Identity-Based Habits

Who do you envision yourself to be? Knowing who you want to be and what you want to do mean everything in habit formation. Not knowing your goals is like working blindfolded, and we do it more often that we think. Making identity-based habits is an effective way of remembering the most important parts of habit formation. 

Making identity-based habits is the technique of building routines around your desired character trait, and it’s far from identity theft.  All it takes is to know where you’re going.  What do you want? To be smart? Strong?  Fast? Knowing what you want and holding onto it makes you a winner, not a wannabe.   

How Do You Form Identity-Based Habits?

The trick is simple. By naming a desired characteristic, we make ourselves think and branch out towards all the ways that we can grow into our desired identity. Say you want to be studious. What does that mean to you? What makes a person studious? Clearly, being studious means studying, loving to study, and getting the results that come from it: straight As, Dean’s List, awards.  Now how are you going to get there?  By making great study habits. And how are you going to do that? By making a reasonable schedule, allotting your time to what deserves it, and not giving up!  Once you’ve identified exactly what you need to do, all that’s left is to do it!  Make those habits and become that studious individual.   

Afterwards, you can take it a step further. What will you do with all your achievements? Advocate for people who were in your position? Change the world with all that you’ve learned?  There’s no end to the motivation that you can get from knowing exactly what you want to be and what you need to do. 

By making identity-based habits, we can build both the necessary direction and motivation for ourselves to make it, no matter what that means to you, in as exact a sense as possible. 

Another trick is to draw inspiration from those who already have your identified characteristic.  These people can be a great source of motivation and direction.  Think of celebrities, your parents, your teachers, anyone!  There are so many role models out there for you to learn from and be motivated by. 

By assuming exactly the identity that you want, you will automatically develop the beliefs, judgements, and perceptions of a person with the specific characteristic that you’re working hard to get for yourself.  You’ll begin living like the new you, working like them, breathing like them.  You’ll feel pride for who you are – and that’ll make you unstoppable. 

Sam Thomas Davies proposes a fail-safe measure to one up identity-based habits.  Just add yet to the end of your identity goal.  “I’m not there yet.” “I’m not an athlete yet, but I’m getting there.”  And there’s nothing wrong with that. 

Whether you’re looking for Tony Stark’s inventiveness or the Black Widow’s agility, forming identity-based habits will make you the self-fulfilling prophecy to your own legend.  What are you waiting for?   

To learn more about identity-based habits: 

Clear, J – Identity-Based Habits: How to Actually Stick to Your Goals This Year
Davies, S. T – A Tiny, Powerful Idea: How ‘Identity-Based’ Habits Shape Behaviour
Itani, O – Forget Motivation - If You Want to Build Habits That Stick, Begin by First Changing Your Identity

Author: Zac Lo
Editor: Cathy Xie
Researcher: Maureen Arsenal