The Power of Identity Change (New Habits Pt. 4)
Tiny habits are the key to behavior change, so learn the final step in how to create tiny habits that last!
We’ve made it! This is the final piece of our New Habits in 2021 series and we’re tying it all together with a new mentality.
If you haven’t read through the previous parts of our series that is based on BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything, check out our first 4 lessons:
- Introduction to Tiny Habits
- Part I: The Equation for Building Tiny Habits that Last
- Part II: The Key to Making Habits Easy
- Part III: Good Tiny Habits and Recipes
Before we move on to the final step to make sure your tiny habits give big results, take a moment to think about all you’ve done in the past few days to work towards your 2021 goals. You’ve picked your aspirations. You’ve brainstormed behaviors to support your intended change. You’ve converted those behaviors into their tiniest, most doable components. You’ve decided when you will perform these actions and how you will celebrate after you do them.
Perhaps you’ve even grown some of your tiny habits into their next stage. And if you haven’t, that’s fine too. Tiny habits are the key to behavior change, but progressing too fast can often lead to people abandoning the process. So make sure to make the process work for you on your own timeline.
The Power of Identity Change
You may not feel it yet, but you have also embraced a new identity. In going through the course of this process, you are now someone who does the things they’ve only thought about before. If you went with an aspiration involving cooking, meal planning, or getting healthier, you may now be the person who:
- Finds it easier to cook a meal than to order delivery
- Enjoys eating vegetables over fast food
- Has your weekly meal plan hanging on your fridge
- Has a fridge full of washed and prepped fruits and vegetables
- Finishes each week with minimal food waste
Your aspirations might not be food and cooking related, but whatever you chose, you are that new person and the key to maintaining this process and change is to truly believe that — not to believe that you will become that person but that you already are that person in this present moment.
You might feel like an imposter still. Does only setting out a cutting board mean that I am someone who finds it easier to cook than to order delivery? My answer is yes.
One of my most powerful strategies in life has been to fake it till I make it. When we assume these identities, we start to perform actions that fall in line with these new identities.
You are not someone who will learn to love exercise. You are someone who loves to exercise.
You are not someone who is learning to play the guitar. You are a guitar player.
You are not someone who has started meal planning. You are an organized meal planner.
Think it and you will be it.
And one of the most powerful parts of identity change is that, as you assume your new aspirational identity, your previous bad habits simply don’t fit with this new identity, making them so much easier to shed.
Going back to The Equation that Build Tiny Habits that Last, I had mentioned that I had an aspiration to start working out in the mornings but I also said that I was not a morning person.
In order for me to use tiny habits for behavior change in my life, I had to change my identity. I was already someone who loves to exercise but I needed to start believing that I am someone who gets up early in the morning, that I am a morning person.
It’s now been almost 3 months and I get up between 5:30 and 5:45 almost every weekday morning to exercise. I love starting each day with getting something done for myself, with mental elation that comes after a workout, and I now don’t even mind getting up in the cold and darkness.
And it all started with creating tiny habit recipes that I stacked together* to start an earlier bedtime routine. For all of these, I chose a huge grin as my celebration:
- After we get up from dinner, I will put my phone in my desk drawer.
- After I turn on the dishwasher, I will turn on the water kettle to make myself a cup of chamomile.
- After I put the kids to bed, I will put my workout clothes in the garage.
- After I put my workout clothes in the garage, I will turn on my heated blanket.
- After I turn on my heated blanket, I will brush my teeth and wash my face.
- After I wash my face, I will get into bed and read until I feel sleepy.
That new stack of tiny habits has given me big results. They were enough for me to start going to bed earlier, and therefore, waking up earlier to exercise. Even though the warmth of my bed is very tempting, I am someone who gets up early to exercise, so I have to get up early to exercise, and that is the power of identity change.
The Key to Sustaining Big Habits
The new choices we make, the old choices we don’t make — all of these are a reflection of our new identity. But another thing I look at is a person’s schedule because schedules are also a reflection of our identities.
Ever since I was an elementary school student, I have been obsessed with schedules. I loved the neatness of one and the structure it could provide for all the things I wanted to get done in a day. I seriously remember checking out a book in 3rd grade about schedules and thinking it was the best book ever.
While you’re creating tiny habits and integrating all your new behavior recipes into your day, they may not make a big change in your schedule at first, but as they become larger habits, your schedule will reflect this new identity. We make time for the things that are important to us. These habits are your new identity, so to truly follow through, you need to let them take up space in your schedule.
If you start by scheduling 10 minutes to meal prep, it won’t be long till that 10 minutes becomes an easy 30 minutes that you don’t even mentally resist because, again, you are someone who goes into the week with a fridge of ingredients prepared for dinner.
Once something takes root in your schedule, deviating from it just becomes harder to do. In the end, real change takes place when we do something even when we don’t necessarily want to, because that’s when we are proudest of ourselves. Celebration helps us build tiny habits, but pride is what keeps us sustaining big habits.
We have all experienced nights when we’re fried at the end of the day. We really, really want to just order takeout but instead, we make the choice to cook. The pride that comes from doing the harder thing is one of the best feelings, and I am lucky to see it day after day in our Kitchen Hero Facebook Group — stories of our members who were about to phone it in but decided not to because they had built their tiny habits into a larger habit of creating home-cooked meals without stress.
Although our meal plan service provides them with the tools — a meal plan, a grocery list, a prep list, an easy-to-make weeknight dinner — they had to make the final decision. When you have the right tools and you fully believe in your new identity though, that decision becomes all the more easy to make.
These 5 posts on how to create tiny habits that give big results are clearly only a summary of all that Fogg covers in his Tiny Habits book. But if you’ve made it this far, I know that you are truly committed to making real change this year by finding the right process to help you change. So get a copy of the book and use these posts as another resource to help you make change easy in 2021.
I am rooting for you and can’t wait to hear about all the new habits you adopt and the amazing results you enjoy this year. I truly want to hear your stories so please email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM them to Cook Smarts’ Instagram.
Tiny habits are the key to behavior change and big results. So what are you waiting for? Make 2021 the year of being that person you’ve always wanted to be!
And, if your 2021 aspiration involves food, health, saving money, or reducing stress, don’t forget to take advantage of our New Years Sale. Use code NEWHABITS to get 20% off of our meal plans through 2/2/21.
*This concept of habit stacking is actually from James Clear’s book Atomic Habits, which is great read to affirm many of the concepts from Fogg’s Tiny Habits: The Small Changes That Change Everything by BJ Fogg.
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