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Forming Habits of Identity

I just finished reading Atomic Habits by James Clear (affiliate link here). There was tons of good stuff in there, but the one notion that resonated with me most is this idea that our habits are linked to our identity. Clear makes the case that our habits have the power to “cast votes” for who we believe ourselves to be. And everytime we do an action, whether good or bad, our brain begins to internalize that that action is a reflection of who we are. He also argues that it works the other way as well, if a habit is truly aligned with who you believe yourself to, or who you want to become, then you will have far greater motivation to continue the habit.

"The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity...The more pride you have with a particular aspect of your identity, the more motivated you will be to maintain the habits associated with it" -James Clear. Atomic Habits

There is a big difference between saying i am the type of person that wants this vs i am the type of person that is this. This idea also reminded me of the idea of Be-Do-Have from Terry Crews that i discussed in a previous article about habits. We must first become the person that we want to be, and do what that person does. Becoming your future self now, gives you the inspiration to do what that person does. To be about whatever that person is all about. To cast votes slowly towards who you believe yourself to be. So practically, this means that we should spend time thinking about who we are or who we want to be, and what we believe in. This should then be reflected in our habits. Instead of thinking about waking up early as something that you want to do, you should think of it as part of who you are. You are the type of person that wakes up early and works out. You are “that person”, and thus you get out of bed. The negative is also true. Instead of thinking of yourself as a smoker who is trying to quit smoking (habit misaligned with essence), you should think of yourself as a non-smoker. You already are a non-smoker. Thus it is smoking that is misaligned with your essence and everytime you choose not to smoke, you are casting a vote towards that identity.

I could see how many would feel that this small tweak in perspective seems like foo foo nonsense, but it rang true for me. I feel i am at my absolute best in the mornings after working out, because it feels like i am a kickass person. I feel proud of who i am, and that my actions aligns with someone who is a kickass waker early upper.

This mindset shift by no means replaces discipline. It still isn’t easy. But over time, and by casting votes everyday, working out in the morning is not a chore for me anymore. It is who i am. It is what i am about. I actually greatly look forward to the morning now and i actually fear NOT waking up early. I fear getting sick and not being able to take this action because it just goes against who i am.

I am excited to take this small idea, as well as others from the book, and leverage them for building my new habits this year. Among them are, reading a book about being a great husband everyday, drinking a gallon of water every day, and writing for this blog everyday. Hopefully by the end of the year, i will view these habits as just part of my identity. I’ll say something like, “oh yeah, It’s just what i do...”

What is it that you do?

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