I came across two unrelated things things today that centered around ‘identity’ — forming a new habit and giving feedback.
Yes, I’m making slow progress on Atomic Habits by James Clear. Reading non-fiction doesn’t come easily to me, but this idea of ‘identity-based habit’ really shook things up a bit. The book says — to change your behavior for good, to form a new habit, you need to start believing new things about yourself.
A behaviour change that I have struggled quiet a bit with in the last few years is to get back to dance, to carve out some time and practice dance on a regular basis. This is a habit I desperately want to develop.
The most intuitive way of looking at a new habit is to tie it to an outcome — “I will start practicing dance regularly so that I can get back into form and dance better and with ease.” That’s the first layer — outcome. When you dig a little deeper with the ‘how’ shovel, you arrive at the second layer — process. “I will start practicing dance regularly from 6:30 to 7:30 AM on two weekdays and 8 to 11 AM on one weekend.”
The third and the deepest layer is where magic is expected to happen (hopefully I can personally vouch for this some day) — identity. “I will start practicing dance regularly because…well I am a dancer.” This is where you start believing new things about yourself, about your identity.
With this simple reframing in mind, I’m taking a fresh stab at it. I will start practicing dance regularly (to get back into form, 6:30–7:30 on Mondays, Wednesdays, Saturdays) BECAUSE I’M A DANCER.
Now, moving to feedback. I found the concept of identity very interesting when it comes to sharing some tough yet constructive feedback. I re-listened to one of my favourite podcast episodes today on Women at Work (linked below), to really soak in all the wisdom being dished out in those 30 minutes.
The process of sharing feedback can often be intimidating for the giver and the receiver, especially if it’s tough feedback. If not done properly, it can hit the receiver right where it hurts — on their identity. Can the incident that demands feedback be de-linked from the person’s identity? “Hey you’ve been missing deadlines quiet often these days and that’s causing these delays in the project” Vs. “Hey it’s not like you to miss deadlines, but I notice you’ve been missing them the last couple of times. I know you as someone who is a stickler for time and commitment. Help me understand what happened. Is there a way that I can help you?” With this simple reframing, you can isolate the incident from the identity of the person, to make the feedback less threatening and land more effectively.
Some of the parts:
Identity and habits: https://jamesclear.com/identity-based-habits
Identity and feedback: https://hbr.org/podcast/2021/05/the-essentials-giving-feedback