Identity-Based Habits: Own The New You

Leverage Identity-Based Habits to create the life you want.

Identity-Based Habits: Own The New You

I always enjoy a physical challenge.

When I ran my first 5k, I was addicted.

After crossing that first finish line, I decided to push myself a little more. I ran a 10k, 15k, and even completed a half-marathon. I loved the thrill of completing a big goal.

I wanted to try other challenges: triathlon, an obstacle course called the Spartan Race (see photo above), and even biking 200 miles in one day.

I always had a ton of fun! The training was tough, but the reward of achieving the goal was worth every second of the .

And, on top of all this, exercising felt good. The runner's high is real. Endorphins from pushing myself physically was a nice bonus to the training.

There was one problem though: once I crossed the finish line for an event, I stopped exercising. My motivation and consistency tanked.

I was good about working out as it led up to an event. But once the goal was achieved, my motivation was done too.

This frustrated me for a long time. I couldn’t figure out how to push myself to work out between events. I seemed to have no issue getting up early to go on a run for a 15k, but lost the will to get out of bed to exercise for my own health.

I struggled with this for years. My solution was to sign up for the next event once one was done so I could try to stay motivated.

Then the COVID pandemic hit and everything shut down. No events to sign up for. No training for a race. No drive to work out.

I was beyond frustrated. I always prided myself as someone who enjoyed working on goals, but this baffled me. I just couldn’t find the answers.

Then I picked up Atomic Habits by James Clear. He wrote about a concept called ​Identity-Based Habits​:

The key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first. Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously).To change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself. You need to build identity-based habits.

If you’re like me, developing new habits is always a challenge. I try to knuckle down and push through with little action to show for it.

Something about this new concept just clicked.

Instead of focusing solely on your habits, you focus on creating a new identity first. You work on who you want to become rather than what you want to achieve.

This recipe for identity-based habits involves 2 simple ingredients:

  • Deciding the type of person you want to become
  • Proving it to yourself by taking action and achieving small wins

This was the answer!

My exercise identity had hinged on me being someone who completed big events. Instead, I needed to shift my identity to be someone who worked out consistently.

This changed everything.

Following the recipe, I started to view myself as someone who worked out consistently. I didn’t so much worry about how far I ran, how long I biked, or how much weight I lifted. Instead, I focused on being consistent at working out.

As I built consistency and took action, my motivation increased. Stacking week after week of wins built my confidence as I owned this new identity.

Since then, I have worked out more consistently than ever before in my life. When I feel less motivated, I remind myself of my identity and get back to it.

Identity-Based Habits aren’t just good for exercise. There are many areas of life where this works:

  • reading
  • writing daily
  • being punctual
  • getting up early
  • being intentional with your family

You simply start by following the 2 step recipe: decide and act.

So the next time you’re struggling with a new habit, don’t focus solely on outcomes. Concentrate on building your own Identity-Based Habit by asking yourself these questions:

  • What’s a new habit I’ve struggled to stick with?
  • Who is the person who consistently follows through on this habit?
  • What action can I take to prove to myself I am becoming that person?

Take it one step, one day, one action at a time.