Our Habits Define Us

“Habits are the compound interest of self improvement.” — James Clear, Atomic Habits

*record scratch* Let’s rewind, shall we?

You have an end goal for something. Maybe it’s losing weight. Maybe it’s setting aside a certain amount of money each month. Maybe it’s reading one book a week. It could even be something as simple as “Be a nicer person,” or “Become comfortable with saying no.” Whatever it is, you have one thing in common with billions of other people around the globe: you want to reach your goal. Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, there’s a little more to it than that. Although yes, it’s important for people to keep track of their goals, it’s more important for them to keep track of how they’re reaching their goals. This article is going to go a little more in depth on James Clear’s Atomic Habits in order to understand the fundamentals of making and breaking habits and in turn, reaching your end goal.

First thing’s first: what do most people do when they want to reach an end goal? They come up with one, then they start doing things that contribute to their goal, and then… they flop. Why is this? Why do people start a goal just to give up on it? Is it because they forgot about it? Or did they decide it just wasn’t for them? No. The truth is, people often expect success overnight, whether they realize it or not. To elaborate on that point; people expect to see progress overnight, which is a scaled down version of their end goal. Of course, it’s difficult to see things happen overnight because… well, because that’s not how things work. You don’t eat one salad and do an intense workout and end up losing 15 pounds overnight. However, if you do make it a habit of eating healthy and exercising every day, then you’ll eventually see progress.

The solution to this problem is quite simple: form new habits. Let’s elaborate on that one.

In order to form a habit, it’s important to switch your perspective from “I don’t see any progress yet” to something more like “The progress isn’t visible yet.” The difference between the two perspectives is that one of them assumes “well, since you can’t see any progress, it isn’t there.” The other, however, states that yes there is indeed progress, but it isn’t visible yet. In shifting your perspective from hopeless to hopeful, it becomes easier to maintain habits and in turn, reach your end goal.

Clear discusses this in his book quite a bit. In fact, he speaks of going as far as changing your identity into something that can achieve your goal. For example, he talks about someone who’s determined to be healthier but just can’t seem to do it. He goes on to explain that if the person changed their identity from “I want to be healthier” to “I am a healthy person who does these things to remain healthy,” then their ego would work with them to maintain their new identity.

A combination of an identity change and a shift in perspective are absolutely crucial in making and breaking habits. Being as identity and perspective are the two things that make up the spine of our very being, changing them changes who we are — and we have the power to change those two things. It might not be easy, but it certainly is simple enough for you to achieve.

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