Photo by Ben Sweet on Unsplash

A couple of years ago I read a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear. He tells the story of a friend who went on a weight loss journey. To begin this journey his friend started a habit of going to the gym. At this point you might be thinking, “Well, of course he did.” But here’s the kicker, he never went in. Every day he drove to the gym and parked in the parking lot.

What a strange thing to do, I thought. It surely didn’t make any sense to me when I initially read it. I stopped and pondered why would he do something so strange before continuing to read. I wanted to try and figure it out. For the life of me, I couldn’t. It just didn’t make any sense.

Eventually, as you would expect, his friend began going into the gym. But, he didn’t work out. He just went in. Then, he started exercising but only did one set of one movement. Then he left. But, then he started working out regularly and changed his physical state of health.

What was happening in this story?

This man was changing his identity.

When he started his journey he was not someone who exercised. To become someone who exercised he needed to become someone who went to the gym. He wasn’t that guy either. He had to become a person who went tot he gym before he could become a person who exercised. So, at the most basic of levels he became a person who went to the gym.

This story deeply resonated with me.

I had begun figuring out my why. I was beginning to learn what it meant to love me. But, there was a second question that I needed to wrestle with, “Who am I?”

What kind of person am I?

I began to work through a series of “I am…” statements related to health.

I am a spiritually healthy person. What does this mean? What does a spiritually healthy person look like? What kinds of practices does a spiritually healthy person have in their lives?

I am a relationally healthy person. What does a relationally healthy person look like? What kinds of relationships do they have? How do they orient their time? What kinds of boundaries does this person have?

I am an emotionally healthy person. What does this look like? How do I lean into working on emotional health? Are there signs of not being emotionally healthy that need to be addressed?

I am a physically healthy person. What kind of person is physically healthy? What is true of this person? What practices are in place for a person to by physically healthy?

Notice that these were statements followed by questions. They were not questions followed by more questions. I began to change the way I thought of myself.

I am…

As my self-identity began to change things became easier and easier.

When I went out to dinner I would look at the menu and ask myself, “What would a physically healthy person order here?” Then I would order that because I am a physically healthy person.

Self-identifying as a “physically healthy person” also helped getting physically active much easier. On the many mornings that I don’t want to hit the gym I think to myself, “A physically healthy person goes to the gym. I am a physically healthy person, so I will go to the gym.”

As I grow in my new self-identity as a healthy person (spiritually, reltionally, emotionally, and physically) I find making decisions to be easier. I am also finding that there are other things that are beginning to happen. For instance, part of my new identity is that I’m a person who goes to they gym three days a week and lifts weights. That’s who I am now.

In the past, I was a person who was on a diet.

Diets are something that end.

As a person on a diet I would eventually become a person not on a diet. This meant that when I wasn’t on a diet I would typically revert to old habits and undo much of what was done on the diet.

I am a person who is healthy. This never stops. It’s a new way to of being. This way of being lasts beyond reaching any particular goal.

Pursuing a way of being is not goal driven. It is journey driven.

Who am I?

That’s the question that shapes the journey.