We all know that changing behaviours can be tough. Wanting to give up smoking, lose weight, adopt a healthier lifestyle, being some common examples…but in reality how much do we change from year to year?
I’m a big fan of James Clear and his book Atomic Habits, in which he shares some profound insights on behavioural change. He cites three levels of behavioural change and, in order to create sustainable, healthy habits, we must first change the way we perceive ourselves and change the way we want others to see us.
In essence – don’t focus on what you want, focus on who you want to become
The 3 levels of behavioural change
The first level of behavioural change is changing your outcome
This is by far the most common and obvious place to begin. At this level it’s all about results, for example, losing weight, feeling more energised, sleeping better or reducing your medication. Outcome focused change is limiting because we have no control over the outcome. Jumping on the scales every morning can become incredibly demotivating, especially if nothing is shifting.
The second level of behavioural change is changing your process
Although it’s important to be clear on what you want (outcome), it’s crucial to adopt a tried and tested system that works. As a Health and Lifestyle Coach I know only too well the value of having a system regarding your health and lifestyle.
An example of a process could be prioritising time to plan and cook meals, implementing a gym routine or finding the time to relax. At HealthTribe we coach our simple 4 Doctors system to help clients find balance in their lifestyles.
The third and by far the most powerful level of behavioural change is changing your identity
Your habits reflect your identity and your identity reflect your habits
Your identity is your self-image, beliefs, and worldview. As humans we act out behaviours to support this.
Consider these examples of the importance of identity-based behaviours
What’s the likelihood of a vegan eating meat compared with somebody trying not to eat animal based foods?
The productivity of somebody who sees themself as organised compared with somebody who views themselves as disorganised?
The likelihood of somebody seeing themselves as a musician practicing regularly, compared with somebody who’s just starting out.
If you’re fed up with starting a new regime only for it to fall by the wayside, consider becoming more aware of how you perceive yourself and how you want the world to see you.
Great news, at any moment you can choose to change the story you tell about yourself.
Let’s look at the 2 ways to make that happen
1. Decide the person you want to be
Take a pen and some paper and write down who you would like to become. For example, If you want to lose weight (the outcome), your identity might be – ‘to become the type of person who moves everyday and makes time to eat nourishing food’.
2. Reinforce your identity with small changes
Once you’ve decided who you’d like to become, work out the system or process that supports that identity. For example invest in a health and lifestyle coach to guide and support you through the change.
Although all stages of behavioural change are important, try not to fall into the trap of focusing on outcome based goals. I promise if you’re serious about changing long-term, put your energy into changing identity based habits and the results will come!
Why not join me at the upcoming Lifestyle Transformation Talk on Saturday 1st February 11am – 1.30pm at HealthTribe’s studio. We are located near Otford, Shoreham, Sevenoaks. A perfect way to learn a system balancing your lifestyle.