For Christmas my daughter gave my husband David a copy of James Clear’s popular, bestselling book Atomic Habits. It only took David a few pages to realize this book held many gems for my health coaching clients. When he shared it with me, I quickly downloaded it to my Audible library and finished it within a few days. Not only that, but I also subscribed to the author’s newsletter which is giving me ample material to share with my clients.
The main lesson I have learned is this: I have been focusing on my client’s goals instead of the process necessary to achieve those goals. In my defense, I do have them establish SMART goals. These are goals that must be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. But James Clear suggests breaking goals down even more than this by focusing on small changes that gradually lead us to big results. And the first step in doing this is to figure out who we wish to become, not what we want to achieve. Clear talks about this in detail in Chapter 2 of his book, but here is a short summary.
Most people try to establish outcome-based habits instead of what Clear calls “identity-based habits.”
Here’s the difference: I often have clients who say they want to lose weight. Okay. Most of us do. But, as Clear points out, if they “don’t shift the belief behind the behavior, then it becomes hard to stick with long-term changes.” They have to know who they are first or a switch to good habits will only be temporary.
The goal for a student for example is not to get good grades. The goal is to become a person who studies every day. The goal is not to win the game but rather to become a person who practices every day. As Clear says, “The more you repeat a behavior, the more you reinforce the identity associated with that behavior. And the more you reinforce the identity, the more natural it will feel to repeat the behavior.”
Here is a personal example: I am the type of person who cares about being physically fit. The habit I will be focusing on is going to the gym at least four times a week. I am the type of person who cares about my community. The habit I will focus on is doing volunteer work in my community at least once a month. Since these habits reinforce my identity, why would I not do them? Remember to start by focusing on who you want to become, not what you want to achieve.
Here’s a simple homework assignment for you.
Complete these two sentences:
“I’m the type of person who___________.”
So “The habit I’ll be focusing on is________________.”
Enjoy discovering who you really are!
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I received my training from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, where I learned about more than one hundred dietary theories and studied a variety of practical lifestyle coaching methods. Drawing on this knowledge, I will help you create a completely personalized “roadmap to health” that suits your unique body, lifestyle, preferences, and goals.
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