There is always a lot of excitement and motivation when you first begin working toward a new goal. You’ve just had this revelation that this thing is what you need to be focused on so everything points to it and it’s easy to make adjustments in your life for it. There’s always room for the shiny and new in our lives, isn’t there?
Then what happens? Reality sets in. A few weeks in you start to realize that this thing you’re focused on is hard work and it’s going to take up more time than you thought. You start to understand that if you want to pursue this goal that it’s going to mean permanent adjustments to your life, not just temporary ones. The slog of the “long haul” starts to get old and not as much fun anymore.
I read a book earlier this year called Atomic Habits by James Clear. In that book, one of the things he talks about is how a lot of goals fail because we’re trying to outwardly motivate ourselves instead of inwardly changing our identity.
For example, we want to get in shape and eat healthy because we know that if we do so we will look better to other people. Other people will like what our bodies look like and therefore accept us more readily. That kind of motivation is real, but it’s temporary. Sooner, rather than later, we realize that having someone else think we look good isn’t as great a motivator as that cheeseburger tastes. We honestly just don’t care that much to be willing to change our entire lives for it.
On the other hand, if we decide that we want to get in shape and eat healthy because deep down inside we want to actually be a healthy person, then we will do whatever it takes to become a healthy person. We will start looking at the things we do with a “will this make me a healthy person?” lens. When what you’ve set as your goals becomes who you are (your identity), you have a better chance at actually making a change for the long haul.
That’s why diets don’t work long term. They are great for really short periods of time. But how many of us know that they only last for a minute and then it’s right back to what you used to do. The restrictions were too far removed from who you actually are for you to sustain the diet for any length of time.
This Relates to You How?
And so it has been with my goals and dreams for a long time. I wanted all the things in my life to change, to be more healthy, but my motivations for wanting them were intrinsically outward motivated. I wanted to have a better body. I wanted to buy really nice things. I wanted to be seen as the most spiritual guy there is.
As you undoubtably read in my post from the beginning of the year ( 😉 ), this is my “health year.” The year that I take back health in all areas of my life. It all started with working to get a better, healthy identity. Changing who I am, not just what I do became a focal point of my year. Your actions follow your identity so it was important to get clear about what type of person I wanted to be.
I want to be a person who is healthy physically so that I can be around to see all the milestones in my family. To see my kids graduate high school and college. To see them grow up and maybe get married, or just watch their life unfold as they follow God in it. To potentially see grand kids and great grand kids (a long way down the road from now please and thank you). To grow old with Heather. To laugh together when we both are on the floor and we can’t get back up.
I want to be a person who is healthy spiritually. I want to have a real relationship with God not just a “let me throw my wish list to a genie in the sky” kind of thing. I want to be the guy that dedicates his life to serving Him in whatever way that looks like. I don’t need to be the most spiritual guy in the room, but I do need to walk with Jesus every day. I want to learn how to live out of His strength, not my own.
I want to be a person who is healthy financially. I want to be able to provide for my family now and make wise decisions to be able to provide for my family in the future. I want to get out of debt so that I can do the things that God calls me to do when He calls me to do them. So I can be more generous. So I can give when causes arise and not worry about what that means for the bottom line.
There are many more areas to each of our lives, but I think you get the idea. I want to be a healthy person, and the first step to that is changing my identity. I’ve worked hard to get to this point, and now my actions are starting to take shape from my identity.
I started out the year doing some exercising but it was sporadic and not combined with a healthy diet. It wasn’t until I got clear on my healthy physical identity that things started to click for me. For the last 13 weeks I’ve exercised consistently 5 days a week and I’ve been eating pretty close to a prescribed plan based on the workouts I’ve been doing. I’m doing the right things and seeing my overall results heading in the right direction. I’ve only lost 10 pounds this year so far (it’s been as low as 14 at one point) but I’m feeling better about who I am and what I’m capable of doing physically. I don’t get as winded as I used to climbing up stairs or bending over to tie my shoes which tells me that I’m headed in the right direction. I’m learning to modify moves during workouts when I need to when before I would have just quit and said that it was too hard for me. A healthy person exercises and eats healthy foods … and that’s starting to take shape for me.
We also are starting to become more healthy financially. Nothing major has happened to get us into better shape quite yet, but we’re starting to see some progress. Our desire to be healthy financially is growing because we want to be financially healthy people. We’re working on some things to lower our monthly expenditures which will hopefully allow us to pay off our debt quicker (since we’ll have more of our budget that can go towards debt reduction. Plus, the sooner we are out of debt the sooner we can do other things that need our financial attention. Heather and I have sat down and created what we think is a solid budget and we’re in our first month of seeing how that goes. Things are starting to feel like we’re headed in the right direction.
So that’s where I am. The needles are starting to move in the right direction. That feels like progress. All the results we’ll see are just lag measures. They’ll happen because we’re putting in the consistent work every day. I believe that if we consistently do the right things because we want to be the right people then the right results will eventually happen.
At the end of the day, changing your identity matters way more than you might think. Once you start becoming a different person, the things that you want to see happen regarding a certain area of your life have a better chance of happening. Remember, your actions follow your identity. There’s a better chance that the things you want to see happen will happen when it starts from inside you.
Start by changing your identity today and there’s a greater chance that your world will start changing tomorrow.