Developing Identity Based Habits

identity based habits, identity-based habits, Identity Based Habits
Learning Strategies

Developing Identity Based Habits

How are habits formed, and how does our identity influence our habits? It is a common belief that our behaviours reflect our current identity, and by consistently acting in ways that align with our identity, we reinforce the association between our identity and these behaviours.

Hence, to change our behaviour and develop new habits, we need to start by changing our identity and aligning our actions with this new identity. In this article, we will explore the concept of identity-based habits and how our identity significantly influences our habits.

What Are Identity Based Habits?

Rather than focusing solely on outcomes or goals, identity-based habits encourage individuals to alter their perception of themselves to motivate behaviour change and create sustainable routines. Put another way, who you are is reflected in how you act now. Altering your identity, and thus your conduct, requires you to adopt new beliefs about yourself.

There are three levels at which change can occur, viewed as layers. The layers are:

  • The first layer is changing your outcomes, which is concerned with changing your results, such as losing weight or publishing a book.
  • The second layer is changing your process, which is concerned with changing your habits and systems.
  • The third and deepest layer is changing your identity, which is concerned with changing your beliefs: your worldview, self-image, and judgments about yourself and others.

Building identity-based habits involves shifting your focus from what you want to achieve to who you want to be. Instead of setting a goal such as “I want to lose weight,” which is an outcome-based goal, you would declare “I want to be a healthy person,” an identity-based plan.

Identity-based habits are powerful because they are rooted in your beliefs about yourself. Every action you take is a vote for the person you wish to become. If you finish a book, you are the type of person who likes reading. If you go to the gym, you are the type of person who enjoys exercise. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity. Small habits can make a meaningful difference by providing proof of a new identity.

In practice, forming identity-based habits involves taking small, consistent actions that align with the identity you want to adopt. To become a writer, you could start by writing a small amount daily. Over time, this action reinforces your identity as a writer. It’s important to note that change won’t happen overnight. Like everything meaningful in life, it requires work and persistence.

How Do You Develop Identity-Based Habits?

Developing identity-based habits involves focusing on the outcomes you want to achieve and the type of person you wish to become. This approach aims to change your self-image and beliefs, influencing your behaviours and actions. Here’s how you can develop identity-based habits:

  • Decide who you want to be by identifying who you want to be. This could be related to your personal or professional life. For instance, you might want to become the type of person who exercises regularly, writes every day, or always stays in touch with friends.
  • Create small wins after deciding on your new identity, and look for small actions that align with this identity. For instance, you could walk a few extra steps daily to become more active. These small wins help reinforce your new identity and make the habit achievable.
  • Prove your new identity to yourself; as you start to take actions aligned with your new identity, you begin to prove to yourself that you are this person. For instance, if you consistently write each day, you start to see yourself as someone who writes regularly. This self-affirmation strengthens your belief in your new identity.
  • Consistently practising your chosen habit, regardless of its initial size or complexity, reinforces your new identity and solidifies the habit as a natural part of who you are.
  • Use positive affirmations. Incorporate positive self-talk and affirmations into your daily routine. Remind yourself regularly that you are the type of person who embodies the desired habit. These affirmations reinforce your identity and help overwrite limiting beliefs.

Examples of Identity-Based Habits

The examples of identity-based habits are:

Becoming a Good Partner

Your goal is to become a good partner, not just to improve your relationship with your partner. This means focusing on actions that make your partner happy, like spending quality time together, being empathetic, and being supportive.

Becoming a Learner

Your goal is not to read a certain number of books yearly but to become a curious, continuous learner. This involves focusing on reading books daily and ignoring the surface content presented on social media.

Exercising Regularly

Your goal is not just to lose weight or get stronger but to become healthy. This means consistently going to the gym and following a workout routine that you enjoy.

Becoming an Athlete

If you identify as an athlete, you’ll find exercising natural, and creating that habit will be easy. This could include regular workouts, a balanced diet, and sufficient sleep.

Becoming a Good Student

If you identify as a good student, you’ll be more likely to attend lessons on time, study, and hand assignments in on time.

The Downside of Identity-Based Habits

As the name suggests, identity-based habits are tied to our identity and our intrinsic sense of self. They are not just about performing specific actions but about embodying the type of person who habitually performs those actions. They require a shift in how we think about ourselves and our behaviour.

However, while identity-based habits can lead to profound and lasting change, they also have potential downsides. One potential downside is the risk of choosing the wrong identity or failing to define oneself. Hence, you should carefully consider the person you want to become. So, you may inadvertently adopt habits that hinder your progress or are consistent with your true values and aspirations.

For instance, if you want others to see you as intelligent, sexy, or courageous, you might focus more on consumption and displaying your possessions on social media rather than focusing on creating something valuable and being a helpful person. This could lead to adopting habits that seek immediate validation and approval rather than building a meaningful and satisfying life.

Another potential downside of identity-based habits is that we can become overly attached to our chosen identity. This can make it difficult for us to grow and evolve. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear notes, “The tighter we cling to an identity, the harder it becomes to grow beyond it.”

It’s important to approach identity-based habits with flexibility and openness to change to avoid these pitfalls. Reflecting on your values, interests, and long-term goals is crucial when defining your identity. And, as always, it’s beneficial to seek support and feedback from others to ensure that your habits are leading you in the direction you truly want to go.

How Does Our Identity Shape Our Habits?

Identity plays a crucial role in shaping our habits and habits, which can either help or hinder our personal growth. James Clear, author of “Atomic Habits,” proposes the concept of identity-based habits, which suggests that our actions reflect our current identity.

For instance, if we identify as healthy, we are more likely to engage in behaviours that align with this identity, such as regular exercise and a balanced diet. Habits are formed and strengthened through repeated actions, especially when rewarded. Consistently acting in ways that align with our identity supports the association between our identity and these behaviours, making it easier to maintain these habits over time.

To change behaviour and develop new habits, we must change our identity by believing new things about ourselves and aligning our actions with this new identity. This identity-based approach can be more effective than focusing solely on desired outcomes.

The more our actions align with our identity, the more likely we will maintain these behaviours. To successfully change habits, start by identifying the behaviour you want to change and then aligning it with your desired identity. This shift in identity can make it easier to change your behaviour, as you now act in a way that aligns with your new self-image.

What Are the 5 Things That Can Shape Your Identity

Identity is a complex construct encompassing various aspects of an individual’s life. It is shaped by a multitude of factors, including but not limited to the following five:

  • Personal Values and Beliefs: Your values and beliefs play a significant role in shaping your identity. They reflect what you prioritize in life and can be influenced by factors such as upbringing, experiences, and cultural background. Your values and beliefs can guide your actions and decisions, often forming the basis of your ethical and moral compass.
  • Cultural and Social Factors: Cultural and social factors, such as language, norms, rituals, and symbols, are pivotal in shaping your identity. They can influence your behaviour, attitudes, and perceptions of the world. The culture you are born into and the society you live in can significantly influence your identity.
  • Relationships and Social Interactions: The people you interact with and your relationships can also shape your identity. This includes your family, friends, colleagues, and the broader community. These relationships can influence your attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours. They can also impact your sense of self and how you view yourself in relation to others.
  • Experiences and Life Events: Your experiences and life events can significantly shape your identity. This includes both positive and negative experiences. These experiences can influence your beliefs, attitudes, and perceptions of the world. They can also impact your sense of self and how you view yourself.
  • Personal Characteristics: Personal characteristics such as your gender, sex, abilities, profession, physical appearance, and even your personality can shape your identity. These characteristics can influence how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you. They can also impact your interactions with others and how you navigate the world.


It is important to understand and shape our identity when we’re trying to develop new habits. If we ensure our actions match who we want to be, we can change our behaviours and start forming better habits. So basically, we need to start seeing ourselves in a different light and then make sure our actions match this new image. Over time, these habits, based on who you are, can help you grow and develop.


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