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Has it ever happened with you that you start with a habit but get off track in about a week (only to come back and give it a shot again)?

If yes, then I’m glad it’s not just me. I make sure to start a habit like waking up early but get derailed as soon as 3 days. 

But I came to know where my problem lies. Reading one of James Clear’s email from his email course 30 Days to Better Habits, I almost had a eureka moment. While I read it I went, “Woah! Every one of the handful people who read my blog should know about this.”

Whenever we think about the habits we want to develop, we think in terms of the things we wanna achieve, or in one word – the outcomes. Wait, that’s two words. Nevermind that. 

We think, “I wanna read everyday” or “I wanna wake up early”. Even though we pay close attention to what we wanna achieve, what we often fail to consider is who we wish to become. And it is an important aspect to consider if you want to make an improvement stick. Improvements are only temporary until they become part of who you are; which is why we need to focus more on “identity-based habits”. 

These are the habits which focus more on who you want to be than on what you want to accomplish. Because this change you want to bring about is linked with your identity, it’s much more likely to stick. The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity.

If this sense of ‘who am I’ is so important, then where does it come from in the first place?

The short (and the most context appropriate) answer is your habits.

It’s basically a loop where you do an activity repeatedly because you think you are the kind of person to do those thing, and then you think you are that kind of person because you do those things.

The more you repeat a behavior, the more you reinforce the identity associated with that behavior. And the more you reinforce the identity, the more natural it will feel to repeat the behavior.

More importantly, it’s not an overnight process. It builds up over time. Every time you follow through your habit, you cast a vote for the type of person you want to become. Everytime I wake up before 7 am, I inch closer to the person who wakes up (reasonably) early.

When you start believing that you are the person you were working to become, you don’t have to work for it anymore, you don’t have to put efforts in it anymore. When I start believing that I am a morning person, im no longer trying to wake up early, I just am someone who wakes up early.

The focus should always be on becoming that type of person, not getting a particular outcome. In the beginning, when you are trying to become that person, it’s more important to follow through habit – even if youre not good at it, even if its not organised or perfect – consistently.

Recap for memory:

  1. Start by focusing on who you want to become, not what you want to achieve.
  2. Whatever you accomplish will be the attributes of the identity
  3. What you want to accomplish → the type of person you want to become → what activity would that person do → do it with out caring for the result, do it for your desired identity

P.S. I’d can’t recommend the 30 Days to Better Habits email course enough! It gives so much valuable info, more importantly usable info.

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