Who do you want to be? James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, says this question is the key to developing habits that lead to successful outcomes. Rather than focusing on goals or the achievements we want to see in our lives, we should focus on our identity; who we wish to become.
Most people don’t consider identity change when they set out to learn something. They fix their eye on the final outcome in order to decide their actions, rather than setting an identity that will shape their habits. However, if you neglect to change your underlying beliefs about yourself, it is difficult to change your habits as your behaviors are usually a reflection of your identity; an indication of the person you believe you are.
Think about the difference between turning down a cigarette because, “No thanks, I’m trying to quit,” verses, “No thanks, I’m not a smoker.” This shift in the way one sees oneself can make all the difference.
Someone once asked me what I thought was the primary indicator as to whether or not someone would be successful at learning Arabic. I thought for a moment about the nearly 1000 people I’ve coached in the last decade. Those who succeeded started their journey with the belief that they were the type of person who could do it. Those who struggled continually with their own image and self doubt had already bought into a story about who they were that created robust barriers to becoming fluent.
What you do is an indication of the type of person you believe you are, says James Clear. If you have already decided that you are “no good with technology” or that you are “horrible at math”, or that you are “not gifted at learning languages”, it becomes easy to begin accepting this as fact. Your own personal self image gets in your way.
So what’s the way out? How do you reinvent yourself in order to succeed? Clear says it’s all about deciding the kind of person you want to be and then determining how that person would behave. Once you know who you want to be, set actions in place that reinforce this identity.
When you do this, you create evidence. The more evidence you have in a belief about yourself, the more you will believe in it. As the evidence grows, those repeated actions produce further proof that shapes your identity. This process of showing up is the process of becoming your desired self. Habits are your path to changing your identity.
Think about this throughout your week. Each time you use the vocabulary you know to communicate, you are someone who speaks Arabic. Each time you spend time listening compassionately to someone whose first language is Arabic, you are someone who loves and cares for Arabs.
Who do you want to be? What does someone like that choose to do everyday? How can you take steps to begin moving towards your desired identity?