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How to Change Your Beliefs and Stick to Your Goals for Good

How to Change Your Beliefs and Stick to Your Goals for Good

In one of my very first articles, I discussed a concept called identity-based habits.

The basic idea is that the beliefs you have about yourself can drive your long-term behavior. Maybe you can trick yourself into going to the gym or eating healthy once or twice, but if you don’t shift your underlying identity, then it’s hard to stick with long-term changes.

habit-layers
    Graphic by James Clear

    Most people start by focusing on performance and appearance-based goals like, “I want to lose 20 pounds” or “I want to write a best-selling book.”

    But these are surface level changes.

    The root of behavior change and building better habits is your identity. Each action you perform is driven by the fundamental belief that it is possible. So if you change your identity (the type of person that you believe that you are), then it’s easier to change your actions.

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    This brings us to an interesting question. How do you build an identity that is in line with your goals? How can you actually change your beliefs and make it easier to stick with good habits for the long run?

    How to change your beliefs

    The only way I know to shift the beliefs that you have about yourself and to build a stronger identity is to cast a vote for that identity with many, tiny actions.

    Think of it this way…

    Let’s say you want to become the type of person who never misses a workout. If you believed that about yourself, how much easier would it be to get in shape? Every time you choose to do a workout—even if it’s only five minutes—you’re casting a vote for this new identity in your mind. Every action is a vote for the type of person you want to become.

    This is why I advocate starting with incredibly small actions (small votes still count!) and building consistency. Use the 2-Minute Rule to get started. Follow the Seinfeld Strategy to maintain consistency. Each actions becomes a small vote that tells your mind, “Hey, I believe this about myself.” And at some point, you actually will believe it.

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    Of course, it works the opposite way as well. Every time you choose to perform a bad habit, it’s a vote for that type of identity.

    But here’s the interesting part.

    As I mentioned in this article, research shows that making a mistake or missing a habit every now and then has no measurable impact on your long-term success. It doesn’t matter if you cast a few votes for a bad behavior or an unproductive habit. In any election, there are going to be votes for both sides.

    Your goal isn’t to be perfect. Your goal is simply to win the majority of the time. And if you cast enough votes for the right identity, eventually the good behaviors will win out.

    What can we learn from this?

    “Every time we participate in a ritual, we are expressing our beliefs, either verbally or more implicitly.”
    —Tony Schwartz

    I find it useful to think about identity-based habits for a few reasons.

    First, identity-based habits focus on you rather than your goals. It is surprisingly easy to achieve a goal and still not be happy with who you are as a person. Society pushes us to obsess over results: What are your goals? How busy are you? How successful have you become?

    And while there is nothing wrong with achievement and improvement, it is also very easy to forget to ask yourself the more important questions: Who am I? What do I believe about myself? What do I want my identity to be?

    Identity-based habits are one way to match your values and beliefs with the outcomes that you want in your life. (My 2014 Integrity Report was another attempt.)

    Second, the idea of “casting votes for your identity” reveals how your daily actions add up over the long-term. Your actions drive your beliefs and each action you take is a vote for the type of person that you believe that you are. What beliefs are you expressing through your actions?

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    Third, this framework helps to remove the “All or Nothing” philosophy that can so easily wreck our progress. For some reason, we often think that if we fail to follow our plan step-by-step, then we have totally blown it. The truth is that it doesn’t work that way at all. If you make a mistake, remember that it’s just one vote. Be aware of the votes you’re casting and try to win the majority. Every action is a vote for your identity.

    I’ve said many times that I don’t have all the answers. As always, I’m just learning as I go. If you know of other ways to change your beliefs and build a new identity, feel free to share.

    This article was originally published on JamesClear.com.

    Featured photo credit: Change – Its A New Year/Nana B Agyei via flickr.com

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    Last Updated on July 15, 2019

    41 Beautiful Pictures That Show What True Love Is All About

    41 Beautiful Pictures That Show What True Love Is All About

    Some things in life are hard to describe, yet we can recognize them when we see them.

    Love is one of those things.

    True love comes in many different forms, but here are some that many of us know well.

    True love means supporting those who can’t support themselves

    supportive couple

      A young man comforts his date in Times Square, New York City. Image by mbtrama

      strong hug

        A young man holds his significant other close to him. Image by Brad Fults

        running help

          A young track competitor helps one of her injured opponents over the finish line. Image from ViralNova.com

          feeding kitten

            A soldier in the Korean War takes time to feed a baby kitten. Image from US Naval Insititute

            It’s having the perfect selfie partner

            mom and daughter selfie

              A mother and her daughter take a selfie together. Image by Andrew Fysh

              girlfriends

                Two young girls pose for the camera. Image by Rolands Lakis

                selfies

                  A happy couple takes a picture together. Image by Kayla Heineman

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                  selfie

                    Two best friends take a selfie together. Image by Jason Wahido

                    dude selfie

                      Friends take a selfie together. Image by Glenn Scofield Williams

                      It’s all the warm fuzzies

                      12748262703_84c008f4e5_z

                        A young man spends time with his dog on a beach. Image by Magdalena Roeseler

                        DSC06952

                          A pet owner hugs his dog while on a day trip in San Francisco. Image by Taro the Shiba Inu

                          It means having a friend to photobomb you

                          photobomb

                            A boy makes a funny face as he poses for a picture with his brother. Image by Michael Bentley

                            old man photobomb

                              A man photobombs his wife while their grandson snaps a picture. Image by Frank

                              family photobomb

                                Family members photobomb their relatives’ Thanksgiving day family photo. Image by Beth Scupham

                                boyfriend photobomb

                                  A friend photobombs the photographer and their friend, the woman in the foreground of this photo. Image by Lachlan Hardy

                                  True love means being there even when life gets unbearably hard

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                                  shoulder to cry on

                                    A family watches the Vermont National Guard depart for Afghanistan. Image by The U.S. Army

                                    flood dog

                                      During a monsoon in the Philippines, a boy carries his dog to safety. Image by Romeo Ranoco

                                      A woman is rescued from flood waters by a resident standing on top of her car during heavy rain in Chalandri suburb north of Athens

                                        A man helps a woman out of her vehicle during a flood in Chalandri, Greece. Image by John Kolesidis

                                        lunch

                                          A woman has lunch with her husband every day, even after he’s passed away. Image from ViralNova.com

                                          hug

                                            A woman hugs the mother of 6-year-old Noah Ponzer, who was one of the victims of the Sandy Hook shootings. Image by Spencer Platt

                                            rubble

                                              An Oklahoma couple pauses while trying to salvage belongings from a family member’s home after a tornado. Image by Adrees Latif

                                              sister and brother

                                                A girl puts her arm around her little brother as they wait outside of Sandy Hook Elementary after gunshots are fired. Image by Reuters.

                                                headstone

                                                  A woman sits at her husband’s grave the day before their wedding anniversary. Image from NBC news

                                                  It means taking the time for long goodbyes

                                                  110321-N-BT887-100

                                                    A man says goodbye to his son before deploying. Image by Official U.S. Navy Page

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                                                    national guard goodbye

                                                      A South Carolina man says goodbye to his son before deploying for Afghanistan. Image by The National Guard

                                                      saying goodbye

                                                        A Sergeant hugs both of his sons before being deployed to Afghanistan. Image by The National Guard

                                                        And cherishing reunions

                                                        husband home

                                                          A woman hugs her husband as she sees him for the first time since his deployment to Iraq. Image by The U.S. Army

                                                          boyfriend home

                                                            A young  woman hugs her significant other as he returns home for Kuwait. Image by The National Guard

                                                            mother hug

                                                              A mother drops to her knees as she hugs her son on her return home from the Persian Gulf. Image by The National Guard

                                                              True love is letting yourself feel young when they’re around

                                                              elderly women

                                                                Two friends on their smartphones. Image by Robert Neff

                                                                feeling young

                                                                  A young couple getting their picture taken. Image by db Photograph

                                                                  sprinkler dad

                                                                    A father plays in a sprinkler with his daughter at Millennium Park in Chicago. Image by Ben Forsberg

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                                                                    subway couple

                                                                      A young couple on a subway enjoys sharing time together, while the girlfriend’s father sneaks a photo of them. Image by Gareth Williams

                                                                      wheelchairs

                                                                        A couple holds hands on a fall day. Image by David Amsler

                                                                        It’s letting yourself be silly… just because they’ll enjoy it

                                                                        silly faces

                                                                          A grandfather makes faces at the camera with his granddaughters. Image by Tim Pierce

                                                                          vote for pedro

                                                                            A woman’s father wears a Napoleon Dynamite t-shirt to make his daughter laugh. Image by emdot

                                                                            True love is allowing yourself to show how you really feel

                                                                            date night

                                                                              A young couple kisses in the back of a restaurant in Washington, D.C. Image by Derek Key

                                                                              playing violin

                                                                                Violinist Nancy Dinovo plays at a memorial service for the victims of 9/11. Image by Christopher Morris

                                                                                True love is timeless

                                                                                old friends

                                                                                  Friends spending some time together. Image by Cristian Bortes

                                                                                  sitting around a fire

                                                                                    A group of friends sits around a campfire eating. Image by New Old Stock

                                                                                    elderly couple

                                                                                      An elderly couple walks down a street together. Image by Matteo Paciotti

                                                                                      Featured photo credit: Matteo Paciotti via flickr.com

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