Improve Your Results by Changing Your Identity
What is your identity?
Are you a parent? A teacher? A student? An accountant? A runner? A dog lover?
Although these examples don’t really say who we “are” as an individual, they do provide some definition that describes what we do on a regular basis. What visual image do you get in your head when I say that I am a parent? Now what visual image do you get in your head when I say that I am a runner? How about a dog lover?
These terms are ways for us to better understand ourselves and share some of our basic values and ideas with others. These terms help us to form our identity.
Identity Determines Our Daily Actions
Teachers teach, writers write, and runners run. You get the idea.
Who we are = what we do
Our identity determines our daily actions. In fact, our identity and our actions are intertwined – like strands of DNA.
If we identify as an athlete, we have regular habits to exercise.
If we identify as a business person, we have regular habits to build our business.
If we identify as a student, we have regular habits to go to class and do our homework.
If we identify as a smoker, we have regular habits to smoke.
How Is Our Identity Formed?
True identity is something people must create for themselves by making choices that are significant and that require a courageous commitment in the face of challenges. Identity means having ideas and values that one lives by.”—Thomas Merton
True identity is something people must create… Many would argue that we don’t have control over our identity. When we are children, we pick up a lot of the ideas and values of our parents. Our young identities are shaped by our parents influence. When we become teenagers, we begin to question those values and beliefs. We may continue to hold those same values and beliefs or we may change them. If we change our values and beliefs, our identities will change.
In fact, our identities change several times throughout our lives. When a person goes to medical school, they gradually begin to change their identity. After days, weeks, months, or years of seeing patients, they form an identity as a doctor.
When we are blessed with a child, we begin to identify as parents.
When we enroll in school, we begin to identify as a student.
We create our identity by making choices.
How Does Our Identity Change Our Results?
So how does this relate to getting results and helping us achieve our goals? Our identity determines our actions which determine our results. This is then reinforced over and over again through repetition.
If we identify as a runner, then we will run on a regular basis, and we will be physically fit. Our physical fitness level reinforces the fact that we are a runner, and we continue to run. Our identity as a runner makes us lace up our shoes and run - not our willpower. Willpower is a limited resource and it only lasts for a limited time. We must change our identity for continued, lasting results.
If you want to stop smoking, change your identity and you will change your results. Willpower may get you started, but when that runs out, your identity is what will keep you going.
How Do We Change Our Identity?
So how do we jump into this cycle and begin to change our identity?
It is actually quite easy – with small baby steps.
Just like our new med students above. New med students don’t wake up one day and decide they are a doctor. It is something that happens gradually, over time, with continued reinforcement. They see patients every day. At first it feels strange. They may be nervous and unsure of themselves at first. But gradually, their confidence increases and they are more confident in their decisions. At some point, they will begin to identify as a doctor.
We all start somewhere.
If we want to lose weight, we need to identify as a person who eats better and moves more. To begin to change that identity, we need to start small and we need to show up every day. Set small goals that are easy and that you are guaranteed to achieve. Perhaps you set a small goal to eat an apple every day. Or maybe you set a small goal to walk 5 minutes after dinner. Start small with something you know you can do and build from there. Get a planner or use some way to track your progress.
If you want to stop smoking, smoke one less cigarette today.
If you want to write a book, set a small goal to write for 5 minutes per day.
If you want to be a runner, set a small goal to run down the street for 1 minute.
Just like our new doctor, this is going to take time, but it is the best way to get long-lasting results. You will change your identity with each baby step, every single day. As your identity strengthens, you won’t need as much willpower to take those daily actions to achieve your desired results.
© 2018 Darleen Barnard