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Identity, Values, Behaviors, Oh My!

Last week I talked about how our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are connected in a continuous feedback loop: thoughts affect feelings and behaviors or actions, feelings affect behaviors and thoughts, and behaviors affect how we think and feel.

In a similar vein, there is a strong connection between our identities, values, and behaviors. Your current identity - how you think of yourself right now - is key in shaping what you value at this point in time, and therefore what actions you are taking.

By thinking about what values are shaping your actions, and what identities might be shaping those values, you can see how your current behaviors make sense – even if they aren’t necessarily the behaviors you’d like to be doing.

You may also find that your goals aren’t in alignment with your current identity and values, which makes it much more challenging to implement the behaviors that will lead to the desired outcomes. But with a little exploration, you can discover where there might be a mismatch between your identity, values, behaviors, and goals.

And by making small changes, you can not only adapt your goals to align with your identity and values (and make it easier to practice the necessary behaviors or actions), but you can also experiment with creating a new identity to help you implement behavior change.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started:

What identities are influencing your behaviors? What values are influencing your behaviors? (E.g.: you identify as an engaged parent, so you show up at every one of your kid’s sports games or school events. You value being healthy and strong, so you schedule time for three workouts a week.)

Are there environments that help you create the identity you want? Or hold you back from creating the identity you want? (E.g.: the group of friends you have who smoke while you want to quit. The group fitness class that encourages you to show up at the gym.)

Are there goals that align well with your identity? Can you shape your goals so they fit your identity and values? (E.g.: you value and identify as a hard worker, but you also want to get more movement into your day...could you arrange a walking meeting? Get a standup desk? Take a few short breaks to walk throughout the day so you’re more productive and focused?)

Can you “try on” a new identity to help kickstart a behavior? Experiment with what behaviors this “other” person would do? Play pretend and try something new! (E.g.: try a cooking class to test run what it feels like to be someone who cooks. Take a short hike to experiment with what it’s like to be outdoorsy.)

By looking at how your identity and values shape your behaviors, it becomes clear how your current actions are a result of how you think of yourself and what you value, and how your current goals may or may not match up at the moment.

And by modifying your goals, your identity, or even the environment that helps shape your identity, you can exert a powerful influence on the behaviors and actions you take on a daily basis.

My own experience with this goes back to when I was a teenager: I did not exercise or pay attention to what I was eating, but I desperately wanted to identify as someone who was fit and healthy and strong. My current identity (out of shape, non-exerciser) did not match up with my goals, and so my behaviors stayed the same.

To help myself implement the change in behavior I would need to reach my goal, I had to “try on” a different identity and act as though I were someone who valued exercise, good nutrition, and a healthy lifestyle. I wanted to be a runner (and also someone who was an early riser vs. sleeping in late), so I started experimenting with those actions, getting up early each morning and going for a run.

I also adapted my goal, realizing that I couldn’t go from where I was to where I wanted to be overnight. Instead of expecting myself to just wake up one morning and be able to run a few miles, I modified my goal to fit where I was actually starting, taking walks with short jog intervals that got a little bit longer each day.

My environment changed as well - I went to college where I had access to a gym, was surrounded by other people who practiced healthy habits, and had the opportunity to experiment with a different identity because no one really knew me yet.

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was leveraging the power of my identity, values, and goals to become the person I wanted to be, that did the behaviors I wanted to do.

Once I got all my ducks in a row, and aligned my identity, values and goals, it was much easier to take action.

This connection between identify, values, actions, and goals is deeper than you may think. Taking a look at your current identity and values – and considering how that impacts your behaviors or matches up with your goals – can be a great step towards getting from where you are to where you want to be!

How would you define your current identity? Your values? How does your identity and/or values shape your behaviors?

If you’re feeling stuck and need help getting started, coaching can help: send me a message or schedule your free consultation call today.

...for your free 30-minute consultation, or visit to get started!

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