To thrive in Sobriety you need to change your identity through habit
Welcome to 2023! A new year brings with it a sense of starting fresh, new beginnings and an opportunity to reinvent ourselves. Now is a wonderful time to reflect on the year that has been and think about what you will accomplish in the year to come. This is especially true if you have committed to taking a break from drinking.
Making changes can be notoriously hard. When wanting to make a big lifestyle change like quitting drinking, it’s easy to get inspired and make better choices for a short time. It’s much harder to make the new healthy behaviours stick. James Clear, the author of Atomic Habits, tells us that the key to building lasting change is focusing on creating a new identity first.
Your current behaviours are a reflection of your current identity meaning that what you do now is a mirror image of the type of person that you believe you are (either consciously or subconsciously).
This means that in order to make your new behaviour stick long term, you need to start believing new things about yourself that are in line with the person you want to become. Essentially, you need to build identity-based habits.
Why? Because our identity emerges from our habits!
Our identity isn’t a static concept. We are what we repeatedly do, and we can change our identity for better or worse, based on the quality of our habits.
For example, if we go to the gym five times a week, we embody the identity of a fit and active person. The more often we repeat this habit, the more we believe ourselves to be a fit and active person and that becomes part of our identity.
On the other hand, if we come home from work every day and sit on the couch, watching TV and eating junk food, we embody the identity of someone unmotivated and lazy. The more we repeat that habit, the more we believe ourselves to be unmotivated and lazy and that becomes part of our identity.
No single action will transform our belief of who we are; however the more we take action, the more we are reinforcing our belief and getting closer to reaching our goals. As the evidence builds, we start to believe that we can be the person we want to be and the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves start to change.
As such, if you want to become a happy, healthy non-drinker, you can’t keep doing what you’ve always done. If you carry on doing what you’ve always done, you’re going to keep getting what you’ve always got. Nothing changes if nothing changes.
When I first stopped drinking, I began by committing to small daily non-negotiable actions I had to complete every day. They were: 1. No Drinking. 2 No Smoking 3. Exercise 4. Meditate. I already drank plenty of water so I didn’t need to include that and I wasn’t yet ready to focus on my diet so I decided to leave that off initially. Everyday I took action to tick off my non-negotiables. At first it was really hard, but as time went on and focussed on embodying the version of myself I had wanted to be for so long, it got easier and habits began to stick. Four years later I obviously couldn’t imagine myself ever drinking or smoking (GROSS), Imeditate daily and I struggle if I have to take more than a day off the gym a week. Being a fit sober woman is just now part of my identity.
Adopting new habits is the path to changing your identity. The practical way to change who you are is to change what you do. So in order to help you adopt new habits, and make them stick, I have broken down the process into seven steps as follows:
Thrivalist’s Seven Steps to Make New Habit’s Stick
Step 1 – Create a new Identity for yourself
Set aside 20 minutes to sit in a quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. You may like to light a candle, close down your eyes and practice some breathwork or meditation. When you feel ready, start to think about the current identity you have of yourself. You might like to describe how you look, dress, behave, smell, your energy and aura, your spark or lack thereof. How you live your life, work, parent your children, love your partner and the people you surround yourself with.
When you feel like you have really nailed your current identity, start back at the beginning of this practice and instead of thinking about and bringing to life your current identity, start to think about the ideal identity you have of yourself. Don’t let anything hold you back from really honing in on the little details you want for yourself. What are the characteristics and behaviours that the new version of you has? How does she behave, live, love and feel? You may even choose to illustrate this identity you have of yourself right now or find some images online to create a new identity vision board.
Step 2 – Know your strengths
Understanding the things we are already really good at in life (which we normally also enjoy doing as a result), versus the things we need extra help with is such a powerful ‘leg up’ in regards to succeeding with our goals. When we know our strengths, we can use them to our advantage to propel us forward. For example, if you already know you are good at and enjoy getting up early in the morning and feel switched on straight away, use this strength to be productive at this time. If you are a good runner but have been dragging yourself to a HIIT class that you’re not enjoying, try to incorporate running back into your exercise regime. When we know our strengths and do more of the things we love in life regularly, we feel more confident, energised and authentic, helping us to maintain our behaviour changes long term.
Step 3 – Write your plan for success
It is true that we can dream up and try to manifest whatever it is we want in life, but without a practical plan in place, it is very hard to create the change you want. Take some time to list out the characteristics of the new version of you, and then decide on the habits you will start to form in order to support these characteristics. James Clear shares in his book that you will be way more successful if you choose to replace a habit, rather than just get rid of it.
Step 4 – Embody the energy of this version of yourself
Now that you have created a new identity for yourself, it is time to feel into the energy of this version of yourself. Firstly, it’s so powerful to embody the energy of the person you are becoming. This can be a little tricky at first, but over time you will get the hang of it. (This exercise is so powerful for any form of manifestation). Allowing yourself to feel like the new version of yourself feels, means that you’re more inclined to act out the behaviours of this new you. You’re also more magnetic to attract the things that you desire in life. All you need to do is think about your new identity, allow the image of her to swirl around in your mind, as you feel how she feels as a result of the life she has created for herself.
Step 5 – Prove to yourself that you have got what it takes
By proving to yourself that you have got what it takes to become this new version of yourself and to make long-term behaviour changes, you have to start implementing the new habits you have assigned to yourself and then track and monitor your success. Research shows that tracking success provides us with even more motivation, propelling us further along on our journey as we can actually see the results taking place. For example, tracking your sober days, weeks and months plus the amount of money you are saving by not drinking is an extremely motivating way to keep you moving forward towards your long-term goal.
Step 6 – Show up for yourself – EVERY day
Your willingness to show up every day for yourself, put one foot in front of the other (even baby steps) and keep repeating the behavior over and over is the glue that binds it all together. You must learn how to have grit and keep pushing forward, even when the going gets tough. Remember to always remain self-compassionate throughout this process.
Step 7 – Celebrate and reward yourself
The final step is always honour, celebrate and reward your achievements, every single day. This can be done in small yet powerful ways such as a nightly meditation or journaling practice when you can ask yourself ‘What have I done today that I am proud of?’. By acknowledging even the smaller wins, you are proving to yourself that you are moving forward in action. Then of course by rewarding yourself even more for the bigger wins, such as a day spa experience for reaching a sober milestone, you are cementing your success permanently in your subconscious. You can do these hard things in life, and you will reap the rewards as a result.
If you feel you need some extra support with your sober journey and how to change your identity through habit, join us for our 8-week course ‘New Year, Real Me’, starting on 8 January!