A Habit Is Who You Are, Not What You Do
Author Jen Sincero says ‘badass habits’ require an identity shift
At the end of a milestone event — like a year or, say, a global pandemic — we have a tendency to reflect on all the things we’d like to achieve, moving forward. With this impulse comes a renewed interest in changing our habits through a slew of tips, tricks, and behavior hacks.
Now, the bestselling author Jen Sincero is back with a new book that throws a wrench into our conventional, habit-building wisdom. In Badass Habits, she asserts that changing your habits is as much about shifting your perception of who you are as it is a byproduct of systems and strategies to make the change stick. Forge spoke with Sincero about overcoming fear of the unknown to build the habits we want.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
At Forge, we’re pretty obsessed with habits — how to form them, how to break them. Usually, we tend to focus on strategies for shifting behavior. But in your book, you write that the first step in changing habits is an identity shift: You have to see yourself as the type of person who does X thing. Then comes the strategizing.
When we identify as a certain person, it informs how we think and believe, and just generally behave. And I think that when it comes to so many things in life that we’re trying to accomplish, we focus mostly on the actions we [need to] take to get things done. Actions — what we’re doing — are certainly important, but we do ourselves such a disservice if we don’t go backwards and look at who we’re being. If we start approaching our behaviors from the standpoint of who we’re being, the actions we take are going to fall into line so much more easily.
So, for example, let’s say you are trying to start running every morning. That’s going to be your new habit. If you still identify as somebody who hates to run, or somebody who doesn’t run, the energetic slog of getting yourself to do it is so much heftier than if you start identifying as a runner. If you’re a runner, you run like it’s no big whoop-de-do. There isn’t all the drama there. It’s just who you are and it’s what you do.