How to Harness the Identity - James Clear Atomic Habits

I listened to a few podcasts featuring James Clear when he first published his book Atomic Habits.

I really enjoyed the practicality of the methods he suggests for forming new behaviours and detaching from less preferable habits that we might have.

I recently started listening to the audiobook and was reminded of this principle notion of identity in the formation of new habits and behaviours which I find powerful and effective:

He outlines how are largely governed by our identity and how patterns of behaviour serve to consolidate the ideas we have of ourselves (not always in our favour), and how it is vitally important that we question our identity - the ideas we have about ourselves and try to take a more objective approach in appreciating that everything we think and believe about ourselves is learned, inherited and "conditioned though experience."

Therefore we are, perhaps, not who we have always believed ourselves to be, but more a product of our environments and the ideas and beliefs that we have been exposed to.

To become aware of this can cause some internal and emotional upheaval no doubt, but also I'm sure is a way we can be released from limiting beliefs, stifling concepts of self and loyalty to arbitrary customs that dampen our potential; in other words we might liberate ourselves - to whatever degree - by discovering that we are not the ideas and beliefs and notions of our families and communities and society, but something perhaps altogether different, and that this can change and is indeed in a constant state of flux the more we unearth and reveal and learn and incorporate along the way.

I must admit I find this both exhilarating and intimidating; part of me is excited by the adventurous potential of self discovery whilst another is concerned about the destabilizing effects of being in a constant state of change and upheaval. 

I want both (the existential conundrum) the thrill of the new and the comfort of the stable and unchanging.

My mind goes to Tara Brach's ineffable wisdom and the practice of acceptance - perhaps I can find stability in the unchanging nature of the inherent changeability of nature and the self: change as the only true constant.

That seems a little lofty and out of reach for me right now, but I'll keep in it mind.

In the meantime here is a paraphrased extract from the book Atomic Habits by James Clear:

“There’s internal pressure to maintain your self image and behave in a way that is consistent with your beliefs. 

You find whatever ways you can to avoid contradicting yourself.

The more deeply a thought or action is tied to your identity, the more difficult it is to change.

It can feel comfortable to believe what your culture believes - group Identity; 

or to do what upholds your self image - personal identity (even if it’s wrong).

The biggest barrier to positive change… is identity conflict…

This is why you can’t get too attached to one version of your identity: progress requires unlearning, 

becoming the best version of yourself requires you to continuously edit your beliefs, and to upgrade and expand your identity…

If your beliefs and world view play such an important role on your behaviour, where did they come from in the first place?

How exactly is your identity formed?…

You’re not born with preset beliefs.

Every belief, including those about yourself, is learned and conditioned through experience.”


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