A few years ago, we added a simple habit-tracking system in our ever popular Dreambook. Users can track up to four habits at a time, marking their progress on each day using whatever indicator or scale works best.
This system addresses some of the key challenges of changing habits – remembering to do it, tracking progress to catalyze motivation, and looking at the trend over time to reinforce self-trust and recognize one’s growth.
But there’s another factor in changing habits that can help make them easier to implement and more likely to “stick” in a permanent way. It’s the alignment of habits with our beliefs, values, and identities. When our beliefs are in sync with our behaviors, they support each other. When they’re out of sync, our good habits don’t last.
Take, for instance, the oh-so-common new year’s resolution of losing weight. If we see ourselves as an out of shape person with a lack of discipline, this resolution is doomed because we tend to act in accordance with who we believe ourselves to be.
Another reason such a resolution might not last is when the goal represents a fixed point. If we resolve to lose 20 pounds and we achieve it, then we’re complete and off the hook. The energy we mustered to pull it off runs out and we lose steam.
If you’re a Dreambook user, you know that we are big fans of goals – including fixed, measurable, and material ones. Achieving these goals often depends on good habits – such as saving money, eating well, or practicing a new language – but because they’re complete at a certain point, they aren’t always enough if your true objective is to permanently install the habits that made that goal possible.
Based on who you want to be, it’s likely that this is your true objective – to embody the way of this identity. As you live the habits of this chosen being, you reinforce that you are the person you aim to be.
So, if there’s a habit you wish to establish, consider: for what kind of person would this habit be natural? If the desired habit is daily exercise, perhaps the answer is a fit and healthy person. If the crux of the challenge is honoring your agreements with yourself, maybe the answer is a person with integrity or a person who always keeps their agreements. If you see yourself as healthy and fit, then behaviors that support health and fitness come naturally. If you don’t, then these habits feel like a contradiction.
Going through the Core Values, Gifts, and Life Purpose sections of the Dreambook can be helpful for determining your deeper “identity goals.” Ideally your chosen identities will not only bring about the results you want… Even more satisfying is that the clarity and conscious choice involved in the process, and the eventual embodiment of this identity throughout your life will make you the person your soul has always believed you could be.
Along with the recognition of an intentional identity, it’s still worthwhile to measurable and unmeasurable goals, and to use the habit tracker to make the way of your Highest Self your M.O.
For instance, a resolution to lose weight might lead to identifying core values such as vibrant health, relishing life, living to your potential, and leading by example. From these values the goal that emerges might be something like “To embody vibrant health and love of life!” While that may be hard to quantify, it also necessitates continual improvement and refinement – which are natural traits of the kind of person who chooses such goals, and which provide ongoing evidence that you are that person.