Change Your Beliefs to Change Your Outcomes

I recently read Atomic Habits at the suggestion of friends. The author has a different perspective on how to reach your desired destination. James Clear provides a framework for using small daily habits and systems, instead of setting goals, to increase the likelihood that you will arrive at your destination.

One thing that jumped out at me was his levels of change: the outcome layer (what you get), process layer (what you do), and identity layer (what you believe). Most people start with the outcome layer by setting a goal. This leads to outcome-based habits. James, however, suggests starting with the identity layer: belief-based habits that focus on the kind of person you want to be. Once you know who you want to be, it’s easier to back into what you need to do (process layer) to get the result you want (outcome layer).

He gives a great example. Two people are offered a cigarette. One says, “No thanks. I’m trying to quit.” The other says, “No thanks. I’m not a smoker.” The first person believes they’re still a smoker trying to be something else. Smoking is something they can still see themselves doing, but they’re trying not to. The second person believes they aren’t a smoker. Smoking was part of their former life but not their current life. These two have similar former lives, but what they believe about themselves is different. The second person doesn’t identify as someone who smokes. Actions are backed by beliefs. If you don’t believe something, you’re less likely to consistently take the actions necessary to support that belief.

I really like James’s approach of starting with the identity layer. It makes total sense to me. I can’t wait to spend some time digging into this and putting it into action.