person still identifies as a smoker who is trying to be something else. They are hoping their behavior with smoking will change while still believing they are a smoker.
The second smoker is offered a cigarette. The smoker says, “No thank you, I don’t smoke.” It is a subtle difference, but this person has signaled a shift in their identity. Smoking is a part of their former life, not their current life.
Most people (including me) don’t consider changing their identity before they begin to change something in their life. Some folks think, “I want to be thin or skinny” (outcome
they desire). They then do a diet (process of getting there) to get to that outcome but they don’t change how they look at themselves, their beliefs or thoughts about food and healthy motion. And if they don’t change those. things (thoughts, habits, etc..) their old identity and habits will rear their heads and sabotage them. The best form of intrinsic motivation is when your habits (eating right, healthy motion, drinking water, avoiding foods that don’t serve you) become part of your identity (who you are).
You want to go from the type of person that says, “I want to be this type of person” to the type of person who says, “I am this person.” So, there is a two-step process in this whole identity change thing I have been talking about up to this point.
1st Step: Decide the type of person you want to be.
What do you stand for?
Who do you wish to become?
(If you are looking for an outcome like thin, healthy,
confident, etc., ask yourself, what kind of person do I
need to become for that to happen?)
2nd Step: Prove it to yourself with small wins!
What small steps can you take each day to get you to your goal? If you want to be thin, healthy, active, etc.., what small steps each day that you do consistently that will get you to your goal?
Example: Drinking 64 to 100 ounces a day (everyday), saying no to foods that don’t serve you, portion control, not eating out of boredom, going on walks etc.
Can you imagine how these small things would start to compound over time for your health if you did them consistently over a month, over a year or over a decade. As you build your new habits, take pride in them. Those who take pride in those good habits will strive even
harder to maintain them.