I developed dozens of daily habits without a fail using this framework.
This is part 2 of 4 about a concept that is not widely discussed. I consider it a huge omission.
II. Identity Habits.
In case of these habits, you don’t need to be so meticulous about the tiny details; you perform them because you are a person who does such things, no matter what. For example, I am a writer. I have a habit of writing 1,000 words a day. Nevertheless, scientists from MIT could study me for months and wouldn’t uncover any consistent circumstances or existing loop that trigger my writing activity.
I write in every possible circumstance — at home, at work, on trains, waiting for trains, on the bench at a park…
I usually write in English, but sometimes in Polish.
You might find me writing at any hour — early in the morning before work, during my commute to/ from work, during the day (yes, at the office), or late in the evening when everybody sleeps. I generally write on my laptop, but sometimes I write by hand, and I write for several different audiences. I write short eBooks, blog posts, Quora answers, articles to magazines, philosophical ruminations, and I’m also writing a novel.
I write because I identify myself as a writer, not because circumstance and routine triggers an electrical impulse in the reptilian part of my brain.
A scientific gaping hole
I’m not that kind of guy who researches for and reads scientific papers as a hobby. I found, however, that if you are interested in a subject, you will stumble on some research regarding it sooner or later, especially in popular publications, printed or online (like Huffington Post where they translate eggheads’ talk into plain actionable English. ;)
But I’ve never found anything about identity habits, which I believe is a huge omission.
It’s nice to build a habit of drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning, but do you really need a habit loop for that? I think a habit like doing 30+ consecutive pullups or writing 1,000 words a day is more interesting for most of us and such habits are much more easily developed via the identity habits route.
How does one develop a new identity?
It starts in your head. Who do you think you are? A son, daughter, mother or father? Do you identify with your occupation or nationality? Whatever your answers are, try to think about why you identify with those labels.
Why do you consider yourself this or that? What conditions do you need to meet to keep that identity?
I am a writer
I needed just a single thought to sneak into my conscious mind to start identifying with this name. When that happened it wasn’t even a dream, it was a wish. I had no experience nor skills. Until that moment in time, I had written only school assignments (including my Masters’ thesis), one short story as a teenager and a lot of stuff on online forums, none of which had a literary focus. Today I have more than a million words under my belt.
Once the thought of becoming a writer had entered my head I couldn’t get rid of it. I started researching what “being a writer” means. I found the definition that spoke to me: writers write. So I started to write.
Doing is the ultimate test of your new identity
Decide on something, then start to execute upon it. If you can persist and can do that without overusing your willpower, you’ve found the right identity.
If you fail, seriously reconsider your position. Maybe you’ve just followed someone else’s dream?
Identity equals drive. If you are a son or a mother, you simply cannot imagine your life without this identity. That’s why the identity approach is so useful in developing habits. You will do whatever is necessary to keep your identity. You will do it every day.
There are a lot of hacks and tricks involved in developing habits, but most are dependent upon your personality. Some of us are motivated by feedback from peers, whereas you might hate it if you feel forced to do something. Some need to know the why and how behind each step, you might take everything at face value and just try to do your best.
For tips and tricks, I recommend the most comprehensive book on habits “Better than Before” by Gretchen Rubin.
I also found two more not-very-well-known “tools” which I think are good for both loop and identity habits. These tools are the secret weapons that can help you develop any habit.
It’s possible that there may be cases in which they are not helpful, . However, I have built a few dozen habits, from drinking a glass of water to keeping three gratitude diaries, and these tools helped me with every single of them.