We discussed last week the importance of establishing better habits and breaking bad ones and some tips to ease us into it. Bite-size actions really add up. This week, let’s go a little deeper. Wanting to change a habit is all well and good, but if it is strictly performance-based and reliant on our behavior, we may have a tougher time sticking to it. So what we need then is for it to be tied to our identity – how we see ourselves and then in turn how others see us. It can be especially tricky for the ADHD brain to stick to a plan, so this is even more important for working with ADHD mindset.
Why do Identity-based habits work?
If it’s a part of our core values, we will be more likely to make it a priority — a top-of-the-list, front-burner issue. How it works is deciding first, WHO YOU WANT TO BE and go from there. Here’s my 1-2-3 step for success in tying the value to the habit and action.
Value: I want to be eco-friendly. Habit: I’m going to stop using plastic bags. Action: I’m going to keep canvas bags in my car for shopping and put them back in my car each time I’ve unloaded my groceries.
Value: I want to be someone who keeps a tidy house and appreciates my belongings. Habit: I’m going to pick up my clutter each day. Action: I’m going to set a timer on my phone for after work and then again 30 minutes before bedtime so I can do a walk-through and put away anything I may have left out during the day.
Value: I want to be someone who takes care of his/her body. Habit: Making smarter choices regarding exercise and eating. Action: I’m going to create a meal plan each weekend before I go shopping to ensure that I buy healthier groceries. I’m going to get up 20 minutes earlier in the morning so I can go for a walk before I shower. I’m going to keep healthy snacks like almonds in my car so when I get hungry I won’t drive through a fast-food restaurant. I’m going to eat a healthy snack before I go shopping so I will buy less.
You can apply this 1-2-3 step from WHO you want to be HOW you can make it happen and WHAT you need to do to get there. When you break it down, it doesn’t seem so hard.
This also works with breaking bad habits. For example, if your habit is smoking, create your identity mindset as someone who doesn’t smoke and harm their body with smoke. The habit to break is every time you THINK about smoking, try a mantra like, “I’m a non-smoker and it makes me healthier.” Then replace the action of holding a cigarette in your hand, with say, putting a breath mint in your mouth or chewing a piece of gum. See the outcome in your mind: someone who can resist smoking, who doesn’t need the addiction to cigarettes, who is making a healthy lifestyle choice.
I encourage you to do this in any of the following areas where you would like to create healthier habits.
We’ll continue our discussion on habits by looking at discipline and focus in the next post. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this identity-based system for habits and which areas you are looking to make improvements in. – TJ