“Be the change you want to see in the world.” -Ghandi
James Clear argues in his terrific book “Atomic Habits”, that when setting goals, we should focus on identity. Not outcomes. Rather than asking the question, “What do I want?”, we should ask “What kind of person do I want to be?”
Take health, for example. Instead of setting a goal to lose a specific number of pounds or look a certain way, we should focus on becoming a healthy person. Someone who eats moderately, exercises regularly and prioritizes their physical and metal health.
Old habits are based on our old identity. Create a new identity, he argues, and we’ll create habits that support this new identity. Consistently doing small or atomic habits over time leads to lasting change. (Read more about this in Mr. Clear’s blog post HERE.)
In the book, he provides a fascinating, real-world example of a person who loses a lot of weight and more importantly, stays healthy after the weight loss. The person focuses entirely on identity. Not outcome. His process is extraordinary…The first two weeks, all he does is wake up early, get dressed and drive to the gym. He doesn’t work out. Just shows up and leaves. After two weeks, he does the same thing, but then adds five minutes of exercise. Every two weeks, he increases the amount. And so on and so on. He’s consistently proving and supporting his new identity.
In deciding to make a change or create art, we might be better served by first asking ourselves “What kind of person do we want to be?” That will inform our choice and our process. In doing so, we’ll increase our chance of making lasting change and real impact.