Have you tried to change your ways in the past, and found it to be exhaustingly slow or temporary?
I’m fascinated by how people change their lives for the better. I have observed firsthand what I am about to share, and James Clear talks about it in his excellent book “Atomic Habits.”
When you are trying to make changes in your life, it helps to identify tricks that will assist you. People are creatures of habit, and as much as we’d like to be more, do more and have more, we fall back into habitual patterns or ways of thinking. It’s human.
Here is the key to making lasting change in your life.
James Clear identifies three ways to change behavior. You can use:
- Process – Setting up a system that is designed to get you to do what you say you want to do. For example, setting the alarm for 6am three days a week, so you go to the gym.
This approach to change often doesn’t work and it’s common to revert back to old habits.
2. Outcome – Setting goals and focusing on the outcome you want to achieve. I want to lose 20 lbs.
The outcome goals are motivating for a while, and then enthusiasm for the goal can wane as quickly as it came on.
3. Identity – Informing yourself of an intended identity and stating it, as if it is already who you are. “I have the body of an athlete.”
When you think of yourself in that way, you will be motivated by the vision of the identity you desire.
When you are making decisions, you can look to your new (future) identity for the answers.
You are then coming from the place of the person you envision and making decisions as if you are her or him right now.
- What activities would that person be doing?
- What people would that person surround themselves with?
- What would that person say yes or no to?
True change comes from identity shifts.
This is a silly example, but it came to me immediately as I was writing this.
I was watching “The Morning Show” with Jennifer Aniston. It struck me how at 3:30 am she would drag herself to her treadmill, half asleep and walk like a zombie.
I retained that vision in my head of her doing that workout, no matter what, and going from barely awake to beautiful before the sun is up, on a daily basis.
If I wanted to be on the treadmill at that time every day, I would be more likely to make that habit change by identifying with that image of her.
A new identity is a goal of sorts, and you will use a process to move toward it, but the identity you desire is, in itself, the biggest motivator.
What identity is next for you?
Remember, this is meant to enhance who you are, not erase who you are. Being more of who you are at your best, and taking on your dreams, will lead you to a new identity.
That person will take your hand and lead you forward, and you will make the changes necessary. This happens more naturally because you are coming from a different mindset. That of the person you plan to become.
Concerns about what others will think as you take on a new identity can be a pitfall, if you allow it.
Here’s an article that might help.