“It’s hard to change your habits if you never change the underlying beliefs that led to your past behavior. You have a new goal and a new plan, but you haven’t changed who you are,” James Clear, Atomic Habits.
Why does it always seem so hard to build healthy habits and break the unhealthy ones? I don’t know about you, but I always set out with the best intentions when I make a new goal or strive to achieve something. I usually can keep that initial fire burning for the first week or so, but then the motivation starts to wane. It was a good goal. Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. I wrote it down, I shared it with friends for accountability, but still I struggled. Why? Well, because I was so focused on just achieving the goal (the outcome), that I forgot to put any work or thought into addressing who I would have to become to achieve it (my identity).
I thought I just wanted to make my bed every morning. But I didn’t realize I needed to focus on becoming a more organized person overall. Forcing myself to make my bed daily wasn’t going to transform me into a cleaner, tidier version of myself. There is a difference in being the type of person who wants something vs the type of person who is something. I still believed myself to be unorganized, lazy, and rushed in the mornings. I thought through sheer willpower alone I could carve out the 3ish minutes it took to make my bed anyways. ERRRRRR. Wrong. My self-beliefs and identity did not line up whatsoever with the goal I was trying to achieve.
Making good habits stick will be so much harder when they go directly against who you believe yourself to be and falling back into old habits will be that much easier. For example, if you find yourself saying things like…
“I’m not a reader,”
“I hate working out,”
“I can never stay consistent,”
“I always give up.”
Then you probably won’t check off your summer reading list,
Working out will always be a challenge,
Starting and stopping will be no stranger to you,
And quitting will always be easier than pushing through.
Until who we wish to become (our identity) becomes more important to us than what we want to achieve (outcomes), true behavior change will not take place. And when it comes to behavior changes, self-belief plays the biggest role in our identity. How can what we believe about ourselves hold so much weight?
You’ve probably heard about the placebo effect. The example I love to share with my clients focuses on knee surgeries. There are two groups of people. One group receives an actual surgery to repair ligaments and reduce the patients’ knee pain. The other group simply receives a surgical incision, but no ligament repair. However, both groups report reduced pain post-op, even the group that didn’t receive the actual surgery. They believed they had, and that was enough for them to reap the benefits.
They believed that they had been given this surgery to reduce their knee pain. So they felt less pain in their knee.
So what if we switch up those beliefs from earlier.
“I’m not a reader,” “I hate working out,” “I can never stay consistent,” “Consistency is my middle name,” “I always give up.” “I always find a way to keep going.”
Whatever you believe of yourself right now is only true because your actions line up with it.
Change your self-beliefs and watch how what you do also changes.