James Clear’s Atomic Habits: Identity

Building habits based on the work of James Clear week 1: identity | Bodyshot Performance

This month we’ll be doing a four-part series based on the work of James Clear. James Clear is a prolific blogger and author of the book Atomic Habits, which is a really good read. If you’re trying to build a new habit, or unpick one that you don’t want anymore, I’d highly recommend it. The first week is simply about identity.

Who Do You Want To Be?

In the book, James discusses who do you want to be. Do you want to be the type of person that prioritises their health or has consistent routines? Do you want to be the type of person that has non-negotiables in all areas of life, not just health and wellbeing? Whenever you practice a new habit, you make a vote for that type of person. As a result, you become that type of person. Every action rubber stamps that this is who you are, you’re a person that prioritises sleep or walking, or someone that gets back to people within a certain time frame.

Building A New Habit

Let me give you an example: I aspire to be a guitarist. There’s a picture of Noel Gallagher on my wall, and when I look at it I think, “wouldn’t it be amazing to play like Noel?”. He just makes it look so effortless, as do so many other guitarists out there. But I had a guitar in the house for years, and I never played it – not once! There I am, walking around thinking, “I’d love to be a guitarist,” and doing nothing towards that goal.

So, I decided to follow James Clear’s approach to trying to build a new habit: I want to be a guitarist, that’s the aspiration or the identity I’m looking to connect with. So, I bought another guitar for the office, which is where I spend most of my week.

James Clear has a four-step process:

  1. The Cue: It needs to be obvious, so the guitar is placed right in my line of sight when I’m sitting or standing at my desk.
  2. The Craving: Identify what is attractive about it. For me, it’s the idea of becoming a better guitarist.
  3. The Response: Make the goal easy or achievable, so I’m going to play for 10 minutes a day and that’s it.
  4. The Reward: It must be satisfying, so I need to be able to see improvements.

So, the guitar is where I can see it, I keep connected to the desire to be a guitarist, I keep it simple by practising for a short time, and then I sit back and enjoy the fact that I can make chord transitions, put chords together, and make a song.

A New Identity

If you are trying to build yourself a successful habit, ask yourself, what are you trying to do? Who do you want to be? What’s that new identity you’re seeking? Because every time you practice that habit, you’re putting another tick in the box for that very person.  

Wellbeing Resources

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