In everyday life, we assume that every person has an identity that makes up their ego and determines their personality. However, this is not true, because we all have countless identities between which we switch and which sometimes exist in parallel.
Don't confuse identity and personality! Identities change frequently and sometimes we occupy more than one at a time. A personality, on the other hand, is more stable and we have only one. It may also change over time, but it is much more consistent compared to identities.
Why Do We Have Many Identities?
Every behavior is associated with an identity. Habits and their identities are inseparable. For example, every person who regularly plays the clarinet is a musician. Everyone who reads books is a reader.
However, how you perceive your identities varies greatly. People who maintain their habits for a long time usually perceive the identities associated with them more intensely. Unfortunately, this is also true for bad habits. People who smoke perceive themselves as smokers, making it more difficult for them to quit. The associated action is the core of the respective identity.
But you can take advantage of the connection between habit and identity.
Use Identities for Yourself
Although negative identities make it difficult for you to get out of a habit, you can also use them to build positive behaviors.
The first way is to identify yourself as the opposite of your bad habit. If you're lying on the couch after work but actually want to exercise, you can ask yourself what an athlete would do. If you identify yourself as an athlete or a healthy person, your brain will automatically want to exercise more to avoid an inner contradiction between identity and behavior.
The second option is to create an identity that fits the new habit you want to develop. For example, you might identify as a diligent student in order to study regularly.
Habits Still Need More
To successfully establish a behavior as a habit, you still need more than just a positive identity. For example, you have to really enjoy a habit to keep it up in the long run.
In my article “How to improve your habits,” I write about what makes up our behavior, how we can successfully change it and where we most often make mistakes.
To get started and check in, it helps to ask yourself the following questions.
- What kind of person do I want to be? (Identity)
- What behavior is associated with it? (habit)
Based on this, you can apply further techniques to build your habit. But identity always remains the core of your behavior – and because we perform countless habits every day, we have many different identities.