I dug into my new book, Atomic Habits by James Clear. Only two chapters in and it is inspiring. The first chapter actually discussed trajectory and 1% improvement, much like my last entry. The second set the foundation for why we form habits and the beginnings of how we can look to change them.
It is this idea that we try to generate change by either focusing on the outcome (or goal) or focusing on identity. Clear describes two people at a gathering who are offered a cigarette. One says, “I’m trying to quit,” while the other responds, “I’m not a smoker.”
This book is exactly what I need right now because so much of this anxiety and frustration is borne from this idea that I am editing my identity. Am I a fat person stuck with PCOS? Am I a professional web developer who has scaled back to raise a young family? Am I a frazzled mom constantly on the lookout for assistance?
That isn’t me and when I think on it I can see just how far I’ve come. See a year or two ago, I would have likely agreed with those identity statements. But not today.
In his book, Clear describes how the word identity is formed from two Latin words: essentitas (being) and identidem (repeatedly). So the original definition of identity would be “repeated beingness.” He then expands on that by saying the behaviors we engage in every day form our identity.
So what is my identity? Who do I want to be and how can that direct my million tiny steps each day?
I am creative.
I get tremendous satisfaction from creating, whether that be writing, drawing, graphic designing, gardening or physically building. I make time to allow myself these creative pursuits.
I am domestic.
Before I got married and had kids, I really enjoyed domestic life: cooking, baking, home decor, entertaining. I devote time to researching recipes and cooking from scratch. It brings me joy. Now that it is a necessary element in my life, it has the ability to become a chore, but that’s where I make a conscious decision to find joy in it.
I am a fixer.
When I see something malfunctioning, I am drawn to troubleshooting and solving the puzzle. It is how I got pulled into very intense PTA volunteering, and it is how I find joy in restoring websites that have been attacked by hackers.
When I look at how I form my identity, PCOS is not part of it. Neither is having brown hair or a flat butt. I will say that when I look at these “identities” things start to become clearer. These identities are molding my daily life. But I’m going to add one more identity to the mix:
I am healthy.
Notice I didn’t put “I will be skinny” or “I will lose 50 pounds.” I am choosing to be healthy, and that means a million tiny decisions each day that will help me be healthy. Instead of Cheerios for breakfast, maybe I’ll choose a quick egg. Maybe that means adding a side of steamed broccoli to my dinner. Maybe that means knocking out 2-3 items in my “to-do” list rather than sitting and watching Netflix while the kids are in school.
This is where that 1% comes in. Every day I am pushing myself to be 1% better, and these identity markers are setting the trajectory.
Along the way I’m going to enjoy life and all that it brings. I know there are specific foods I should avoid because of my PCOS, but I am not going to deny myself those foods for the rest of my life. Knowing they are still an option but I choose to abstain (or only have a small portion) is a much more sustainable approach than going into the holiday season and telling myself I’m not allowed to taste cookies. Someone who identifies as “I am on a diet” says “I can’t have cookies,” but someone who identifies as “I am healthy” says “Savoring a cookie doesn’t change who I am.”
I am healthy.