Create a New Identity
In order to build lasting habits, it’s important that we focus on creating a new identity for ourselves first. You have to let go of your current identity and start believing new things about yourself. Your identity is dictated by who you think you are, not other people’s judgments and opinions. You can create a new identity by (1) defining who you want to be (2) taking action and creating reference points that prove that your new belief is true. For instance, “I’m a writer,” and “I’m a writer because I write every day.” This is much better than saying, “I’m trying to write.” Another example is “I’m a runner, and therefore I’m training for a marathon,” instead of saying “I’m trying to train for a marathon.” This also works for getting rid of bad habits, so instead of telling someone, “I’m trying to quit smoking,” you simply say, “No, thank you, I don’t smoke.” I hope you see the difference. As you change your beliefs, you also start creating new habits that align with those beliefs. Become the person you want to be, and then act accordingly.
Bounce Back When You Fall
It’s okay to slip and trip as we embark on the journey of forming better habits. The path of personal growth is simple, but not easy. You might get tempted to let go of your new commitment. Don’t! Get back on track wherever you are. Don’t beat yourself up for not waking up early, for not showing up to the gym or your yoga mat on a given day, or for cheating on your new diet. We are humans after all, and it takes time to install new habits. But make sure you don’t remain on the ground when you fall; rise and get back in the game again. Let go of perfection, and focus on progression. As Marcus Aurelius wrote, “When jarred, unavoidably, by circumstance, revert at once to yourself, and don’t lose the rhythm more than you can help. You’ll have a better group of harmony if you keep on going back to it.”
It’s naive to believe that you can wave a magic wand and completely transform yourself in 2020. Instead of bringing a radical change in yourself or your life, just focus on becoming a little better every day. Instead of thinking and planning, as St. Nike says, “Just do it.” In words of Ryan Holiday, start fueling the habit bonfire that helps you become the person you want to be and create the life that you truly desire and deserve.
I’ll conclude with a quote attributed to Lao Tzu, which I think is the perfect piece of wisdom to meditate on, as we continue with the journey of becoming better people, in this new year and new decade:
“Watch your thoughts, they become your words;
watch your words, they become your actions;
watch your actions, they become your habits;
watch your habits, they become your character;
watch your character, it becomes your destiny.”