Don’t Chase Habits, Chase an Identity
Why do we expect so much from ourselves?
When we come across someone successful, our first instinct is for us to also achieve the same. We try to determine what makes them successful and wish to replicate the same for ourselves. We come up with a few things we feel the person does and tell ourselves that we will also follow it from now on.
To a certain extent this is crucial. Getting inspired from people is the first step in becoming a better person. We see an outcome that we wish to replicate for ourself. It is the pursuit of this outcome that differentiates all of us and our capability to make it happen.
We then set unrealistic goals and habits on ourselves. We fall into the trap of thinking that if we think it, plan it - it will be done.
Why do we then feel worthless when we fail to achieve these goals within a matter of few days?
It is easy to read an article that says that breathing slowly helps improve mindfulness and then we tell ourselves I am going to breathe slowly every day. In that moment we feel we have made a sensible target and that now onwards we will change this aspect about ourselves.
But actually we have defined nothing. Hence the next day it is easy to feel bad that we didn’t do anything about it. Actually we never defined what was to be done in the first place.
The goal is not to define the habit. We only defined what we want, not how to get it.
Why do we then form a negative image of ourselves for not being able to accomplish things?
We have an unreasonable expectation of plasticity from self. That is, that if I think I will do B instead of A every day then magically I will be able to stick to this thought process. But humans are creatures of habit and they will go back to doing A very quickly.
This is so often the case that we get inspired about something, we try to make it a routine and then within a week we are filled with regret and self-hate on not having made much progress and by the next week we are back to being ourselves.
We are conditioned to think that there is a vast expanse between where I stand and where the other person stands and I will never be able to get there.
The Self-Transformation Onion
Between us and our future self there are these layers, let’s peel them apart and get to the core of it.
- Copy the outcome: people will copy the lifestyle of successful people and try to fake it. In general we understand that this does not work. We are emulating the outputs, not the inputs.
- Copy the habits: people will copy the inputs that is the hours of hard work that go into being successful, but often we hate ourselves for not sticking to that daily routine because of the reasons mentioned above.
- Copy the image of self: change the way you look at yourself. Redefine your identity, let everything else flow from there.
Who am I?
If you are inspired by a successful writer, tell yourself that you are a writer. What does a writer do?
- A writer will sit down and write not because they have a great idea, but because that is what they do.
- A writer will sit down and write not because they have a deadline, but because that is what they do.
- A writer will sit down and write not because they are getting paid, but because that is what they do.
There is no expectation of outcome. There is no expectation of following a habit — its just the person we wish to become. And in the most true sense we become that person, that identity.
Once we define our identity we define the link between what we think and what we do. That is when we stop perceiving secondary thoughts about what we “should” be doing.
- Painting is a link from mind to brush.
- Writing is a link from mind to words.
- Driving is a link from mind to wheel.
- Cooking is a link from mind to pan.
Define your identity — thinking and doing shall become one.