I remember when I first started running how reluctant I was to call myself a runner. “Runner” was just not my identity – I was a soccer player who used running to get in shape. My habits and activities and very sense of self were intimately connected with the game I had played since I was 8 years old. It was not until I began putting my running pursuits first that I began to consider myself a runner – a shift most noticeable when I changed my email address from soccer Teri to runner Teri. The long process of identifying as a runner followed my change in habits.
But what if I had wanted to become a runner and what all of that meant in a purposeful way? Or now that I would like to be an adventurer? How do you do that? Is it possible? Do you just stumble into it? Do you have to be born with those qualities?
The book I am reading right now, “Atomic Habits” by James Clear, is all about this question. He argues that to become the person we want to be, we have to START by identifying as that kind of person. Want to become an ultrarunner? Call yourself an ultrarunner, and then, as you make your daily choices and work on your habits, ask yourself, “What would an ultrarunner do here?” Maybe an ultrarunner would run a little farther or make a different food choice or work strength training into her day. Do those things. And as you strengthen that identity in yourself and choose those habits, you gradually become that person you wish to be.
“Every action you take is a vote for the person you wish to become.” – James Clear
I’ve been reluctant to call myself an adventurer. It feels a little conceited, and I feel like an imposter. But if Clear is right, and I have to admit, it makes a lot of sense, I need to call myself an adventurer if I want to become one. I need to ask myself, “What would an adventurer do today?” and make those choices that help me become that person. It’s a powerful idea, and it helps me understand more clearly why writing these posts and taking on these challenges are important for me to do.
To assume a new identity, Clear says there are two things you need to do.
- Decide the type of person you want to be.
- Prove it to yourself with small wins.
It’s powerful stuff, really. So instead of being afraid to call myself the things I really want to be, I’m going to embrace those new identities. Skier. Adventurer. Backpacker. It’s the only way I will actually become those things!