In the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, he writes that to change a habit you must first change your identity and frame your habits in light of the person you wish to become. For example, if you wish to quit smoking, instead of saying “No thanks. I’m trying to quit.”, Clear recommends saying “No thanks. I’m not a smoker.”

When declaring a new identity, all of our habits and behaviors serve to “cast a vote” to either confirm or counteract that identity. If we claim an identity of being healthy (rather than losing weight), each time we make a healthy food choice or walk by the treats in the break room we’re casting a vote to show that we are healthy. The positive actions compound to become a habit that solidifies the identity we have chosen.

Clear writes that, as in election, you don’t need to be perfect or to accumulate all the votes to win, you just need a majority. If you do something counter to your identity, you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it, rather just change your behavior to cast more votes in the other direction.

Think about the identity that you wish to become and claim that persona for yourself. Are you an artist? An entrepreneur? A fit person? A life-long learner? A writer? Own the vision of your future self and start casting votes today to help you achieve long-term victory.

Source: Atomic Habits by James Clear, 2018

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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