. . . and Habit

Have you ever thought about your identity?

No, not your name and social security number, not the “identity theft” kinda way.

I mean, the “who are you at the core” way… the “I’m an artist” kinda way.

OK, I may have just terrified my entire audience with the thought of having a clear declaration of creative identity!

Sorry, not sorry.

The thing is, if you want to achieve anything, you really do need to expect it of yourself, AND identify yourself as the type of person who is capable of “being” that!

Let me say that again:

You must identify yourself as a person capable of being that! Identify yourself as “that.”

I know what you’re thinking – LAWDY! She’s gone all woo-woo on us!

Let me explain.

This “identity” concept popped up on my radar several times in the last few weeks. . . from different sources and in different ways. And I’ve learned if an idea keeps popping up, I should pay attention.

First a podcast, then a book, then a documentary, and then an email. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the universe is trying to tell me something…

What I’m hearing is – If you’ve ever tried to make some positive change, and failed, the reason might not be willpower or lack of motivation…it might just be a problem with “identity.” What you wanna “DO” simply doesn’t match your current self-identity.

OK, I’m stealing that line directly from the email I got because it describes the problem to a “T.”

For us creative types who are struggling to be consistent with our craft, to stay inspired, to organize our ideas, or remain “motivated,” it may not be motivation at all. A close look at how we talk to, and about, ourselves might be warranted. It might be how we identify ourselves! Hmmm, go fig!

A related idea that arrived in conjunction WITH identity is this idea of habits. I don’t know who said it but maybe you’ve heard it before: “First you make your habits, then your habits make you.” Habits are repeated behaviors that are learned (and can be unlearned-thank goodness!) Whether our habits happen by accident or on purpose, we gotta pay attention…because if they make us..well……YIKES!

“We are what we repeatedly do.”


So, if you’re trying to make it a habit to get into your studio and work, it may take a lot of strength and resolve to make it stick. Why? Because your old self isn’t goin’ down without a fight! “That’s not me” it says. “I’m not the type of person that is in the habit of…..” Ooops!

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear describes the three tiers of any type of behavior change: change by way of outcomes, change by way of processes, or change by way of identity.

So, let’s use our creative pursuits as an example. An “outcome” goal might be “I will paint two pieces each week.”

Maybe as easier method would be to set a process goal – “I will paint three times a week.”

But both of those goals still depend on you being the type of person that gets in there and does the work – regularly – repeatedly – ya know, as a habit.

Which brings us to…

The most useful way is to adopt a new identity -“I have a creative mind that is open and curious, intelligent, and craves practice and expression.” “I am a working creative.”

So how do you adopt that identity?

Excellent question. It won’t happen over night but with a little fore-thought and gentle persuasion, it can happen.

Ok, so let’s recap – If we are what we repeatedly do, and if we make our habits and then they make us, then we better pay attention to what we are saying to ourselves and about how we identify ourselves.

Here are some odd but effective ideas to try. See what works for you. (Full Disclosure: No therapists were consulted in this study and I did absolutely no research to back it up – other than personal experience, a lot of reading and laughter, and possibly gin!) However, I can attest, they do work!

Truth Serum (a.k.a. Ability vs Choice)

In the past, I often found myself saying things like “I can’t ever seem to stick with writing every day.” Or “I just can’t get motivated to go into the studio and spend an hour on my art.” In those instances, I just identified myself as “someone who can’t or doesn’t.” Ooops! And, if I say it often enough, the Universe will say back to me “…heard ya the first time!” and I will indeed BE a person who can’t… can’t get motivated to do art, doesn’t find anything creative to do.

So now, if I am struggling with motivation, I ASK MYSELF: “Am I someone who actually CAN’T do this or am I CHOOSING not to (for whatever reason)?” The answer is very clear. I’m choosing not to because I’m bored, because it’s hard, because I don’t know what to do next, because I simply don’t want to….OUCH! Being truthful with myself is the key to a new identity. The good thing is, if I’m simply making a choice, I can simply choose again. Problem solved. (Simple, but not always easy.)

Name That Tune (a.k.a. Callin’ What It Is)

This one is for the tough love crowd out there. If you tend to be overly harsh and self-deprecating, ya might want to skip this one. This isn’t about belittling yourself. It’s about being frank and honest with yourself. I’m fine with this one. I can be honest with myself because I also have a healthy sense of worth. Taking the same examples from above, if I find myself slacking, whether out of boredom or lack of motivation, I state the identity that is being demonstrated by my current actions: “I am not the type of person who spends time on my art even though I say that’s what I want.” “I am not the type of person who writes to support her business even though I know it will help my business grow.” Oh dear! That’s NOT the person I want to be! (But it’s how I’m acting, let’s be real!)

This usually leads to a tough realization, much like a tough lesson on a therapist’s couch. It may not be what I want to hear, but it’s what I need to hear. By hearing that identity (what I am currently BEING) I can change it to BECOME what I want. Tough love indeed!

Time Travel (a.k.a. The Eulogy Method)

Okay, Okay, I know it sounds a bit morbid, but hear me out. You’re not really going to time travel (or write a eulogy!), but what if you COULD go into the future, have a chat with your older self, and then come back to course correct?

If I were sitting down with myself just before I shuffle away, what would I regret? How would I want to be remembered? What would be said at my eulogy?

Most people regret the things they DIDN’T do more than the things they did. Using the same examples above, and the identity concept, I tell myself I would want to be remembered as someone who did what she said she would do. I would want to be remembered as someone who lived by her true nature and lived fully, was a great artist, a good businessperson, and helped a lot of people discover their own creative greatness. Well then, to have that, I must BECOME THAT! Identify NOW as that and act the way a great artist, businessperson, and mentor acts.

That’s the great thing about your identity. If you are that person, you will act like that type of person. Decide now what your identity is, figure out how that person acts, and go for it!

So, who are you?

What is your identity? Who do you aspire to be – and how does someone like that act? Tell us in the comments. You are what you repeatedly do.

Join me in my free Facebook group for more encouragement, and to share your identity.

2 thoughts on “Identity”

  1. Jennifer Wygal Millett

    I am a wonderful fiber arts spinner. I am becoming a great tatter. I don’t know what those fall under but my good habits are growing with drawing, tatting, spinning, knitting and hopefully more on the way. And I’m proud of how far I have come. Thank you Virginia for all your confidence building techniques and weekly uplifting updates to provide that motivation to keep those good habits alive. 💕💕

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