A concept that has been making the rounds in the habit community recently since the launch of James Clear’s book, Atomic Habits, (great book btw, I have it on audiobook) is his idea of Identity versus Process versus Goals.
In order for us to truly change something in our lives, to create lasting change, we need to be changing on the level of identity, versus processes (habits like eating more beans) or goals (I want to lose 10 lbs).
If we change on an identity-level, that is a solid, core type thing.
It’s in our very core.
Like saying: “I am a Nutritarian who eats Nutritarian foods”.
That becomes our truth, and so anything we do becomes an extension of that identity.
It’s a very deep shift for us, since we might be faced with Imposter Syndrome, or not believing this identity until we feel we’re perfect.
That’s not it.
An identity doesn’t need to mean that you do something perfectly.
Say for instance, you call yourself a Mom.
That is an identity shift that you either have or you don’t and it’s based on an actually unchangeable fact of whether or not you care for a child in a permanent way.
If you were to take a weekend off and go out to the mountains to a cabin with your girlfriends, without the kids while the Dads took care of them, that doesn’t mean you are no longer a mother.
And similarly, if you were to intentionally eat a meal that was “off plan” for a special occasion or because your will-power was depleted at that moment, that doesn’t mean you are no longer a Nutritarian.
There are no Nutritarian police, and there are no Nutritarian licenses that can be revoked. :)
It’s more about the fact that since it’s in your identity, it’s a thing you will automatically just keep coming back to, no matter what. Because it’s an unchangeable fact.
But if we instead try to make changes just on the Process or Goal level, like for instance:
I am going to eat 3 Nutritarian meals every day. (Process)
I am going to lose 20 pounds before the wedding. (Goal)
These are things that aren’t identity based, so it’s much easier to feel you have failed and that you might as well give up, if you don’t succeed at them.
Whereas, if your IDENTITY is that you are a Nutritarian, even if you don’t do as well for a full week while on vacation, that doesn’t mean you’re not a Nutritarian.
You’re just in progress as to how much you are able to keep that up.
But if you truly believe in the principles, it’s ok to not be perfect.
And you may be a more compliant Nutritarian a few years down the road than you are now, just starting out, but that doesn’t make you any less of a Nutritarian.
You just get the habits and processes down pat easier later.
And that’s the difference, because if it’s part of your Identity, you will keep coming back to it, no matter what. But if it’s just a Process or a Goal that you have, it’s easier to be all or nothing, which leads to feelings of failure with imperfection.
And that’s just setting yourself up for disappointment, because we all know we’re not perfect.
But we just keep going anyway. Much better to keep getting back on the horse time and time again, than say “Oh that horse is too hard to ride, I give up”. One day you’ll be a better horse rider, I guarantee you that, it just takes practice and persistence.
Just Keep Going.