Updating Identity to Build Habits

4 min readMar 19, 2022


Lately I had been trying to build some habits and failing, which made me wonder if I can use ideas from one of the books I have read. Also, more than one people have told me that they’ve read Atomic Habits book recently.

Only thing I could remember from the book is this image:

Image from https://jamesclear.com/identity-votes

The idea it explains is:

  • Outcome based goals are the most superficial ones and least likely to succeed. Which makes sense as they are hardly anything beyond wishful thinking. It is okay to start by expecting a fairly clear outcome, but stopping here won’t result in much of a change. Using an example of getting good grades, once I devastated after I got fifth rank in my class with 80% score when I in fourth standard. It made me set the goal to reach first place. It was a good starting point, but it wasn’t something that made me study.
  • Changing the process to build new habits or achieve goals is better than just the goals, but not the best approach. It is better because process is closer to your life. But the problem with updating your process is that the new process is hard to follow. You can stick to the new process for a few days or weeks, and then the motivation runs out and you are back to your old comfortable state. From the example of getting good grades, I don’t remember consciously making any changes in the process. I did study more and took things more seriously, but I don’t remember updating the process or even thinking about it.
  • Identity is the core of your habits. I read somewhere that went along the lines of “you are what you do every day”. The blog I’ll be linking as inspiration to this post has more details around how identity and habits are derived from the same word. But all we need to understand here is your identity is a collection of your habits, so it is most effective to update your identity if you want to update habits.

Applying to the getting good grades example, I was told by my teachers and parents that maybe I wasn’t as smart as they thought. This was something completely unacceptable to me and I decided to reinforce my identity as someone who is gifted when it comes to studies. Everything else fell into place after it and I don’t think it was challenging to get good grades for next 8 years after that.

Your identity is the stories you tell yourself. And it is easier to update habits if you know who you are, and not just what you want and what you should do.

Tell these stories to yourself during small seconds of making the choice and acting on it. Tell these stories to yourself after you’ve made the expected choice and if you need motivation or need to remind yourself why.

Once you are clear on who you are, all you need to do is keep voting in favor of it starting from small decisions. To prove it to yourself.

No matter how far you are from the goal, keep going in the direction of who you are and the wolf you feed will keep getting stronger.

Lastly, this reminds me lines from Ali Abdaal that roughly went like “Learning something (or achieving a goal) for the sake of it is painful. Learning should be the side effect of something you want to do. Goal should be the side effect of something you want to do.”

You should learn to code in order to build the app you want. You should read the book to find answers to questions you have.

I think we can extend the idea to: habits should be side effect of who you want to become. Or habits should be the side effect of proving who you already are.

Lastly, the image of my whiteboard while working on these ideas.