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Identifying with Your Goals & Creating Change

3…2…1… Happy New Year!

It’s the time of year we all associate with setting goals and changing habits. While there’s nothing magical about January 1st, some people thrive on the fresh start that the new year brings.

If it’s natural for you to set goals, resolutions or intentions for the new year, we want to talk about another way to think about setting and achieving those goals. Oftentimes in order to achieve a certain goal, you have to change your habits. In order to change those habits, you may have to also change certain behaviors. According to James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, behavior change has three layers:

  1. Changing your outcomes - this relates to making changes in order to achieve specific results, such as fueling for better performance, or training for a race distance you’ve yet to conquer.

  2. Changing your process - this relates to changing your habits in order to meet the outcomes related to the goal you’ve set.

  3. Changing your identity - this relates to changing your outlook, and letting go of the assumptions, biases and beliefs that may be holding you back.

A concept that Clear describes is to build what he refers to as “identity-based” habits. These are habits that you identify with as a part of your personality, and create a change in your habits to become the person that achieves the outcome related to that identity.

For instance, let’s say you have a goal of wanting to become a better fueled athlete. This is your outcome. In order to achieve that outcome, you likely need to change your current processes, or habits, in order to accomplish this goal. Part of your process change may include adding a pre-workout snack, or perhaps dialing in your post-workout nutrition. Now, if that’s something that you haven’t done before, or have tried but have had trouble sticking with, it’s time to think about what you need to believe (or not believe) in order to make yourself a person who always fuels before and after workouts. One of Clear’s suggestions is to think about the “small wins” that go with the identity-based habit you are trying to establish. So in our example, if your identity is to become a better fueled athlete, then a small win toward that identity would be to have a carbohydrate-containing snack before every run (ideally one with about 25-30 grams of carbohydrate, if running less than 60 minutes).

Another example would be having a goal of wanting to become a stronger runner. In order to achieve this outcome, a process change may include adding strength training to your training regimen. Using the “small wins” concept mentioned above could look like starting with 10 minutes of strength training 2x a week. As you adjust to this, the volume and occurrences can be increased.

In short, instead of only focusing on what you want to achieve, start shifting your focus on who you want to become. This mindset will help you to prioritize the process instead of just the end goal. Whether you are a current athlete, or just starting out, or maybe you have a solid understanding of your nutrition needs but need accountability, taking the steps outlined above can help you grow into and achieve the outcomes you set for yourself in 2023 - and beyond!

Reference: Clear, J. (2020, February 4). Identity-based habits: How to actually stick to your goals this year. James Clear. Retrieved December 28, 2022, from

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