Last year we wrote about how your self-talk can shape your self-identity and prevent change. Now, we want to look at how you can change your self-identity in subtle ways that then allow the process of change begin and continue.
The key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first. Your current behaviours 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 behaviour – and habits – for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself.
Changing your behaviour isn’t as hard as you might think. In fact, there are just two steps:
- Decide the type of person you want to be.
- Prove it to yourself with small wins.
Think about the words you use to describe yourself. Do they suggest that you’re moving in the direction you want? Compare phrases:
Before: “I can’t live without bread.”
Now: “I used to eat a lot of bread, and now I prefer to fill up with meat and vegies.”
Small win: Eating bacon and eggs and vegies for breakfast – without toast.
Before: “I eat vegies so I can reward myself with dessert.”
Now: “I eat vegies so I am rewarded with the weight I want to be.”
Small win: Putting an extra serve of vegies on your plate.
Before: “It’s too hot/cold/early/late (insert latest excuse) for exercise.”
Now: “I’m happy to exercise daily because my health is important to me.”
Small win: Taking the dog for a walk in the morning.
Before: “I haven’t got time to write down everything I eat and drink.”
Now: “I’m organised and it takes only a minute so I write down everything I eat and drink.”
Small win: Completing a food journal for one full day.
The first phrase in each pair suggests that there is no hope for change. The person’s identity is connected to these false beliefs. They have been repeated over and over – in thought, word and deed – so that the brain believes the statement as fact.
The second, if practiced, can become the new belief. The more the brain hears the words, the truer they become. When the words are true, a new identity develops. The small wins help to reinforce the new belief, giving you the confidence that your new identity is true and appropriate.
To achieve the things you want may involve a change of thinking, and a change in the way you see yourself. It’s worth it.