Visualize the Person You Want to Be, Then Act Like Them
“The process of building habits is actually the process of becoming yourself.” -James Clear
I read James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, and had a bit of an identity crisis.
I know, “identity crisis” sounds extreme, but what I mean is that I went through a stage of deep analysis and exploration of how I currently see myself compared to how I envision my future self.
When it comes to self-improvement, there’s no shortage of articles highlighting the habits of successful people, healthy people, people who have their shit together — you name it, there’s a list for it. I love reading these, I sift through them and consider what works best for my lifestyle and personality — it’s like a choose-your-own-adventure.
Most of us are familiar with the challenges of implementing new habits and how hard it can be to stick with something consistently enough that it actually becomes a habit, especially if it’s something that calls for major behavioral change.
This is where Atomic Habits helps navigate the route, offering research-backed insight and techniques to assist in building the systems around habits to help reach the desired goals.
But if I had to choose one major takeaway from Clear’s book, it would be his writing about identity-based habits. Identity-based habits take the focus away from what we want to achieve, and asks us to consider who we want to become.
It’s the level of behavioral change:
“concerned with changing your beliefs: your worldview, your self-image, your judgements about yourself and others.”
Earlier this year I completed an exercise called Current Me vs. Future Me, through which I developed a foundation for the identity I’m working towards.
Still, there’s this discrepancy between the two versions of myself — it’s easy to push off tasks in the present, but in doing so we’re only placing a larger burden on our future selves. So how does one go about identity change?
The book offers a simple two-step process:
1. Decide the type of person you want to be.
2. Prove it to yourself with small wins.
We encounter several decisive moments in a day, and each decision we make is evidence of our identity. When we act on these decisions we’re either voting for or against the person we want to become.
We have the power to design our lives — it’s just a matter of envisioning the identity, then stacking up small wins in that direction.
This is where we must turn inward and think deeply about what brings us joy, what are our strengths, and what are our values. Because whatever identity we decide to work towards should feel authentic. Our goals should be in alignment with who we want to be, not who others want us to be.
This process of envisioning has given me a deeper awareness of who I am today, which helps me identify when I’m making decisions that are not in alignment with my vision, allowing me to self-correct.
“The ultimate form of intrinsic motivation is when a habit becomes part of your identity. It’s one thing to say I’m the type of person who wants this. It’s something very different to say I’m the type of person who is this.”
This reminds me of the saying “fake it till you make it.” The goal isn’t to do something, rather the goal is to become the type of person who does that thing.
Create a vision of the person you want to be, a blueprint for your future self, then continuously check in on how aligned your actions are with that vision.
Below is a list of further insights/tools/techniques I’ve found useful throughout the book:
- Habits scorecard, Chapter 4
- Habit stacking, Chapter 5
- Designing your environment to support desired habits, Chapters 6 & 7
- Temptation bundling, making habits more attractive, Chapter 8
- Motivation ritual, Chapter 10
- Decisive moments, Chapter 13
- Paper Clip Strategy & habit trackers, Chapter 16
- Habit contract, accountability partners, Chapter 17
- Explore/exploit trade-off, Chapter 18
- Decision journal for reflection and review, Chapter 20
Have you read this book? Which part resonated with you the most? Share it in the comments below :)