We Only Have One Habit: Self-Identity
There is an all-pervading standard to which you reference your thoughts, words, and deeds. Any behavior in which you partake is judged against this standard. Some refer to it as the comfort zone, the self-concept, or the self-image. I call it Self-Identity. -Guest Blog-
Self-identity and Choice
A Self-Identity is an integrated experience of the person as which you see yourself. As a human being this is universal. You see yourself as a consistency of behaviors over time. You need a Self-identity to function effectively. This is not a choice. The choice lies in your defining your Self-Identity by a conscious, rational, deliberate process or allow ideas, conclusions, understandings, rationalizations, etc. to flow unchecked into your subconscious.
If you choose to let your Self-identity develop by chance you will reap the worst penalty from the least gratifying effort in life. The penalty being distrust in your own judgement and lack of pride in yourself. The least gratifying effort being the default inheritance of other people’s beliefs resulting in a melting pot of chance ideas as a Self-identity. A Self-identity which has you acting upon conclusions you do not know you have accepted and feeling the dread of self-doubt with every step forward and every decision made.
If you choose to create your Self-identity by a deliberate, intentional process you will reap the greatest reward from the most gratifying effort in life. The reward being trust in your own judgement and pride in the person you have chosen to become. The gratifying effort being the construction of a purposeful self-identity from which every thought, word, and deed will be expressed in every moment, in every context, from now until your final day, knowing that it, and you, are good.
In truth, both the deliberate and accidental forces are at work. What shifts the balance is how much conscious effort you exert.
A Simple Understanding
The simplest way to imagine the Self-identity is with two short phrases:
- That’s like me.
- That’s not like me.
That’s Like Me
“That’s like me” is when you do things that fit your idea of who you are as a person. You generally won’t say this phrase to yourself but this is the sentiment. You won’t even feel anything special because you are just being yourself.
To be who you are is easy. It is your automatic pilot, your cruise control. You wake up in the morning and this idea of who you are (what you like, what you dislike, your preference of foods, how you interact with people, your attitude toward elevators, how honest you are, etc.) is ready to be accessed as needed. You don’t have to consider what comes naturally to you, it’s all there in your Self-identity.
That’s Not Like Me
“That’s not like me” is when you are doing something contrary to who you see yourself being. In this case your behavior does not fit your Self-identity. You generally won’t say this to yourself either but you will feel it. It’s that hole in the pit of your stomach just before you make a presentation at the front of the class – “I don’t like speaking in public.” It’s that feeling of unease when you wear a bright yellow tie-dye shirt – “I don’t dress like this. I’m conservative. People will think I’m a hippie.”
It is known as the comfort zone for just this reason. When you stay within it, being who you are and doing what you do, you are comfortable. When you stray outside this zone, trying new behaviors and being someone you are not, you are uncomfortable.
Your Idea of You is All Your Habits
Another way of considering the Self-identity is as a habit. Habits are the brain’s way of streamlining effort. If we had to continually be conscious of every behavior we produce as we go about our day we would not bother doing much at all. The effort would be too great.
Remember how awkward riding a bike was the first few attempts. Once you got the hang of it, no problem. And now you don’t even consider it. You just think about your destination and off you go. The same goes for learning anything new.
Most of what you do all day is a result of the habits you have developed. Your Self-identity is a conglomeration of your habitual thoughts about yourself.
New Behaviors Require a New Self-identity.
Any time you give yourself a goal you are usually going to have to make use of some new behaviors. Those new behaviors are not currently part of your Self-identity. You will not rise to the level of your aspirations, you will fall to the level of your Self-identity. It is too much effort, too much gritting your teeth willpower, to try being anyone other than who you are.
Only One Habit.
In essence we have only one habit – our Self-identity. By approaching change from the perspective of the Self-Identity it simplifies the process of change. Change the Self-Identity and everything changes naturally, organically.
“…once the concept of self is changed, other things consistent with the new concept of self are accomplished easily and without strain.” -Maxwell Maltz