The Fastest Way To Change A Behavior
In 2019 I read a couple of dozen books, but none of them had a more significant impact on me then “Atomic Habits” by James Clear. If you haven’t read it yet, put it on the top of your list. In the book, James breaks down the value of the little, everyday things we do. How our thoughts become our actions, our actions become our behaviors, and ultimately our behaviors become our habits.
As the old saying goes, “We don’t rise to meet our goals, we fall to the level of our systems and habits.” Most people struggle to alter or change their situation in life because they don’t know how to correct it. Too often, we see our current dilemma, and the thought of changing it seems so large that it becomes a more natural choice to accept the current situation instead.
Being the beginning of the year, a lot of people write out their big goals for 2020 and start to work on their “New Years Resolutions.” Only to have a few weeks go by, and suddenly you find yourself right back where you were last year. Same body type, same work ethic, same friends, the same amount of money in the bank account. So how do we truly make changes?
In the book, there are several ideas to help us alter our situation and to change our behavior. I want to focus on one of them. We need to change our identity. Let me explain. Say a person wants to quit smoking. They can read all day long the negative effects of smoking. They can tell themselves all day, “I’m not going to smoke! I’m not going to smoke!” Yet as soon as their will power bends just a little bit, they give in and take a smoke. The stress was too much, and they weren’t ready, etc.. Let me help you look at this another way, say that same person were to say, “I’m not a smoker!” Now they are talking about their very identity as a person how they look at themselves. If I say, “I don’t smoke,” you are talking about an action that you do or don’t take. But if I say, “I’m not a smoker!” Now I have attached meaning to who I am, and as humans, we will do about anything to prove our identity.
This is why it is so important not to falsely identify ourselves as something evil or wrong when we fall short. Brene Brown talks about the difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is, “I did something I shouldn’t have, or I did something bad.” Shame is, “I am a bad person.” The difference is everything.
In 2020 as you start to attach an identity to who you are, it is important to pay attention to how you are talking to yourself. If you are trying to quit looking at pornography yet, you fall short again. You aren’t a bad person, and you did something you shouldn’t have done. The very shame of attaching a negative to our being is what causes you stress and lowers your self-esteem until you fall back into the very stress-relieving bad habit that you are trying to break.
If you want to get into the best shape of your life, instead of saying, “I’m fat, I want to lose some weight,” Start telling yourself, “I am a healthy person that has healthy habits.” Or, “I am somebody that loves to work out.” Recently I had the author of the book “Afformations” Noah St. John on my podcast, and he talked about the power of those words. Instead of saying, “I am rich,” you should say, “Why am I already rich?” By putting it this way, our minds work like a search engine, and we find answers that prove to ourselves the very thing we are trying to attach as our identity. If I say, “I am rich!” My brain might say, “Dude, you aren’t rich at all. We both know that.” But by asking the question, “Why am I already rich?” Our brain will start to say things like, “I have a home to sleep in, people that love me, a healthy body, etc.. I truly am rich!”
This year don’t sell yourself short by trying to swim upstream. Don’t just try and change your behaviors but work on creating your identity, and then you can adjust a few little things in your life to prove to yourself that you are that person. These subtle but small changes will make all the difference in creating a life by design.