CHOOSING YOUR IDENTITY
Part 3 of 6
OWNING YOUR LIFE
“I’m just not a morning person.”
“I don’t have enough time in the day.”
“I’m too self-conscious/out of shape/exhausted to work out.”
Do any of these sound familiar?
When it comes to looking better and making positive long-term changes to our health, we often focus all of our energy on outside actions, like eating better and exercising more. Makes sense, right? But it’s funny – after 20+ years in the fitness and coaching business, I’ve finally figured out the most important first step towards REAL change for my clients: they’ve got to start on the INSIDE. As we talked about in the previous 2 blogs, TAKING RESPONSIBILITY and FINDING CLARITY are key components to owning your life. They are foundational habits to begin with, but when it comes to LASTING change, it’s important to focus on who we are (or who we think we are) on the inside. Who we think we are is like a filter for all the choices we make. Think about it: when it comes to making a decision, you run it through the filter of your SELF IDENTITY.
Here’s an example: a few years back, we ran a FREE 10-Week Transformation Challenge. The Bowflex company had a home workout machine called the MAX TRAINER and they hired us to get 30 people into the best shape of their lives. Each participant received all meals (food delivery) and all workouts (both strength and cardio on the Max Trainer) and ongoing coaching support for the entire 10 weeks. We had more than 100+ applicants who came into the club to make their case as to why we should pick them for the Challenge. Wow, was that an eye-opening experience!
Did they get results? Hell, yes. 28 of the 30 people made significant changes – lost body fat, gained lean muscle and looked amazing. But this wasn’t exactly surprising. They had everything organized for them to get fit and lose weight; their days and meals were all planned for them. But here’s the most important question: how many of them STAYED lean and fit? And how many went right back to their old habits as soon as the Challenge was completed? We saw people in both categories but I was really struck by those in the latter – the folks who reverted back to unhealthy eating and sporadic fitness. It got me thinking:
And I realized, the answer lies on the inside. Not on the outside with the fancy equipment and pre-planned meal delivery.
Because if you don’t change WHO you are on the inside, then that “new and improved” you – the one you worked so hard to create – feels like an imposter. Your habits and behaviors are driven by fulfilling that INTERNAL IDENTITY. So if you really want to make changes that STICK, you have to work on this identity.
And yes, it’s a choice!
CHOOSING YOUR IDENTITY → WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE?
Let’s go back to an example we started out with: “I’m just not a morning person.” This is a belief that we create in our minds. Maybe we like to stay up late. Maybe we love that 2nd glass of wine while we’re watching our favorite show. Over time, habits form and our chosen behavior calls the shots. We’ve found a way to believe and reinforce that original statement. And by the way, when we say things like this to ourselves, our minds find ways to reinforce them to us: “I slept past your alarm again. UGH, I’m just not a morning person.” But let’s say the only time you can find in your day to exercise is early mornings. So you commit to getting up 3 x a week and working out. And because you are MOTIVATED (emotionally driven) you do it for the first few weeks. But every time you get up, you struggle and your MIND CHIMES IN with, “I’m just not a morning person! What am I doing? Who do I think I am trying to fight it?” Eventually, once the motivation fades, so will the routine. So how can you set yourself up for success?
THE STRATEGIES → CHOOSE. REINFORCE. ACT AS IF
Here are a few strategies for revamping your identity:
- CHOOSE As always, it all starts in your mind, in your head, in your thoughts. So being aware of what you are thinking or telling yourself is key. Decide WHO you want to be and create a statement around that… “Actually, I AM a morning person.” It might sound silly, but you are now starting to tell your MIND who the new YOU is.
- REINFORCE. Beliefs are just patterns of thoughts; well-worn paths in the brain that feel right. And they can be changed. It just takes focus and time. So now that you’re getting up early and going to the gym AND you’re telling yourself, “I AM a morning person,” you’re reinforcing the brain with your new identity. And the more you say something and then take action to reinforce it, the more likely this new pattern will become a more permanent part of who you are.
- ACT AS IF. Do you feel like you’re just lying to yourself when you try to change your ideas about who you are? Are your thoughts and actions different than what you are feeling? Well guess what? Join the club! It’s totally normal to feel that way. Unlike motivations that wane over time (think New Year’s resolutions), we are not going to rely on our feelings right now. We are going to ACT AS IF this is who we are now and eventually, the feelings will follow. Give it time.
THE CHALLENGE -> WHO DO YOU WANT TO BE THIS WEEK?
This week, think about a goal you’d like to achieve and create the ideal identity that would make that happen. Here are a few examples:
Who is the person that never misses their workouts? How do they think and what do they do differently? If I want to become a person who works out consistently what would I do to make that happen?
Who is a healthy eater? How do they make better food choices? What do they avoid eating? What do they eat more of? If I were a healthy eater what would I eat?
Who is a morning person? What time do they go to bed? Do they lay their clothes out the night before? If I’m a morning person, what would I do differently than I do now to make that happen?
Like all ideas, don’t give up after one try. Stick to it for a week and see what happens. If you start to get some traction, go for another week. You may just create a whole new you!
Phil Dozois, Personal Coach + Entrepreneur
Questions, reach me at [email protected]