Is Your Self-Identity Sabotaging Your Habits?
Updated: Aug 19
Who are you? Or better yet, who do you want to become? An organized mom? A woman of grace? A generous friend? An excellent homeschooler?
Your answers could very well determine your habits.
Most people who want to change focus on a goal, the outcome they want to achieve. Then they list steps to help them get there—new habits if you will—and try to stick with them. Problem is, this strategy may or may not work. Ever try to lose weight? Remember people’s names? Be consistently punctual? It’s tough to stick to your game plan if you still think of yourself as overweight, bad with names, or late all the time.
Identity matters. How you view yourself guides your actions, whether good or bad.
It’s not the what, but the who
“Your behaviors are usually a reflection of your identity. What you do is an indication of the type of person you believe that you are,” said James Clear, author of the New York Times bestseller Atomic Habits. “Research has shown that once a person believes in a particular aspect of their identity, they are more likely to act in alignment with that belief.
“Good habits can make rational sense, but if they conflict with your identity, you will fail to put them into action,” he added.
For example, I am a runner, hence, I run. It’s what I do. Being a runner is part of who I am, part of my identity, the thing that makes me, well, me. If I were merely hoping to become a runner one day, I might choose sitting on the couch more often than hitting the pavement. I might even go for a jog once in awhile, but I wouldn’t make it part of my regular routine if I still believed I wasn’t a really a runner.
Apply this principle to your homeschool efforts. Say you want to start school at the same time every day. But at night when the kids are in bed and the house is quiet, you can finally get things done: fold that last load of laundry, sort the pile of papers on the kitchen counter, catch up on your favorite TV show. You stay up late. Again. When morning comes, you hit the snooze button too many times.
“I’m a night owl,” you claim. “I’m just not a morning person.”
Your late-night habits line up with your identity. New habits—like going quitting the piddling and going to bed earlier—won’t stick unless you see yourself in a different light. As Clear put it, “The more you repeat a behavior, the more you reinforce the identity associated with that behavior.”
As you seek to become a better you, be aware of how your identity affects your ability to stay the course. Be honest about how you actually see yourself vs. who you want to become. In your quest to achieve, recognize what you believe. You’ll be all the better for it.
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