Each of us has a perceived “self-image” or identity, a general self-concept of how we see ourselves to be. Our identity drives our behavior because we tend to behave (often unconsciously) in ways which are consistent with our self-image (the good and the bad). It is like our silent blueprint.
We are influenced by the vision of our ideal-self or the type of person we would like to be. We call this our Ideal Identity. We feel best and experience the highest level of self-esteem when our behaviors are aligned with the positive aspects of who we think we are OR the type of person we would like to become. In psychology this is called the “congruence principle”. When looking to make positive behavior change, understanding, and leveraging this human desire for congruence can be highly beneficial as it is a strong driver of our behavior.
The more we practice new positive habits in our lives, the more they become part of us, part of our identity. When this happens, we no longer feel that we should do these positive habits every day – instead, we feel that we must do them. At this stage, our identity is driving and reinforcing the behaviors we want to have.
It's important to define attributes of your ideal identity and look at how you can leverage this human desire for congruence to help you stick to habits and behaviors that are aligned with this identity. Think about the best adjectives you could use to describe how (or who) the ideal future you would need to be on a daily basis so that you could achieve and live out your vision. What attributes and core qualities would need to be an inherent part of you – part of your identity – for you to make this future vision a reality, and for you to become the best version of yourself?
When we define these core attributes and connect emotionally with them, they can be a powerful catalyst for change and can be used to guide and measure our actions and behavior.
The most important element for creating a new habit – and for making any major upgrade in your life, really is identity. Contrary to popular belief, habits are more about who you are being than what you are doing.
One of the main reasons we fail to stick to good habits and ditch negative ones is that we focus on changing what we’re doing (or not doing) without changing who we are being. To reach our goals, we must shift our identity to match the habits we’re adopting and embrace these habits as a new and valuable part of who we are becoming.
One thing to consider is that the real purpose of any goal you set is to create the habits and behaviors you would need to adopt; to develop the qualities and characteristics you would need to embody to become the type of person who can consistently set and achieve significant goals. In other words, the real purpose of any goal is who you become through the process that will serve you in every other area of your life.
By developing the qualities and characteristics of someone who can accomplish significant goals and shifting your identity to align with the habits you’re working to adopt, you prepare yourself to live in a totally new reality by overcoming “imposter syndrome”.( Impostor syndrome refers to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. While this definition is usually narrowly applied to intelligence and achievement, it has links to perfectionism and the social context.) Imposter syndrome explains why people who win the lottery almost always wind up broke again – They still identify as someone who is broke.
Who you are being / becoming is even more important than what you are doing.
As we know, we all have positive and negative aspects to our self-image, and while the positive aspects of this self-image help us adhere to some of the behaviors we want, the negative aspects may be holding us back and hindering our growth. Thankfully, nothing is set in stone, and we can choose to update our current identity to a more positive one by choosing to act and behave in line with a solid vision of who we want to become – our Ideal Identity.
UPDATE YOUR IDENTITY
Commit to aligning yourself and your behavior with your Ideal Identity each day through what we call Identity Statements.
These empowering statements describe the type of person you are and how you act and behave. By creating these statements, you are setting new standards for yourself. You are defining rules and guidelines based on your Ideal Identity that you want to follow and that you commit to acting in congruence with daily.
I recommend using the following format when designing your Identity Statements:
“I am [list qualities / adjectives] and I am the type of person who [list intention]."
Some of my favorite Identity Statemens that I use often:
I am disciplined and I am the type of person who only consumes food that keep my body and mind strong, vibrant, and energized.
I am strong and I am the type of person who does what is hard, even when I don't feel like it.
I am brave and I am the type of person who embraces discomfort and faces her fear