74 - Habit-Building 2: What’s your internal flywheel?



There’s a fundamental problem with how we approach habit-building. This problem arguably is the biggest reason for our failure to meaningfully change. The problem is this: we try to _change what we do _without first changing who we are.

Changing who we are may sound dramatic but is in fact not. Here’s why.

Our first identities are the product of our earliest experiences in life. We do well on Sports Day in school, we see ourselves as an athlete. Our composition is read out in class, we think we can write. Once initially formed, we reinforce these beliefs with repeated actions: run more, write more.

As adults, we upend this process by being intentional. We _first _set goals. We break them down into daily process habits. We chip away at the goals. That works fine for a while and then we run out of willpower. Soon, the urge is irresistible and there’s nothing left within to fight it with.

The trick is to not fight. How can we win without fighting? Replace goal with identity.

Instead of trying to quit smoking, call yourself a non-smoker. Instead of trying to run long-distance, call yourself a marathoner. Instead of trying to land yourself a first job in product management, call yourself a product manager.

Don’t be coy. Call yourself what you want to become.

Because once you call yourself X, your internal question becomes ‘What would X do?’ Instead of ‘What should I do?’

Now your identity decides your priorities (Running is important)

Your priorities decide your habits (Run 5 miles a day)

Your habits reinforce your identity (Hey! I’m running regularly, just like a runner would)

This is a powerful internal flywheel.

Don’t start with goals like adults do. Start with identity like children do.

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