SSS #170: On Changing Your Identity


How'd the first week of 2023 go for you?

Things are firing on all cylinders over here

  • We got 2 offers out this week
  • We had our 2nd design meeting for the new cons project
  • Luca is going through an incredible growth spurt
  • I started training for a half marathon in April

More on that last bullet below.

Livin' La Vida Luna y Luca


Their teachers sent us this collage of a spontaneous photo shoot.


A little more than a week ago, one of my college buddies asked if I wanted to join him for the Jersey City Half Marathon on April 23rd, 2023.

I've been flirting with the idea of putting a race like this on the calendar for a while. Doing it with one of my oldest friends is going to be awesome. 💪🏽


It didn't take me long to lace up my shoes and start logging some miles. I'm going for another ~3 miles later today.

Now That I'm a 🏃🏽‍♂️

This past Thursday morning, Dia and I stopped to grab a coffee after dropping the kids off at school.

As we were walking towards the cafe, I remembered I wanted to ask her about borrowing her Apple Watch for my runs.

She barely uses it anymore, and I wanted something to track my heart rate.

I started my question with, "Oh, by the way, now that I'm a runner..."

  • She quickly interrupted with, "BAHAHAHAHAHAHA - NOW THAT YOU'RE A RUNNER?!?!?! WHO ARE YOU!?!?!?!?"

She almost fell to the floor from laughter.

I laughed with her. It was a funny way to open a simple question.

And on any other day, I would have filed this hilarious moment away into the box of "Stupid Shit Sunny Says".

If not for later that same day when I listened to a podcast where Tim Ferriss interviewed James Clear (Atomic Habits), and my recent actions were put into words in a way I would never have been able to do myself.

In the episode, James says, "The key to building lasting habits is focusing on creating a new identity first. Your current behaviors are simply a reflection of your current identity. What you do now is a mirror image of the type of person you believe that you are (either consciously or subconsciously). To change your behavior for good, you need to start believing new things about yourself. You need to build identity-based habits."

^^ Read that again. Slowly, please. ^^

OK, so what does it mean? Or, maybe a better question is how do you put this into practice?

James says it's a two-step process: First, you must decide the type of person you want to be. Then you prove it to yourself with small wins.

Every small action you take is a vote for the type of person you wish to become. No single instance will transform your beliefs, but as the votes build up, so does the evidence of your new identity.

The Story Matters

If you're going to make an attempt at changing your identity, it starts with the story you'll tell yourself.

For example, "I'm the type of person, who doesn't miss a workout." - or -

"I'm the type of person who turns off his work devices after 5 pm"

Most times, it's rather difficult to adopt a new identity. Especially if it feels like you're moving backward or sideways.


Change is OK!

^ This is mostly advice to myself.

I often catch myself being really reluctant to change.

Let's take my "fitness journey" for example.

I did CrossFit (sometimes competitively) from 2011-2020. Then Covid lockdown hit so I had to take a break.

Then Luna was born so I could no longer prioritize spending ~2 hours on my gym routine (including travel and showering after) every morning.

It took me months to let go of, "I'm a CrossFitter", and transition into "I'm a person who does regular bodybuilding-style workouts in 45 minutes or less in the fancy-ass gym of our apartment building."

That identity lasted for 2 years, and just as soon as I started to enjoy it, we moved again and had Luca.

Our new apartment's gym is dingy and doesn't open until 6 am. That's too late to get a decent workout in before the kids wake up (~630 am).

It took me 8(!!!) months to let go of "I'm a person who works out in the morning" before transitioning to "I'm a person who doesn't miss a workout, even if that means going to the gym after the kids go to sleep at night."

I'm sure when this "season" of my life is over, I'll have to let go of this identity and transition into something new again.

You MUST Show Up

James Clear shares a simple question we should all be asking ourselves, "What would people say about you if they couldn't hear you, but could only see you?"

I love this question because it's an introspective bullshit detector - are your actions aligned with your words?

Even the smallest actions make a big difference, which is an idea I tend to forget.

For example, say you want to adopt the identity of being a person who does transcendental meditation, but you can't find 20 minutes 2 times a day to do it the "right" way.

Could you start by showing up for 60 seconds every day for a week? Then 60 seconds twice a day for another week. Then maybe a few minutes in the morning and a few minutes in the evening. etc. etc.

Once you’ve mastered the art of showing up, increasing the scope is much easier because you’ve adopted an identity as the kind of person who does that thing.

April 23rd, 2023

By then, I'll have mastered showing up on my current thing.

When I cross that finish line and Dia hugs me and congratulates me, I'm going to look her dead in the eye and ask, "Am I a runner now?"