As I mentioned, last weekend I read James Clear’s Atomic Habits. In it, he expands on his concept of “identity-based habits”, which I love and have talked about on the podcast here. The idea is that the easiest & most effective way to form a good habit or ditch a bad one is to form a new identity around that habit. Each time you perform the habit, you are casting a vote for the person you want to be.
I love this message and have seen shifts in my own life since understanding this particular path to change. And I think it’s important to not gloss over the central point he’s making, that so many others have made before him: identities can change. WE can change. Our personalities, our beliefs, and our skills are all mutable. They are not permanent aspects of who we are as human beings.
Sometimes we may understand the concept of a “growth mindset” intellectually. We might think “yeah, yeah, I believe I can grow and change.” We might know cognitively that people who have a growth mindset tend to have better outcomes than those with a fixed mindset. All of this may be true, and yet most of us are still holding tightly to ideas about ourselves that actually could change, if we were willing to confront them.
We have a tendency to think of most aspects of ourselves as fixed. Some examples:
- I’m bad at math
- I’m a terrible singer
- I hate exercise
- I’m shy around new people
And while all of these things might even be objectively true in this particular moment, and while you might be able to find me MOUNTAINS of evidence for why you’re absolutely right about each and every one of those beliefs/”facts” about yourself, I think you’re missing the point completely. That might be your identity now, but identities change.
I know this because I have seen it in my own life many a time. I never used to be “someone who” flossed, meditated, went for near-daily walks, wrote frequent blog posts, had a podcast, had consulting clients, worked from Inbox Zero. But now I am! All those identities and more have changed for me, which is helpful proof when I feel stuck in an old pattern that seems permanent. Nothing is permanent & identities can change. You change them by casting new votes with your habits every single day.