Identity is really fucking important.
It is who we are or more accurately, the way we think about ourselves.
And the way we think about ourselves determines our beliefs.
And our beliefs determine what we do day to day.
And what we do day to day will decide what we achieve which will go a huge part towards shaping our identity.
It’s all inter-related.
It’s also why diets ultimately fail.
Anyone can lose weight on a diet through sheer willpower and with enough short term pressure (a wedding for example).
However, when that short term pressure disappears, if the identity hasn’t shifted then you’ll go straight back to the same beliefs and behaviours that you adopted before.
Willpower and motivation DO NOT work in the long term.
So what can you do about it?
How do you elicit an identity shift and succeed long term?
1. First off, decide what your new identity is going to be. This is pretty easy. You need to figure out your goals and then work out what kind of person you need to be to achieve that.
A very simple example:
GOAL: You want to be fit and healthy and drop 30lbs.
IDEAL IDENTITY: You love exercise and eating nutritious food and doing all of this is effortless to you.
It’s worth noting that your new identity is not you right now. You may not love exercise! At this point in time, just be open to the possibility that you COULD love exercise and make sure that this is on repeat in your head. It will come with time but it needs to start with the belief that it’s possible.
To really embed this new you, I recommend writing about your new identity in detail and in the present tense (I am… I enjoy… etc.) and either re-writing it daily or at the very least, put it somewhere you can see it and read it as often as you can.
2. Next, you need to start ‘voting’ for your new identity (for more on this check out Atomic Habits by James Clear = the bible for identity change).
By this, I mean that every time you have the opportunity to do something ‘healthy’ or in keeping with the new you and you do it (like going to the gym or using the stairs), it’s a vote for your new identity and strengthens it.
Conversely, every time you do something which opposes the new identity you are voting against it (like sitting on the sofa and eating ice cream instead of training).
The votes are continually counted and whichever side comes out on top is the identity you eventually adopt. Just remember when you start out that you are shifting from the old identity which you’ve been voting for, for many years. This means that it takes to shift to the new one! This is fine, keep chipping away and it will happen!
3. To help with this process, you should surround yourself with people and environments that make this easier for you. It’s far easier to eat well and train regularly when the last 6 messages on your WhatsApp were asking you about your last gym session rather than trying to persuade you to go out drinking.
Similarly for your environment, it’s easier to eat well if you only have good food in the house (for 5 environmental hacks for success, check out this article ).
4. Enjoy the journey and be grateful. As noted in point number 2, this is going to be a long game and will in fact last the rest of your life. Don’t worry, it will get easier but there it won’t happen quickly so you might as well enjoy the journey.
Be present. Take the positives. Tolerate the less enjoyable bits (for now).
This takes a positive mindset for sure but there are always positives. For example – if you are going for a jog then you can either focus on the pain and the sweat or you can focus on the sun warming your face and the beautiful scenery you’re running through.
Even if it’s hammering with rain and you’re running through an urban jungle you can be grateful for the time spent alone, the rest from work or the podcast you’re listening to while you’re pounding the pavement.
If you’re really struggling to find a plus point then just be grateful that you are alive and in a position where your biggest concern is how much you hate exercise and not war, famine or a natural disaster like a lot of the world have to endure.
Perspective is a powerful thing.
My final tip is knowing that you will succeed.
This goes back to self-talk and confidence in yourself and again comes over time but you can hack it by reviewing your new identity daily, voting for it and celebrating the wins and get into the habit of winning.
When you’ve done a week in the gym say: “Hell yeah, crushed it, see, this is easy. I don’t know what all the fuss is about.”
Even if you miss a workout or go off track just say: “It’s no problem, no-one is perfect, this is about the long game and I’ve done well up until now.” The trick here is to say this whether you feel it or not. Whether you believe it or not.
Over time, after lots of little wins, your confidence will grow and then you become the person who succeeds at whatever you try. You can even use your other successes in life to piggyback confidence.
For example: I’ve built a highly successful business, that was much tougher than this, if I can do that then this is childs play.
Or: I’ve learnt languages in the past. This is a skill like any other. My success is inevitable. I just need to persist.
So that’s it!
- Decide who you want to be.
- Start taking positive action and ‘vote’ for the new identity’.
- Surround yourself with support and build an environment for success.
- Enjoy the journey and be grateful.
- Be confident in your self-talk and piggyback confidence from other areas in your life to build an indestructible fortress of win.