To change behaviour you first must change identity
“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.”
― Oscar Wilde, De Profundis
I have spent the last few years trying to understand identity and its impact on us. I am led to the conclusion that if we want to change ourselves or another then the only way that will happen is through a change in identity, a change in the way someone sees themselves. For someone to take on a change and for it to be long-lasting there must be an identity change. That is why Identity is at the heart of my Human identity Matrix. When we understand how someone sees themselves and the world around them, it is easier to effect change.
This is why I believe most interventions fail; they don’t take identity into account. If I fail to see things the way you do, I will never be able to effect change.
Imagine we are all in a room with scissors, glue, cardboard and a mass of magazines. We are asked to cut out pictures that ‘speak’ to us. This is often done in vision-boarding exercises. We cut and stick and all end up with entirely different creations. These creations, while they may tell me what you want in your life, will also show me how you see yourself and how you see your identity. While you may adore your family, the pictures may be of you alone, indicating freedom perhaps. If I want to change the way you interact with your family I might need to link it into freedom, for example.
We are all fundamentally different; we all put different emphasis on things, different importance on certain items. And while I may know drugs and drink are bad for me and I should eat five fruit or vegetables a day, unless becoming healthy becomes part of my identity there is no way I am going to ever change my behaviour. ( and no I don’t do drugs)
I’ve never been a fan of one-size-fits-all interventions precisely for this reason; they don’t change how I see myself and my behaviour will only change when I see myself differently.
Identity is complex; its ever-changing and ever-shifting small and large events can shape the way we think about everything. There is probably not a person out there who hasn’t learnt something about themselves during the pandemic, something about what is important to them. But these changes can happen when someone passes a simple comment our way, or someday something just snaps and we see ourselves differently.
The Human Identity Matrix seeks as best it can to understand what has an impact on identity, what we have control over, what we don’t and what area if we work on might have the biggest impact. It searches for the impacting actions that an individual can take and the opportunities that a society or government intervention can take. It seeks first to understand someone else’s point of view before it even offers any suggestions. It doesn’t assume to know anything, it doesn’t assume that expertise is any more important than personal experience and it doesn’t profess to know more.
I’m convinced that if more people worked this way, then change would last longer.
But in true Sarah style, I don’t want to tell you, I want to show you how this works over the coming weeks, so I’m going to show you by committing to change something about myself and walk you through The Human Identity Matrix to show you how it works. You can play along with me or just watch from the sidelines, but I highly recommend you play along as it will really help your understanding of the system.
I’m going to start with health, an issue I have always struggled with. I am going to show you how health is so much more complex than you initially thought. I’m going to unpack everything that impacts my health and walk you through the actions and opportunities. I am going to change not only my personal health but my whole identity.
You can follow along on the blog or sign up to my code-cracking notes 9 see below), where I’ll be documenting this process weekly.