You have the power to design your "I" as you wish.

This weekend I’ve been reflecting on a very critical life lesson. The self we typically call “I” is nothing more than a mere mental construct.

You have a body. That is physicality.

You have a mind. That is at least experiential.

But you don’t have a fixated “I” aka “Self’. The identity behind “I” is a malleable construct.

At one point, your “I” was that of a baby, later a high school student, then of a college going young adult, then that of a husband/wife and beyond.

Heck, even within a day, your “I” transforms dramatically. At one point, you say “I am happy”, soon to become “I am upset” or “I am tired” or “I am angry”.

“I” is an ever-changing formless label. So you don’t have to be too worried about it.

But why is this good news? That means you can write the program that shapes your identity and get to work.

Your identity is not fixed and it evolves and changes over time due to life events (marriage, birth of a child, loss of a loved one), circumstances and external factors. But there is also another way to change your “I”.

Through your own choosing. And that is the good news.

Tom Bilyeu, the co-creator of Impact Theory and one of my favorite entrepreneurs says:

“Your identity is 100% malleable. We all believe certain things about ourselves - usually negative stuff. And we let those negative beliefs become our identity, because we wrongly believe them to be facts. But the only fact that’s permanent is that we’re capable of change.” — @TomBilyeu

James Clear took a deep dive in his book “Atomic Habits” on identity and how we can use it to shape our destiny. Check out the below powerful excerpt from his blog on the topic:

“If you want to get motivated and inspired, then feel free to watch a YouTube video, listen to your favorite song, and do P90X. But don't be surprised if you burn out after a week. You can't rely on being motivated. You have to become the type of person you want to be, and that starts with proving your new identity to yourself.

To change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself. You need to build identity-based habits.

How does this concept of identity-based habits work?

Examine the diagram below. It’s three circles (layers) that are part of behavior change.


Identity-Based Habits

Layers of Behavior Change by James Clear

The first layer is changing your outcomes. This level is concerned with changing your results: losing weight, publishing a book, winning a championship. Most of the goals you set are associated with this level of change.

The second layer is changing your process. This level is concerned with changing your habits and systems: implementing a new routine at the gym, de-cluttering your desk for better workflow, developing a meditation practice. Most of the habits you build are associated with this level.

The third and deepest layer is changing your identity. This level is concerned with changing your beliefs: your worldview, your self-image, your judgments about yourself and others. Most of the beliefs, assumptions, and biases you hold are associated with this level.

The Recipe for Sustained Success

Changing your beliefs isn’t nearly as hard as you might think. There are two steps.

1. Decide the type of person you want to be.

2. Prove it to yourself with small wins.

Want to lose weight?

Identity: Become the type of person who moves more every day.

Small win: Buy a pedometer. Walk 50 steps when you get home from work. Tomorrow, walk 100 steps. The day after that, 150 steps. If you do this 5 days per week and add 50 steps each day, then by the end of the year, you’ll be walking over 10,000 steps per day.

Want to become a better writer?

Identity: Become the type of person who writes 1,000 words every day.

Small win: Write one paragraph each day this week.

Want to become strong?

Identity: Become the type of person who never misses a workout.

Small win: Do push-ups every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

If you're looking to make a change in your behavior, then James advises to stop worrying about results and start worrying about your identity. Become the type of person who can achieve the things you want to achieve. Design your “I” first. Build identity-based habits now. The results can come later. “