With the holidays behind us, the decorations down, the waistlines a little larger, New Year’s is a great time to make changes.
But instead of just saying that you want to lose weight, get stronger, or eat healthier, there has to be a better way to make lasting changes that will actually make it through the year and not just the first few weeks.
Don’t fall into the trap of good intentions and poor follow-through!!
Before you commit financially to those “good intentions”, I challenge you to first commit to a paradigm shift.
So aptly described in James Clears 2018 book “Atomic Habits”, one of the first keys to making lasting changes is to have the right identity mindset.
He describes a target of habit change with 3 distinct layers.
While the “what” and “how” or “outcomes” and “processes” are important, they ultimately fall short without your “why” or “identity”.
See when we just focus on the outcomes or processes, it’s easy to give up on all of those worthwhile ambitions. Why? Because deep inside, our identity doesn’t align with what our outside wants.
“Outcomes are about what you get. Processes are about what you do. Identity is about what you believe. Start by focusing on who you want to become. Behavior that is incongruent with the self will not last.”
Let me show you what this looks like……
Say you want to eat healthier in the new year (outcome). So you make a plan to buy more fruits and vegetables (process).
But without you identifying as someone who eats healthy, it’s hard to maintain that habit. It’s way easier to stop at McDonalds on the way home or choose convenience over effort.
Simply changing your thought process and identifying as someone who eats healthy, you are going to make those choices to buy, eat and choose healthy foods.
Another example could be with exercise. Say in the new year you want to be skinnier and stronger (outcome). So you buy a gym membership (process). But when you get to the gym you feel out of place, you get nervous and eventually shy away from going.
If you can say to yourself, I am someone who works out or I am someone who is strong, you identify as someone who belongs with other people who work out and are strong. You then get the motivation to plan workouts, learn how the machines work or schedule an appointment with a personal trainer.
James Clear sums it up like this, “The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.
The more pride you have in a particular aspect of your identity, the more motivated you will be to maintain the habits associated with it.”
The goal is not to read a book, the goal is to become a reader.
The goal is not to run a marathon, the goal is to become a runner.
The goal is not to learn an instrument, the goal is to become a musician.
Changing yourself talk and ultimately your identity is the missing magic bullet in achieving your goals.
So this year, as you sit down and reflect, take a minute to really think about who you want to become, not just what you want to become.
You are right in thinking “but changing my identity is way harder than just saying it.”
It also can be a painful process that takes a look at our deep rooted thoughts and habits. No one wants to admit (especially to themselves) that they have a shortcoming.
I plead to you, be patient with yourself!!
Change never happens overnight. Change rarely happens in a week. It is a gradual evolution that is reinforced with each action you take towards that end.
For example, let’s take the healthy eating example from above. It can be painful to admit that you like fast food and don’t like vegetables, but you are motivated to improve your health this year.
Your first step would then be to change your conversation to yourself and start saying, “I choose healthy foods that nourish my body.”
Then you make a plan to prove to yourself that you indeed choose foods that are going to nourish your body. Each trip to the store you choose one new fruit or vegetable to try. You look up recipes that use that vegetable and you plan out which day of the week you are going to make it.
Each small step, each 1% change will lead to greater gains and reinforce the idea that you “choose healthy foods that nourish your body.”
Another reinforcement would be each time you brought a lunch to work rather than running to the nearest fast food joint. Starting with one day a week, slowly adding more, you become more confident in yourself that you can make healthy choices. You start to take pride in yourself that you can do it!
Decide the type of person you want to be and prove it to yourself with small wins!
So as you reflect on this years goals and resolutions, take a minute to take it one step further into that change circle. Decide who you want to become and then which 1% changes you are willing to do in order to become that person.
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