In my latest blog Atomic Habits: The Power of Creating New Habits, I dissected James Clear’s book “Atomic Habits” and discussed the power of creating new patterns of emotions, thoughts and behaviors in trauma work. Changing our patterns can be a lot more challenging then it sounds. I’d like to discuss how true change is rooted in our identity… and how to begin today!

As humans in the process of change and growth… we can become too “outcome” driven, focusing on results. We can also get stuck in the details of “how.” Don’t misunderstand, changing our structure is important in this process, but research shows us the most impactful agent of change is our identity. We do this by changing our beliefs about ourself and the world. This is crucial to understand… behavior that is incongruent with self will not last.

When we are healing from deep pain, it can feel difficult to love ourselves well, love others well and enter confidently into the world. It’s hard to change your behavior if you don’t begin by addressing the underlying beliefs that led to how you feel about yourself. This is why many feel frustrated when their efforts at change do not last.

True behavior change is identity change.

The more deeply a thought or action is tied to your identity, the more difficult it is to change it. Your behavior is how you actually embody your identity.

In his book, Atomic Habits, James Clear defines the word identity and explains how it was originally derived from the Latin words essentitas, which means being, and identidem, which means repeatedly. Your identity is literally your “repeated beingness.” Identity change is the North Star of changing one’s behavior.

Mindfulness is a key component here. Old hurtful habits and behaviors likely developed in a state of survival. When we slow down, we can pause and ask ourselves, “does this behavior help me become the type of person I wish to be?” it allows us to bring consciousness to the unconscious patterns that have existed.

The process of behavior change always starts with awareness. You need to be aware of your habits before you can change them.

Finding the right kind of therapy that helps you get to the root is critical for change and growth. Our beliefs take root from our memory and experience. If I’ve learned I’m unloveable than I will believe I am unloveable. No one has to even utter the words…. I will believe this by the experiences I’ve had. If I have had experiences where I’ve learned no matter how hard I try it will never be right or enough, then this will begin to be woven into the very fabric of my being. If I have not been safe, I will learn that this world is a dangerous place I can never trust. In order to begin to feel and behave differently, I first need to be able to process the pain I’ve experienced and begin to believe I have choices for new experiences in the NOW. As I feel more confident and empowered, I can begin to believe that my best is enough. That I can learn to trust. I can learn to love myself. To know my worthiness deep within myself. This change in thought process and belief changes everything.

So when do we begin?!

If you haven’t already started with a trained therapist, this is a great place to start.

But there are things you can do today… begin to focus on your spiritual, mental, physical and emotional health. Did you know that people are more likely to take action to start something new on the first day of the week, month or year? Hope is higher at those times. If we have hope we have a reason to take action. A fresh start feels motivating! And the good news is EVERYDAY is a new beginning, no matter what happened yesterday. Today is day one of the rest of your life!

If you haven’t been inspired yet to read Atomic Habits, I highly recommend you do! If you don’t have time to read the book, go back and read my lastest blog: The Power of Creating New Habits. Think small steps. Small changes add up to big impact!!!

Have you ever heard of Habit stacking? I love this concept and have found it VERY helpful when working with clients to start new self care and mindfulness routines. This is how you do it… Identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top.

James Clear also describes something called an implementation intention. This is a plan you make beforehand about when and where to make your small step. In order to do this be specific about what you want and how you will achieve it. This helps you say no to things that will derail progress, distract your attention and pull you off course. Make the time and location obvious and convenient. With repetition it will give you the physical urge to do it at the same time each day.

The implementation intention formula is: I will [BEHAVIOR] at [TIME] in [LOCATION]. For example: After I have my coffee, when I wake up, I will write in my gratitude journal before I get ready for work every morning. Add a specific time and put it in your calendar! Research shows this will make you 80% more likely to do it!

Lastly, make sure to create the right environment. If you are trying to have more quiet time, trying to get to bed earlier, what kind of environment will help you? Environment is the invisible hand that shapes human behavior.

Keep it simple! And ask for help if you need it. We were not meant to walk this life alone. We were created for relationship. So if you feel stuck find someone to walk with you as you make some of these changes. We would love to help you. You’ve got this!