After finishing a fantastic book, Rejection Proof, I was reminded of a challenge from my favorite (and only) daily email. Earlier in the year the author of that newsletter challenged us to re-read a small selection of books that we’ve already read in order to pull more depth from them than the first time. I scrolled quickly through my downloaded audiobooks and then I stopped on one that I recently read, Atomic Habits.
Within the first couple of chapters I had to press pause as I needed time to process. In my first reading of the book I was so pumped about the premise that I’d somehow not completely let one of the very first concepts sink in. I can’t believe I missed it the first time, but it hit me right between the eyes this go round. As my brain processed it I needed to take time to think through my answer to the concept.
The basic concept is that there are three layers of behavioral change. Outcomes focused change is specific to an event, like running a marathon. Processes based behavioral change relates to the systems we use, like utilizing a marathon training program. Identity based change is focused on changing our beliefs, such as I run marathons because I live a healthy life style and I challenge myself.
In the past I’ve largely focused on focusing on one specific outcome, changing my processes to get there, and the impact can be a change in who I am. It’s worked well for me in the past and I’ve been able to accomplish some pretty cool things and slowly alter my identity in a positive way. An example of this is blogging. I started with the outcome of blogging once per day for a year, followed the process of daily writing, and have become more thankful as a result. It worked out well, but it reminds me of when I ran my marathon with Becky. As it was very much a results or outcome based behavior change I fell into a slump once it was completed and eventually quit running with as much regularity.
The book challenged me to pause on the outcomes and focus inwardly first. What is my identity and what would someone with that identity do? From there determine the processes they would follow and then let that lead to the outcomes. In going this way we find more sustainable behavior change as it is truly who we are. It’s an interesting twist that really made sense when I read it this time.
So where do I start on this? It starts with one delightfully simple question that leads to complex thought… Who am I? WHAM!!! That one question hit me between the eyes and forced me to pause and think. The interesting thing is that there were several parts that I am feeling much more confident in than I have been in the past. I am joyful. I am thankful. I am healthy.
As I peeled back the layers of each of these I started to see where there are gaps between where I am and where I want to be. In evaluating those gaps I started to find small behavior changes that would lead me to be more joyful, more thankful, and more healthy. As I thought about those changes I started to see what I could potentially use as milestones on my journey to be more of those things to see my progress and determine future growth. Most importantly, I can see how much more sustainable it will be as living those behaviors leads me to being more of the me I really am and really endeavor to be.
At the heart of all of it was that one question that got me thinking and I am so grateful for it each and every time I ask it of myself… Who am I? The answer always seems to change a little, but I think I’m finally starting to zero in on it.