There are a few times of year where change and new beginnings fit naturally. A new year is an obvious one, and the freshness of Spring is another - but when it comes to getting back into routine, September is my favorite time. With the start of school and the promising comfort of predictable days after a carefree summer, I’m looking forward to my routines and daily habits again. I’ve slacked off a bit with my morning routine through the summer, and I miss how it helped me greet each day with intention.
To give myself a jump start this month, I accepted a friend’s challenge to read the first three chapters of James Clear’s book Atomic Habits. I’ve read countless self-development books and I’m trained as a High Performance Habits coach, so nothing has surprised me in the book so far. Yet it’s helpful to hear things in a new way or from a different perspective sometimes, to help an idea resonate or stick with you.
With that in mind, I’m comparing the first three chapters of Atomic Habits with the High Performance Habits and my own experiences. Perhaps it will nudge you towards getting back into routine with purpose this September.
A common agreement when it comes to habits, is that in order to make a lasting, meaningful change in your life you need to move through three stages: changing the outcome, changing the process (habits and systems), and finally changing your identity. Or, as Clear says, “Outcomes are about what you get. Processes are about what you do. Identity is about what you believe.”
There is no level of change that’s better than another, since they have different purposes and different intentions. They also become intertwined when it comes to creating changes that stick.
James Clear’s book is all about creating the habits (the second level of change) to support your outcome and identity goals (the first and third levels of change). While there is a distinction between the outcome you want and your identity, they’re also very closely linked. This is because your behaviors are usually a reflection of your identity.
When you believe in a particular aspect of your identity, you’re more likely to act in alignment with that. For example, if you believe you are a person who eats healthy food, you’ll drive past McDonald’s no problem because you simply aren’t a person who eats there. Or if you see yourself as a successful author, you’re more likely to spend time each day writing your book. It also works the opposite way; if you see yourself as lazy, you won’t be motivated to get out for a walk each day.
This is why the foundation of my coaching is based heavily on identity habits and goals, and why I spend so much time with my clients seeking clarity on the life they really want. If you aren’t clear on where you want to be, what you want to achieve, or who you want to be in the future, it’s nearly impossible to take meaningful action. Living in alignment with who you want to be is what creates the possibility for that dream future. Thus, when you work on who you are and who you want to be, it dramatically affects your habits and successes.
Atomic Habits teaches you to use small wins to reach the outcomes you want… while also reinforcing the identity you want to achieve. He whittles it down to two steps:
Using the eating healthy example again, you would decide that you are a person that eats healthy food. Then, you start small to prove that you are a person who eats healthy. So one day a week you bring a salad to work. Each week you succeed at bringing the salad reinforces the idea in your mind that you are a person that eats healthy… making it easier to make healthy food choices. This approach makes improving your life easier, and it doesn’t rely on ever-shifting will power.
Over the summer, I fell out of my morning routine a bit, and I really noticed the difference when I didn’t meditate or write in my journal. Yes, a break in routine can be nice sometimes - but when you put a routine in place to help yourself do or feel better, taking too long of a break only hurts you. That’s why I’m taking advantage of the predictability that September brings, and I’m starting to go to bed earlier again. This gives me time in the morning that I need - and want - to get through my morning routine. Curious what I do each morning?
I wake up bright and early, start the coffee, and empty the dishwasher. When the coffee is ready, I sit down to write in my dreams and goals journal, including what I’m grateful for that day. Then I take the dogs for a walk, followed by meditating. All of this gets my mind ready for the day, and keeps my dreams front and center. I believe in my dreams, and my habits are what will help me get there.
If you want to start September (or whenever!) with a solid morning or evening routine that will support who YOU want to be, grab my FREE Good Morning, Good Night Routines guide now.
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