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I typically start the year with clearly documented goals. I set goals to lose weight, eat healthier, or spend less time working and more time with my children. Unfortunately, I don’t achieve my goals. While I do make progress, I haven’t had a year where I crossed one of these documented goals off my list.
With this realization, I created measurable goals. If I was able to measure the goal then I had of knowing I achieved it. Instead of having a goal to lose weight, I set a goal to back squat my body weight. In my mind this made sense. If I back squatted my body weight, I’d have gained muscle. The muscle would result in a loss of fat. And at the end of the year, if I couldn’t back squat my body weight, I didn’t achieve my goal. There was nothing nebulous about the goal. I either achieved it or I didn’t.
With these measurable goals, I’d start the year off on the right foot. I’d go to the gym, I’d back squat. My lifts would get heavier. I’d get injured. I’d take time off of the gym. Once I broke the habit, I wouldn’t go back.
Year after year, unaccomplished goal after unaccomplished goal, I thought it was a better idea not to create any goals. Last January was the first time I didn’t write down goals for the year. I was mentally exhausted from years of unaccomplished goals. I made the decision to have a year to go with the flow.
Enter pandemic. With the time spent at home, I found minimalism. I adopted a less is more mindset and decluttered much of my home. I felt less stressed with less belongings and continued this journey. I developed a habit of tidying up at night after getting rid of enough things to make my house easy to organize. This habit led me to thinking what else could I change? Before the pandemic, I didn’t identify myself as a tidy person but during it, I became one. How did that happen?
It was at this time my husband recommended the book Atomic Habits by James Clear. I downloaded it on Audible because sitting down to read a book is near impossible with my children. I couldn’t stop listening. This book is hands down the best book I have ever read.
The book answered my question in how I became a tidy person. After decluttering, I slowly added a habit to tidy up before bed. I did this because I liked how it felt to wake up to a clean house. The time I spend watching television every night still occurred. I just added another habit to tidy up while watching. In the book Atomic Habits, this is referred to as habit stacking. Adding a new habit to one I already had established, may it easier to adopt. At the time I created the habit, I didn’t realize what I was doing. I was focused on tidying up to feel less stressed the next morning.
The book also addressed my difficulty with achieving goals. When you set a goal, you’re working to achieve that goal, but you’re not focused on the process to get you there. There’s a difference between saying you’ll lose weight versus saying you’ll spend 5 minutes a day working out. Breaking the goal into a daily process helps achieve it.
The author also breaks down how to create new habits and get rid of bad ones. A big portion of this concept is identifying who you want to be. We focus so much on who we are. It’s easy for me to say I’m not an athletic person. When we identify ourselves in this way, we’re already casting doubt in our ability. We’re affecting the person we want to be without even realizing it.
Instead of creating goals this year, I am committed to tracking my habits. But before I can track my habits, I need to understand what habits I want to incorporate into my life. To do this, I need to ask myself who I want to be.
I want to be healthy. I want to live a low stress, active life. I want to write a book. I want to be a guitar player. To write a book, I need to write each day. To be a guitar player, I need to practice guitar each day.
I’ve started tracking habits. Each day, I’ve played guitar and I’ve written. I’m tracking these habits so I continue to do them. I will allow myself to miss a day, but never two. By the end of the year, I’ll be a better guitar player and I’ll be on my way to writing my first book.
How is this different than setting a goal for the year? By establishing who we want to be, we begin to believe that is who we are. An author writes. A guitar player plays guitar. While these are habits I can track, being healthy isn’t one I can check off the list. For this, I’ve started saying “I am a healthy person” when I open the snack drawer. You’d be amazed at how saying something aloud impacts decision making. By identifying myself as a healthy person, I’m more inclined to pick a healthy snack. Instead of the pop tart I usually pick during my 3pm slump, I pick a rice cake with almond butter.
The way we see ourselves impacts our beliefs. Instead of focusing on who we’re not, we should focus on who we want to be. By doing this, we can change ourselves. We have the power to change our identities.
This realization has been life changing. To realize you can be who you want to be by changing your habits is profound. While it’s a simple theory, it’s certainly not something I understood before reading the book.
With one month down in 2021, we should think of who we want to be and establish a path to work towards that this year. I’ve wanted to write a book for years but was afraid to say it. I was afraid to think of myself in that way. I was afraid to make it public. It’s public now. That’s who I want to be and I’ll write daily to improve my writing.
By starting slow and engaging in a habit a couple minutes each day, we can establish that habit. From there, we can improve it. Once we improve it, it becomes part of our identities. The first step is identifying who you want to be.
So, who do you want to be? And what steps will you take to get there?