Positive, Negative, Neutral
How you identify with yourself can also be delivered in a positive, negative, or neutral manner. For instances let’s say you are a brand new divorcee. This can be a temporary or long term identity change. For some of us, it can be positive, like leaving an abusive marriage. On the other hand, it can be negative and feelings of loss and sorrow kick in. This can be found in any number of facets in your life. For instances, weight loss or the need to stop smoking or possibly even a career change will rattle your identity.
Recently, there have been some studies done that downplay the idea of keeping a running count of how many days you’ve done something to avert a bad habit, such as smoking. For example, I quit smoking 31 days ago or I’ve been smoke-free for 31 days. Instead, the studies rally towards the idea that you’re identity is still that of a smoker and until you start identifying as a non-smoker, you truly won’t change the habit.
The 21-day myth
Do you know that there is no specific number-of-days formula that it takes to form a new habit? Also, on the other side, there is no magical number that says that it takes “X” amount of days to break free from a habit. The forming and breaking of habits (excluding chemically dependent habits – alcohol, drugs,etc.) comes down to repetition. The more you repeat something the faster the habit will solidify within your daily routines.
For example, let’s say you want to start writing a blog post. You set up some criteria for accomplishing this goal. The criterion could include, write 250 words each day or write 1 blog post a week. You decide to start on Monday and your goal for each day is to write 250 words by the end of the day. If you follow through with your habit every day of the first week there is no reason why you can’t continue the next week. The habit could be formed much quicker.
The more often you repeat something the quicker your habit will form.
Create new habits / Evaluation
If you’re not creating new habits as you move along in life you’re not growing. We should all take the time to check our habits to evaluate whether they are positive and move you toward your goals or negative and hinder your goals. Even if your goals are minimal everyone still has something that they want to change or achieve.
Habits align with a new identity
This might be one of the most obvious points of all – alignment. Let’s go back to the new goal to lose weight which should form a few new habits such as:
- Practice better eating
- Count calories
- Avoid dinners in groups of friends that aren’t eating in alignment with how you eat
- Prepare your meal choice at home before going to a restaurant
- Avoid eating late at night
When you create these habits you’re essentially pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and into no man’s land. It’s much easier to pull back to your ways and habits. If the choices you make after you create habits don’t align with your new trajectory/path, you will find it increasingly difficult to stick to your new habits. Makes perfect logical sense right? Well, yes, but food tends to mix with our body chemistry and some people even form “emotional” attachments to food.
Unlatching these bad habits and replacing them with better ones is part of the struggle that we all face when trying to override a bad habit. Continue to tell yourself that you are choosing to eat as a healthy person does. You’re going to pick the better choice of foods just like someone who watches their weight does.
Peer Pressure and identity
One of your best friends makes dinner plans with 9 of your best friends. You all show up at the restaurant and start to order off the menu. You are the last to order. All of your friends are ordering like it’s their last meal. The pressure is mounting for you to make a choice. Good or Bad what’s it going to be. In situations where the dinner is outside of your control and with friends, you have a few choices:
- Look up the menu on the restaurant’s website and select something healthy prior to arriving at the restaurant.
- When you’re ordering you can tell a white lie and say that you’re not feeling that hungry to avoid any “health talk.”
- Eat what you want to and don’t worry about what anyone says or thinks (this is the one that my wife struggles with, for me, I have no problem eating whatever I want).
- If it’s your cheat meal then it doesn’t matter and you get to eat away guilt free.
For some of us, all of our friends consciously eat healthy, for some of though, especially in Texas, they aren’t so conscious about what they eat. I tend to limit my social eating habit, with friends or family, outside of my home to only once per week. For some of us, that’s impossible because of jobs, tons of friends, etc. In all fairness to restaurants, many are attempting to make healthy strides and offer many healthy food choices on their menus. Some restaurants even have the calories printed on the menu next to each item.
When forming new habits it’s important to remember these key elements:
- Forming a new identity sometimes pushes you into a discomfort zone
- The more you repeat your new habit the quicker and more likely it is to stick
- Align your habits with your new identity
“The value of a goal isn’t in accomplishing the goal, the real value of a goal is the person you’ve become when you’ve achieved that goal.” – Tony Robbins