Idenity, Self-Beliefs, and Goals

Atomic Habits is an amazing book! If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it. (Check out Lisa’s book review on it!) There are so many golden nuggets in this book. One of my favorites parts of this is when author James Clear talks about the concept of identity, one of the three levels of change,  and how it plays into our habits and goals.

3 Levels of Change

  • Outcome– This is the most common change people think of. It’s the result. For example, it could be losing X amount of weight or winning a championship. 
  • Process– This is what you do. It is the habits or systems you create and carry out.
  • Identity– This is what you believe. It is your self-image and your world views.

We often focus on the outcome and process changes, but forget the most impactful and fundamental change, our identity. Who are we trying to become? Let’s say someone was quitting smoking. For a while they had the identity of a smoker. If they are offered a cigarette and respond that they are trying to quiet. They still identify as a smoker and will probably start smoking again. If they respond, “No, I don’t smoke.” Their identity is no longer one that includes smoker and they will most likely be  successful in the long run. 

Your Identity and Beliefs

Not many people take the time to sit down and think about who they believe they are. Becoming aware is important. Often times we have beliefs that conflict with who we are trying to become. Unless we are aware and can address them, they will keep us from long term success. Take a few minutes and write down your current self-beliefs, the good and what may be considered the not so good. Here are some examples:

  • I am a healthy person.
  • I am not a morning person.
  • I am a musician.
  • I am an athlete.
  • I am always late. 
  • I am not good at technology.
  • I am a healthy person. 
  • I am not patient. 
  • I don’t like veggies.
  • I am good with money. 
  • I am always stressed.
  • I am bad at math.
  • I am not a good cook.
  • Once you are finished set this list aside.

Who are you trying to become?

In order to achieve any outcome goal we change our processes/habits and our identity. Like in the previous example, in order to quit smoking the identity had to change from smoker to non-smoker. In order to complete an Obstacle Course Race, your identity would need to come to include an athlete. Take a moment and think about the person you are trying to become. Write it down. If you are having trouble, start with your current outcome goal. Then work backwards and think about the person you will need to become in order to achieve that outcome. For example, if your outcome goal is run a marathon, who you are trying to become is a runner/endurance runner. Be sure to include other characteristics you would needs. If you are becoming a runner, may be you also need to become a morning person to get those runs in. 

Now compare who you are trying to become with your current self-beliefs. Is there any that conflict? 

James Clear states, “Every action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become… As the votes build up so does the evidence.” The more you do that aligns with who you are trying to become the more you believe that’s who you are. You do not need to be perfect. You do need a majority of those actions to be in favor of the person you are trying to become. 

If you are working to change your self-beliefs, you can ask yourself a question to help your actions to support that identity. For example, if you are working to become a healthy person, you can ask yourself, “What would a healthy person do in this situation?” or “Would a healthy person do that?” Each time you make a decision that a healthy person would, you are solidifying the belief that you are a healthy person.  It may be helpful to write out who you are trying to become and put it in a place you can see at the start of every day! 

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