Creating new habits is not easy. It is a process and it takes lots of effort. I read an article by James Clear about “Identity-Based Habits” and how this method can make it a lot easier for us to actually stick to our goals.
Identity- Based Habits say that if you can change the way you identify with yourself you’ll be able to change your habits.
- Identity-based habits focus on you rather than your goals.
- The idea of “casting votes for your identity” reveals how your daily actions add up over the long-term.
Your actions drive your beliefs and each action you take is a vote for the type of person you believe you are.
- This removes the “all or nothing” philosophy that can so easily wreck our progress.
What you do now is a mirror of the type of person you think you are. So if you think you are a healthy person you will typically steer towards healthier options; if you identify yourself as a hard worker, you will give extra effort at work even when you are tired; if you identify yourself as an honest person, you will tell the truth even when it’s difficult.
We typically set goals by saying what we want to do. Typically your goal is centered on something measurable and performance-based (I want to save $X every week, I want to lose X amount of weight, etc).
Goals do not equal habits. Again, let me repeat: setting and hitting a goal does not equate to changing one’s habits. They can definitely help and steer someone in the right direction but if you are anything like me I have set a weight loss goal ad once I hit it I let the foot off of the gas and gained a percent back.
According to the picture form his article, the interior of behavior change and changing one’s habits is your identity.
HOW TO CHANGE YOUR BELIEFS
- Decide the type of person you want to be
- Prove who you are through a series of small wins
Start small and trust that the results will follow- as long as you build a new identity.
Think of it this way:
Let’s say you want to become the type of person who never misses a workout. (If you believed that about yourself, how much easier would it be to get in shape?)
Every time you choose to work out, even if it’s only for five minutes, you’re casting a vote for this new identity in your mind.
Every action is a vote for the type of person you want to become.
Follow the Seinfeld Strategy to maintain consistency. He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day.
He told this up-and-comer to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker. He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day.
“After a few days you’ll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You’ll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job is to not break the chain.”
Each action becomes a small vote that tells your mind, “Hey, I believe this about myself.” And at some point, you actually will believe it. Of course, it works the opposite way as well. Every time you choose to perform a bad habit, it’s a vote for that type of identity.
But here’s the interesting part: research shows that making a mistake or missing a habit every now and then has no measurable impact on your long-term success. It doesn’t matter if you cast a few votes for a bad behavior or an unproductive habit. In any election, there are going to be votes for both sides.
The road to hitting your goals will not be perfect. Just remember that, if you cast enough votes for the right identity, eventually the good behaviors will win out.