Did you know why a lot of people failed to start to develop good habits but failed to keep them? It can be because they are trying to change outcomes rather than their identity.
In this post, let me share with you how changing your identity can lead to a more lasting and effective formation of good habits.
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The three layers of behavior change
When it comes to changing your behavior, there are three layers you need to influence. These are the following:
- Inner layer – identity
- Middle layer – processes
- Outer layer – outcomes
Outcomes simply refer to the results you want to achieve. The processes are the things you do to achieve your outcomes. Identity is who you are.
For example, losing weight can be your outcome. To achieve this, your processes would be eating less and exercising more often. Your identity is your self-image.
Changing from the inside
When people want to change, they often try to change from the outer layer to the inner layer. This means that they try to produce outcomes first in the hopes to change their identity.
Yes, all layers are useful and important. While this can work, it’s not always the best approach.
For a lasting change to happen, change should start from within.
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How your identity influence your outcomes
A lot of people haven’t realized the magnitude of having the right belief system to produce a change in their lives. Belief systems are powerful because they can decide how long or effective you would stick to your new habits.
One good example is two people trying to overcome alcoholism. Both of them were offered a drink. The first person said, “No, thanks. I’m trying to overcome alcoholism.” The second person responded, “No thanks. I’m not a drinker.”
The first person still believes he is a drunkard who is trying to overcome alcoholism. However, the other person believes he is a changed man. He doesn’t identify himself as a drunkard anymore.
The difference between the two is their identity. Some people don’t realize that their identity can either build or break them.
That’s why behind every action is a belief. You do something because of what you believe.
Someone who successfully overcame overeating and now lives a healthy lifestyle shared her secret. She said, every time she needs to make a decision that would affect her health, she would silently ask herself, “What would a healthy person do?”
The answer to this question guided her to make healthy choices.
If you believe you’re a healthy person, you want to keep it that way. You want to avoid empty calories and a sedentary lifestyle.
That’s how changing your identity could espouse change in your processes and outcome.
Making a lasting change
It’s great if you are able to start doing positive habits in your life. However, if you want to ensure you keep doing what’s good, you need to couple your habits with a change of identity.
James Clear wrote in his book, Atomic Habits:
Improvements are only fleeting until they become part of who you are.
That’s indeed correct.
Your goal is not to read one book every week. Your goal is to become a reader.
Your goal is not to run five miles a week. Your goal is to become a runner.
Your goal is not to learn how to play Moonlight Sonata on the piano. Your goal is to be a musician.
Changing your identity through evidence
You and I know that our beliefs aren’t given to us when we are born. They are acquired and developed over time.
For positive change to happen, you need to change your identity. However, to change your identity means you have to change your beliefs. But how do you change your beliefs?
The answer is to have pieces of proof to support your belief and therefore your identity.
You see, these pieces of proof can be your habits. The more you repeat an action, the more you strengthen your identity. It reinforces who you are as a person.
Creating an identity shouldn’t simply become a belief, but it should also be supported by your actions.
That’s why, if you want to be a healthier person, you want to identify yourself as a healthy person. Nevertheless, that should NOT stop there.
Whatever your identity right now, you believe it is your identity because of what you do.
You believe you are a writer because you write. You believe you are a runner because you run. You believe you are a musician because you play music.
The whole point of this idea is that for you to strengthen your identity, you must take action to support that identity.
The stronger your identity is, the better you’ll keep positive habits associated with your identity.
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The double-edged sword of identity
While your identity can help you become more successful, it can also drag you down. If you assume a negative identity, chances are, even if you do your best to change for the better, you won’t change that much.
Why? Because your identity will keep on pulling you back. It is sabotaging you.
If you always believe you’re a smoker, then you will be a smoker.
If you believe you’re a drunkard, then you are a drunkard.
If you believe you’re not good at math, then you will never be good at math.
You get the idea.
The good habits that you have accomplished already might not last that long if it is not anchored on a good identity. It would always be a struggle.
Who are you?
Now that you understand how your identity influences your habits, you should now take action.
Don’t let your identity sabotage your progress. Instead, change your identity so that you can foster long-lasting positive changes.
So, my question for you right now is this, “Is your identity set to help you change positively?”
If not, then it’s time to change your identity.
(This blog is inspired by the book, “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. If you want to become more productive through positive habits, you need to get your copy now!)