Day Crafting Today / Breaking the Mold: How to Change Your Identity in a Single Day.

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Breaking the Mold: How to Change Your Identity in a Single Day

When asked how he managed to stay so active and enthusiastic, despite his age, an 80-year-old man said, “Each day I wake up, and I don’t let the old man in.” This moving and powerful quote filtered through to Clint Eastwood (via Toby Keith, a songwriter), and both the quote and the song ended up in Eastwood’s film, The Mule.

I’ve been mulling this over ever since I heard it. Lives can change trajectory in a day, but it is easier to think of examples of that happening to us (or a character in a story) rather than us making it happen. The first day of a new tiny habit or behaviour that nevertheless changed one’s life is not the stuff of memorable stories – but it is important to Day Crafting.

Small Habits, Big Outcomes: The Power of Day Crafting

There are positive, small changes of direction that lead, over time, to dramatically new destinations. These are what get noticed. The day someone buys their first pair of running shoes or the day someone wrote one note in a notebook that later became a book or a new business. Etc. These are days of addition; of starting.

But letting the old man in – or not? That’s something else but no less under our control. Maybe it is the negative version of the positive start. It’s a powerful idea because it describes not just a behaviour change but an identity change.

At some stage, after I bought my first pair of running shoes, the practice of running a few times a week went from behaviour (something that we have to consciously find discipline and intention to stick with) to an identity – which requires far less effort. I do this (a load of behaviours) because I am this (identity).

One day, we saw my mother let the old woman in, and it was heartbreaking. I think it was so hard (but not impossible) to keep her out, and if she let her in (she reasoned in so many words), it would only be for as long as it took the NHS to fix her. But that never happened and couldn’t have done without my mother fighting back. It was a fairly ordinary late winter day during lockdown. She had been finding her only exercise, a daily walk, less appealing. One day we checked on her exercising (she didn’t like to be nagged) and the habit had slipped but at an identity level. Her mobility and frailty nosedived, and within a year and a half, she had died.

Our identities, who we tell ourselves we are and reinforce with behaviours, are very powerful. And yet, we can change them in a day.


The Practice

Imagine you’re looking back on today from five years in the future. How could you complete this, ‘That was the day I became a .....?’. What is the one small action you can take to set you on that course?

Written by Bruce Stanley on Fri, March 17, 2023

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