Have you ever had an experience where you felt in over your head? Or a time where you’ve had a desired outcome you wish to achieve in mind, but you seem to make no progress towards achieving it?
Let’s take three examples.
- You want to build a new habit, such as starting each day with a run, but you’ve never really been one to exercise consistently.
- You recently started a new role at work that sounds exciting, but you don’t feel qualified for it and are worried for the day when others find out.
- You want to shift your spending towards businesses that are aligned with your values but cheap online deals & frequent sales continue to lure you in.
What all three of these examples have in common is an outcome that isn’t aligned with your current beliefs about yourself, your self image, any other judgements about yourself and others, and even your worldview. An outcome that isn’t aligned with your current identity.
You might have thoughts along the lines of I’m not cut out for this or This isn’t for me. This isn’t me.
An easier, more comfortable option – remaining the same – eventually wins out because at each obstacle to achieving your desired outcome, you’re reminded that what you’re working towards isn’t aligned with your identity.
As author James Clear puts it, “Behavior that is incongruent with the self will not last.” It’s hard to change habits if you never change the underlying belief.
The way to overcome this and achieve your desired behavioral change is to not focus on the outcome, but rather on WHO you want to become — the type of person who would behave the way you desire.
Acting as the person you wish to become will eventually get you there. In other words, fake it ‘till you make it.
This works for two key reasons.
- The more you take action, the better you become (competence). The better you become, the more you build your confidence.
- The more you build competence and confidence, the better it feels to act as the person you wish to become — the more the actions BECOME a part of your identity. The more you believe it to be your identity.
You go from ‘trying to become a runner’ to believing yourself to be one.
You go from imposter syndrome and doubting your own abilities, to building confidence and believing yourself capable.
You go from impulsive spender to conscious consumer.
Identity change is the deepest layer of habit change, which also makes it the most powerful, longest lasting layer of behavioral change.
Think all of this sounds too simple, too easy to be true?
Take the example of Beyoncé. When you think of the singer, you think of this fierce, powerful woman. A commanding presence like none other on stage.
Yet at the start of her career, Beyoncé was much more reserved, shy and nervous at the thought of performing.
‘Sasha Fierce’, her alter ego, was anything but shy. Whenever Beyoncé lacked the confidence, the belief in herself, to perform on stage, she channeled Sasha Fierce — the type of performer she wished to become. And over time, Beyoncé’s confidence grew to the point where she and Sasha Fierce were one. There was no need to rely on her alter-ego, as her two identities — current and desired–merged into one.
Beyoncé shows us the power of using identity to change your behavior and your beliefs into the person you want to become.
So instead of asking yourself what you want to accomplish, phrase it differently. Ask yourself who you want to be.
I’m the type of person who runs each morning.
I’m the type of person who rises to a challenge. I’ll learn what I need to for my role at work.
I’m the type of person whose spending reflects my values.
Even if you don’t believe these statements to be true right now.
If you take small actions each day that are consistent with who you wish to become — even if you have to create your own alter-ego in order to be able to do so — you can eventually create a new identity for yourself that is in line with the behavior change or habit you’re striving towards.
And once your behavior and your self become one and the same, there’s a great chance that your behavior change is here to stay.
If you have any successful experiences with this, I’d love to hear more about your experiences in the comments below!