2020. What a year. With a vaccine on the market, many people are feeling more hopeful that the worst of the pandemic will soon be behind them. We can all take a collective sigh of relief. At least, there is some form of light at the end of the tunnel. Still, for most, 2020 has put us through the wringer. Children have grown accustomed to school via Zoom, we now get anxious when we watch an old movie and see people who are not social distancing, and we’ve had to learn how to move forward with everyday life while a pandemic rages on around us. As we enter a new year, it’s the perfect time to reflect on the past year, reorient ourselves for the year ahead, and begin the groundwork to have a fruitful 2021.
One of the books I read (ok, skimmed) during the pandemic was Atomic Habits by James Clear. I always prefer hard copy books that I can mark up and make my own, but living in Uganda I often resort to digital books. Shoutout to the Libby app for coming through for me while living overseas.
I got a little highlighter happy in this book, latching on to every word Clear put on paper. I’ll be the first to admit what he shares isn’t exactly earth-shattering, but his framework does help shift your mindset for the better. I’ll do my best to regurgitate some of the key points that stuck out to me, but do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of the book at your closest library or wherever books are sold.
What are your New Year’s resolutions?
Right now, that question is making its rounds. The problem with New Year’s resolutions is they are a lot like goals. I would like to lose 20 pounds. I want to spend more time with my husband. I prefer to eat better.
Setting goals is a good thing, but we often neglect the steps we must take to reach those goals. As stated in Atomic Habits, “Goals are about the results you want to achieve. Systems are about the processes that lead to those results.”
When we focus on the systems, we are more likely to successfully achieve our goals.
“Imagine you have a messy room and you set a goal to clean it. If you summon the energy to tidy up, then you will have a clean room — for now. But if you maintain the same sloppy, pack-rat habits that led to a messy room in the first place, soon you’ll be looking at a new pile of clutter and hoping for another burst of motivation. You’re left chasing the same outcome because you never changed the system behind it. You treated a symptom without addressing the cause.”Atomic Habits
This paragraph punched me in the gut. I love a clean home, but I am not the tidiest of people and my husband will be the first to tell you. Let’s say I finally clean up all my clothes scattered around on my bedroom floor. I might feel accomplished and drag my husband into our bedroom so he can praise me for finally picking things up and putting them in their places. However, if I don’t create systems around putting my clothes in their proper places in the first place, I’ll face the same problem again in two weeks. And the cycle continues to repeat itself.
Who do you want to become?
“Many people begin the process of changing their habits by focusing on what they want to achieve. This leads us to outcome-based habits. The alternative is to build identity-based habits. With this approach, we start by focusing on who we wish to become.”Atomic Habits
Achieving a goal is fleeting. Once you meet that goal what happens next? A few years ago I trained to run a half marathon with my dad. I did a great job setting my running goals each week, running close to ten miles before the day of the half marathon arrived. After I finished the half marathon, I plateaued. I achieved my goal and I didn’t know where to go from there because it was an outcome-based habit, not an identity-based habit. Instead of becoming a runner, I ran to meet the goal of finishing a half-marathon.
“Your habits are how you embody your identity. When you make your bed each day, you embody the identity of an organized person. When you write each day, you embody the identity of a creative person. When you train each day, you embody the identity of an athletic person.”Atomic Habits
During the tail end of 2021, I told my husband I wanted to be an active person again. This time, it’s not about achieving a goal for me, but about being active instead of a couch potato. Now, we run 2.5 miles four days a week and it’s just become a part of us. During our marriage, we discovered how much we both enjoy hitting the trails on bicycles and we finally bit the bullet and bought two bikes so that we can continue to build a healthy lifestyle.
We want to embody the identity of people who are not only active but take care of the one body God has given each of us. I’m not proud to admit this but every week I would buy Coke to drink during dinner. I can’t tell you the last time I purchased a large Coke because I am trying to do a better job of asking myself, “What would a healthy person do?”
So as you look towards 2021, I would ask you, “Who do you want to become?” Once you know who you want to become the next step is to identify what kind of small habits can you start that align with the best version of you?
In 2021 I want to become a person overflowing with creative ideas that enhance my writing, who is physically active, willingly generous, and hungry for more of God’s presence and power in my everyday life.
What about you? Who do you want to become in the days ahead? I would love to know in the comments below.
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