That distance between who you are and who you want to become? It can feel staggering, daunting, even impassible at times. Especially if you’re fixating on the sheer expanse of it. However, if you focus on taking a single step across that distance, things might not seem quite so overwhelming. Because a step is small. A step is manageable. And, as James Clear discusses in our latest podcast, a step is exactly the motivation you need to take another.
James Clear is the author of Atomic Habits, a New York Times best selling book about the art and science of habit formation. We invited him on our podcast to discuss the relationship between the habits we form, the goals we want to achieve, the people we are, and the people we want to be. And while this is no small task, James takes it on with the ardor of a lifelong student and the acumen of a natural-born scientist.
By calling upon a variety of case studies across a broad spectrum of fields-- fitness, the arts, business, and more-- James creates a rich, textured, and empowering picture of the role that habits play in our lives. And that picture, as James explains, illuminates one fundamental truth:
Everything you do-- every step you take-- contributes to who you are and who you will become.
And this means getting into the habit of taking certain actions, or steps, makes it more or less likely that you’re going to become who you want to be. “But!” You might be interjecting, “If your identity is so reliant on your habits, what happens if you have bad ones, or if you don’t know how to start good ones?” James addresses this in our podcast, too.
Critically, he points out that the relationship between habits and identity is not a one-way street. In fact the best way to change your habits is to examine and adjust your identity. As James says,
“I think that the focus on who we wish to become, not what we wish to achieve, is a better place to allocate our time and energy when it comes to developing habits. Because ultimately, the thing that’s going to make a habit stick is seeing ourselves in that way.”
Which brings us to a central point made by James in this podcast: “[People] tend to overvalue results and undervalue the process. [But] we do not rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems.” In other words, if we spend all of our time fixating on the results we want, we won’t be doing the work we need to do to achieve them. And what is that work exactly? Developing systems that enable us to habitually perform actions that make us the kind of people that achieve the kinds of results we want.
James emphasizes the importance of showing up in small ways instead of fretting about optimization, he discusses the long-term benefits of diversifying and revising your identity, and he explains the role that our evolutionary biology plays in our ability to form habits. To learn more about James Clear’s comprehensive work on habit formation, check out: JamesClear.com or pick up his book, Atomic Habits.