Note: There are no affiliate links in this blog, so if you click on anything or decide to buy a book I reference, it makes no difference to me. That said, all my Amazon links go to Smile.Amazon.com where a percentage of your purchase goes to a non-profit of your choice. Just saying.
Recently, I have been thinking a lot about habits, and who I am as a person.
In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear says that to truly develop a habit, you should focus not on the outcome or the process, but on integrating it into your identity.
A few weeks later, as I was talking through the latest chapter with my Book Club, it became clear that my approach to behaviour change was starkly different to my friends’. They think about what they want to do, and they do it. It’s not always that straightforward, but close enough.
I, on the other hand… it’s not that simple.
I love lists, and have multiple to-do lists going at any one time. But I also have to trick myself, and find ways to nudge myself into changing my behaviour in subtle manners. Almost as though I can’t look at the target habit in the eye, or I’ll startle it and it will scamper off.
Or maybe I’m just more like Sheldon than I care to admit, and need to engage with different parts of my brain.
Whatever the reality of the situation, it made me think.
That’s when I realized that to me, there is a difference between things I need to do and check off a to-do list, and the person I want to be – which is what these broader habits we’re talking about tie into.
For example, I want to be good at growing things. I don’t want that to depend on me putting “water seedlings” on my to-do list every day. However, if there’s a specific day or period during which particular actions are needed, then adding “plant seeds in starter trays” or other such to-dos to my list is ok.
Who do you want to be?
If I consider who I want to be – not necessarily today, but in five or 10 years, there are specific characteristics I want to cultivate. These can be existing parts of myself or new facets of the person I want to be.
In my mind, these elements come in three buckets:
- Parts of who I have been in the past. In my case, hardworking, optimistic, energetic, curious, adventurous, silly, and independent. A go-getter and a bookworm who loves food and cooking.
- Bits of who I am today (in addition to the underlying list above). For me, that means living close to nature and in rhythm with the seasons, surrounded by animals, embracing as sustainable a zero-waste lifestyle as possible, learning to use my hands for DIY and vegetable garden nurturing. Being a writer, a wife, an enabler or cheerleader, a “doer”, and a nap lover as comfortable in the city as on a farm (despite my preference for the latter). I am also a proud freelancer, business owner, and wedding celebrant.
- The vision of who I could be in the future. I see myself as organized yet maintaining spontaneity, a great cook who also preserves food and bakes on occasion, a warm and welcoming host, an inspiration and a leader, a farmtrepreneur, a nurturer who can grow almost anything and take care of living things all around, a published author, and a mother invested in her tribe’s happiness.
If, as Heraclitus is credited with saying (even though I remember the quote from the end of a Thomas Hardy novel I read in high school), “Character is fate”, then these questions of who you are, who you want to be, and what habits are required to shape you into the best version of yourself – are critical.
From theory to practice: Investing in yourself
I won’t pretend I have it all figured out, but here are some tips based on what is working for me right now as I continue my journey on becoming who I want to be:
- Become more self-aware. Notice things you do, how you react, what you feel when and with whom.
- Listen to others who can contribute to your growth into the person you want to become. I highly recommend reading Dare to Lead by Brene Brown (going through the associated workbook, ideally with friends to keep you accountable) and Atomic Habits, and tuning in to the podcast The Life Coach School by Brook Castillo.
- Surrounding yourself with the right kind of people. People who will listen to you, be vulnerable with you, and call you on your crap when need be. Individuals who will inspire you to work towards who you want to be, and appreciate you for who you are.
Beyond that, you just have to do the work.
So, who do you want to be when you grow up?
If you have any other resources that have been inspiring or useful to you, I am open to any and all suggestions!