Habits and Identity: How to BE your way into healthy habits, not just DO them

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Identity is this incredible invisible force that controls your whole life. It’s invisible like gravity is invisible, but it controls your whole life.—Tony Robbins

Our Lives are a Series of Boxes

Tall. Short. Heavy. Thin. Talented. Musical. Athletic. Scientist. Retiree. White. Black. Gay. Straight. Son. Daughter. Wealthy. Poor. Middle class. Glamorous. Dramatic. Pragmatic. Funny.

All of the above words combine in different ways to create your human identity. And because we’re human and self-aware, identity is THE governing force in our lives. You might also recognize these as our beliefs about ourselves. 

Our identity factors into the decisions we make each day, without fail. For example, if you know yourself to be a caretaker in your family dynamics, when faced with the decision to show up for a family member in need of care or not, you might not think twice about being there for them. 

Change your identity, and you open up new frontiers of choices, journeys, and habits. Here’s an easy example.  Watch what happens when your identity changes from just “teenager” to “licensed driver.” OMG, remember that rush of freedom when this part of your identity opened up? Hello, OPTIONS.

While some of our identifiers feel pleasurable and satisfying, some of the identity “boxes” we find ourselves in can feel confining, unhealthy, or destructive–and we can feel imprisoned by them and desperate to change.  We may even feel as if we don’t have a choice about those qualities, they are just there.  Perhaps they are actually undesirable.

Here are some OTHER identities that can take on lives and choices of their own:

  • Addicted
  • Procrastinator
  • Smoker
  • Compulsive eater
  • Workaholic

If you identify with any of those terms (or myriad OTHER life-squashing titles), you’ll likely do all the actions typically associated with that role–even if you don’t really want to. 

Change Requires (a little) More than Just Deciding 

It would seem, then, that change requires MORE than a change in action. Meaningful habit change will require you to BECOME someone else. It will require you to change the beliefs you hold about yourself (likely unconsciously) in order to change the behaviors being driven by this belief. 

These beliefs must first be identified and understood before a change is possible.  Additionally, because many of our undesirable identifiers have a utility, meaning a beneficial role, we need to look at this underlying layer of these parts of us to understand on a deeper level before a change is available. Once you have done this, you can find a new way to meet your needs.

For example, if procrastination at work has been serving you by protecting you from being seen failing, you must determine another way to relate to fear of failure.  Perhaps being ok with the possibility of making a mistake and knowing you can learn from said mistake.

Take the Fear out of Changing Identity

It’s no wonder people lose motivation and stamina when they try to adopt healthier habits. They usually only go surface-deep with the behavior change, which doesn’t ever work in the long run. It’s not enough to just know “how to change,” we must know the deeper level of what’s driving the behavior we want to change.  Because our beliefs and emotions drive our behavior, our willpower will fatigue, just like an overworked muscle does. 

It’s scary to think of change as an identity-shifting endeavor. Wouldn’t it be easier just to not eat any more donuts? Do you really have to change at such a deep level to get healthier?

Instead, it’s crucial to approach the change you want to make from an identity lens. Want to exercise regularly so you’ll have more energy, strength, and confidence?  You’ll need to BECOME someone who enjoys exercise–by adopting that identity. 

The good news? You cannot do it overnight (or you’ll just go back to your comfortable identity.) Taking baby steps, consistently and repeatedly, is the only way. (Whew, there IS an easy button, sort of.)

You can start with these meditations to get the ball rolling on understanding some of your limiting beliefs to support making the desired change:

Determining your intrinsic motivation is also supportive and I discuss more about that in this article.

Once you understand the limiting beliefs and your intrinsic motivation, you can start with those baby steps.  If you are desiring more movement in your life, you might start by trying a 10-minute walk, and noticing how you feel out in nature, perhaps with your favorite music playing in your ears.

If you can find SOMETHING to enjoy about it, you’ll do it again–for maybe a few minutes longer next time. After a few weeks of those 10-minute walks, you’ll soon become a regular WALKER. (It’s kind of magical.)

And maybe you’ll turn a corner where the walking becomes the reward. That transition is a good sign that you’ve built a new identity foundation. And now you can build on it to include more activity or even healthier food choices, because that’s what regular walkers often DO (and it feels natural and pleasurable, instead of dreadful and dissatisfying.)

Try continual “becoming” with meditation and hypnotherapy

Even when we understand that change involves our identity, it can still be pretty challenging to adopt new and healthy behaviors and stick to them.

Our old identity will keep inviting us back into the comfort zone for a while even as we get to know our “new” selves. And it’s okay to take a few steps forward and some back. You’re HUMAN and your human mind loves what is familiar and will keep bringing you back to the familiar.  Which is why we need to have consistent and repeated reminders of our new beliefs and desired behaviors in order for them to stick.

Quick Recap of Action Steps:

  1. Identify a change you desire
  2. Recognize personal belief that is driving the undesirable behavior
  3. Understand how the belief and behavior have been serving you
  4. Determine a new way to fulfill the role this belief has been serving
  5. Create a new positive belief about yourself that will support your desired behavior
  6. Start making small changes consistently and repeatedly

Getting help during this time of making change is crucial to fully transform into the person who does the things you most want to do. (And it doesn’t mean you lose the parts of yourself you LOVE, it just means they look and act differently than before.)

I will soon be launching a new workshop to help you gain a strong foothold on HEALTHY HABITS, especially as we enter a new year. I hope you’ll stay tuned for more information.

Meanwhile, if you need personalized support, consider scheduling a 1:1 session to kickstart the new habits you wish to embody and start on your unique path of “becoming.” 

We look forward to supporting what you’ll do next with your one precious life. Change is POSSIBLE, and it’s even PROBABLE with help.

Sara and Les

The Mindful Movement

Additional Resources:

Members Oasis for: Unlimited access to all Mindful Movement Meditations and Hypnosis Practices; Exclusive Members Only Content added EVERY month; Practice anytime, anywhere.

Purchase your favorite Meditation and Hypnosis practices from the Mindful Movement. You can download an MP3 file to listen to anytime, anywhere with no internet access necessary.

A personalized hypnotherapy session can support you in making a change you desire.  It would be my honor to help you through the process of change that you are looking for.

Let us know how we can help.  Please feel to leave a comment with any other suggestions, comments, or questions for the community!

About the author, Sara

Sara is the founder of The Mindful Movement and the owner of Coreworks Fitness, a Pilates and Yoga studio in MD. Sara is also a Pilates and CoreAligh Master instructor with Balanced Body.

Sara is passionate about helping others grow and live mindful, fulfilled lives. She helps others move better, feel better, live with a deep awareness, gratitude and their whole heart. She strives to inspire others to live authentically and passionately in love and abundance.

1 Comment

  1. Elizabeth Hamilton Gibbs on 12/22/2021 at 4:25 PM

    I have been trying to donate to your movement.
    I managed a year or so ago but now l’m not able. I use a prepaid master card.
    I live in Italy . I’m very grateful for your meditations.. l’m 81 years old but still very active.
    If you can help me show my apprecation let me know how.

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7-Day Meditation Course with
The Mindful Movement

“The past is gone, the future is not yet here.  If we do not go back to ourselves in the present moment, we cannot be in touch with life.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh

Whether this is your first time practicing meditation, or you have joined the journey with me to deepen or reignite your practice, I am grateful you are here now.

Know that this journey inward may not always be easy, but it can offer profound benefits when practiced regularly. And like any other skill, it takes practice and patience to experience progress.

Start, Deepen, or Re-ignite Your Meditation Practice With This FREE 7-Day Foundations of Meditation and Mindfulness Course