How Your Daily Habits Can Transform Your Identity
"Every action you take is a vote for the person you wish to become." – James Clear
For years Arpita Patel identified as a night owl. “If you’d have talked with me once you would be like ‘Yes, Arpita is a night owl’,” she told Growth Faculty in an interview.
The Adobe production lead, yoga instructor and resilience coach, based in Sydney, said everyone knew her as a night owl.
But Arpita told Growth Faculty she wasn’t comfortable with this identity. For years she had wanted to be a morning person. After reading Atomic Habits by James Clear she primed herself to give it a go.
“I started reflecting on my values and my aspirations. I wanted to become a morning person. And that really helped me. I reminded myself that if I woke up earlier, I would have time for myself, for my self-care, and I would have time to remind myself of what is important for the day,” she said.
“I started visualising if I were to become a morning person, what that looked like.
“And seeing that person who wakes up early, who finishes the workout, who has time to look after herself…. I really liked that person!” Arpita told us.
We interviewed Arpita ahead of our exclusive September 2023 Global Headline events Atomic Habits -James Clear LIVE; read the event summary here. So, let's look at Arpita’s journey and James Clear’s research on how your daily habits can transform your identity.
Definition of identity
Before we go back to Arpita’s story, what is the definition of “identity”?
The dictionary definition says identity is “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.”
As James Clear says, when you make your bed, you embody the identity of someone who is clean and organised. When you study, you embody the identity of someone who is studious.
Identity is not fixed, however. By adopting daily habits you can transform your identity, as Arpita was so keen to do.
Arpita explodes out of the blocks
Arpita started transforming her identity to become a morning person with a bang.
“So, I started doing it, but I made a mistake. I was like ‘Okay I’m going to wake up early’ and I suddenly started putting back my alarm 2 hours earlier than I was used to.
“As you can imagine, I did it 2 days, 3 days, but then that’s it, I was not able to keep up because I was still staying up at night and it was too big of a difference.”
As James Clear says, to make a habit stick, there are 4 laws of behaviour change:
1. Cue: Make it obvious.
2. Craving: Make it attractive.
3. Response: Make it easy.
4. Reward: Make it satisfying.
Arpita's enthusiasm had led her to fall for a common trap - not making your new habit attractive, easy, or satisfying. Her new identity was stubbornly refusing to cement itself.
Arpita goes back to the drawing board
Arpita went back to square one, and started again, this time making small incremental changes, as one of our favourite quotes by James Clear in Atomic Habits goes.
"A slight change in your daily habits can guide your life to a different destination." – James Clear
Make bite-sized changes to transform your identity
This time Arpita’s modest changes stuck.
“I started changing my alarm from 7:00 a.m. to 6:50 a.m. then 6:40 a.m. and now I’m already at 6 o’clock.”
Making small changes to her routine made it achievable, and Arpita got positive reinforcement.
“I was feeling ahead of everyone else, just by waking up early it made me feel so good that I’m able to finish my important tasks….and after working out I was feeling so energetic, that helped me to be a better person throughout the day as well, in my personal life as well as in my professional life.”
Using the Atomic Habits tracker, she was crossing off her morning person behaviours every day.
“As soon as I finished my morning workout, I cross it off and that is so satisfying in myself that it inspires me, it motivates me to do it again next day, and now it is so easy for me.”
Arpita has since run a building healthy habits workshop for Adobe, and uses the principles of Atomic Habits in her work, her yoga practice, her role as a resilience coach, and her studies to become an organisational psychologist.
"I’m seeing that habits play a BIG role – what James Clear is talking about – it really plays a big role in our life as a person, and what we become.”
4 ways daily habits can transform your identity
By implementing small but consistent changes, your habits can shape your identity in 4 profound ways.
Firstly, habits provide a clear path to mastery. Through deliberate practice, you can cultivate skills and expertise that reinforce your desired identity. Each day, investing focused time and effort into your chosen habits nurtures a growth mindset and fosters a sense of progress.
Secondly, habits have a cumulative effect on your self-image. When you consistently engage in positive habits, such as exercising or reading, you begin to see yourself as an active, healthy, or knowledgeable person. Over time, these habits become part of your identity, and the more you repeat them, the more you reinforce this positive self-image.
Purpose and meaning
Habits can cultivate a sense of purpose and meaning. When you establish a routine that connects your daily actions with your values and long-term goals, you develop a greater sense of purpose in your life. By consistently acting in accordance with your values, your habits serve as a reminder of what truly matters to you.
Resilience and mindset
Lastly, habits can enhance your resilience and mindset. When you encounter setbacks or challenges, your habits can serve as a source of stability and motivation. By committing to your daily habits, even during difficult times, you reinforce your ability to persevere and overcome obstacles.
This resilience not only strengthens your mindset but also shapes your identity as someone who is determined, persistent, and capable of overcoming adversity.
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