You are the sum of what you do every day. Generally we do the same things day in and day out. Our behaviours and actions stem from our thoughts and feelings. So in turn, not only are our daily actions a habit, but so are our thoughts and feelings.
We often want something in our lives to change. We look to a habit (behaviour/action) that we don’t like the consequences of and try to stop doing it, or look for a different behaviour to replace it. But change at the level of action doesn’t stick when the thoughts and feelings continue to be the same. A feeling or thought of dissatisfaction is usually not enough to create a lasting change of behaviour. Real change begins at the level of thoughts and feelings—our behaviour/actions are just the by-product.
Attempting to change our actions without changing our thoughts and feelings is a huge failure point when it comes to establishing habits. If the attempt to change the behaviour fails, many people will lower their standards/expectations for themselves and their lives, leading to them live far below their potential and usually with a low sense of self worth and a pessimistic outlook.
Changing our thoughts and feelings can seem like a daunting task. But there are simple solutions, you just have commit to doing them every day. Here is one:
Answer this Question: What Kind of Person Do You Want to Be?
James Clear writes a great deal about habits, and I love his concept of identity-based habits. First, you have to take on the identity of who you want to be by accomplishing small wins before focusing on achieving your new behaviour. I have clients write out what kind of person they want to be and then insert themselves into the sentence by using an active or assertive voice.
“I want to be the kind of person that wakes up energized and writes for an hour before having a hearty breakfast and going to work.”
“I wake up energized every morning, write for an hour, eat a hearty breakfast and then go to work.”
The example above has a number of habits incorporated in it (physical energy, writing, diet) which all need to be focused on separately. Each one would need to be broken down in order to accomplish small wins; e.g. write for an hour would start with writing for 10 minutes consistently before increasing the time every week. But the very first step is to have the person read this statement every morning.
Using an active or assertive voice may seem tedious or even fake because it is still who we want to be and not who we are but our actions flow from our identity. Therefore if we want new actions, we need to establish the new identity first. As we accomplish small wins, we begin to believe the statement as it becomes true.
Our identity constantly affects our actions without being conscious of it:
“I’m lazy…so I can’t wake up early.”
“I wake up tired…so I can’t get anything done before I go to work.”
“I wake up late… so I don’t have time for breakfast.”
If you keep telling yourself, “I’m tired and lazy” guess what all your actions will reflect?
Be careful how you describe yourself, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.
You are either raising your standards or lowering them.
What kind of person do you want to be?*
*Don’t just think about this for a few minutes and forget about it. Revisit your identity every day.