How Intentional Habits Can Change Your Life

To become is a decision to be. To be is an act, an intentional habit. We are what we decide to be. And eventually, what we repeatedly do. Being a verb, an action word. You do being. How? By deciding. The “decision to be” sets us on a path of good habits. Then comes the ongoing process — “what you repeatedly do.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson could not be more right, “The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

Every single day, you repeat habits, big and small. You choose that extra snooze button or that sunrise jog. You choose kindness to a stranger or impatience with a loved one. These decisions and actions are seemingly insignificant, but they build the foundation of who you are.

We are born with a certain temperament and a set of predispositions, but those are just the raw materials. You are in the driver’s seat. Every time you repeat a choice, you reinforce it. You become more compassionate by consistently showing compassion.

You become more courageous by consistently taking those scary leaps. You become reliable by consistently following through on your commitments.

Our repeated habits, then, become the building blocks of our being. They forge pathways in our brains, etching behaviours into habits. These habits, in turn, shape our character and define who we are.

“Life is not a having and a getting, but a being and a becoming.” — Myrna Loy

Change is a slow, deliberate process, an accumulation of tiny habit and decisions. Want to be a better listener? Actively choose to be present in conversations. Want to be more organised? Decide on a system and stick to it, even when it feels tedious.

Being is a work in progress.

“The moment in between what you once were, and who you are now becoming, is where the dance of life really takes place.” — Barbara De Angelis

We are never truly finished.

A decision to change, to act differently, can set us on a new course, reshaping ourselves. But it all starts with that initial decision: “This is who I choose to be today.” But being isn’t enough. You can choose to be a decent human being, kind and polite. But to truly come alive, you must add another dimension: becoming.

Becoming is pushing yourself beyond your circle of influence. It’s the decision to evolve, to learn, to grow consistently. It’s choosing to stretch, fail, pick yourself up, and try again.

Becoming refines your being, changing you into the best version of yourself. We are all constantly evolving, whether we actively choose it or not. But the difference is intention. When you make conscious and intentional decisions about your habits, actions, you steer the direction of your becoming.

An ongoing cycle of becoming

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death,” says essayist and writer Anais Nin.

To be is to decide what you repeatedly do. We are not finite beings, locked into a single version of ourselves. As we learn, grow, and experience life, our choices evolve. We revise which repetitions serve us best, constantly refining ourselves. The ongoing cycle of decision and action is the nature of existence.

Existentialists argue that existence precedes essence — we are not born with a predetermined identity. Instead, we create ourselves through our choices in a meaningless world. That means the responsibility of self-creation is on our shoulders.

Taking ownership takes responsibility.

We can’t blame genetics or circumstance for our habits, choices, good or bad. We become responsible for our best versions. True becoming requires commitment, the resolute decision to repeat better action despite the inevitable internal resistance and external obstacles.

“If you want to change attitudes, start with a change in behavior. In other words, begin to act the part, as well as you can, of the person you would rather be, the person you most want to become. Gradually, the old, fearful person will fade away,” writes psychiatrist William Glasser.

Glasser encourages us to take small, manageable steps toward becoming who we want to be. With each successful act, confidence grows, and one’s perception of oneself solidifies.

Change doesn’t require grand gestures or monumental willpower. It starts with a single, deliberate action, a commitment to act “as you can” according to your desired future self.

A decision to become a writer is a powerful thought signal. But to truly become a writer, you put pen to paper and write day after day. The act of writing, the repeated commitment, is what transforms you into a good writer, the person you want to become.

The same principle applies to any skill you want to master– from coding to athletics. Repeating positive actions like exercising, learning a new skill, or expressing gratitude solidifies behaviours into habits. The habits then shape who we are — a healthy person, a lifelong learner, a grateful soul. Each time we resist habits that bring out the worst in us, we weaken their hold on us, paving the way for our self-becoming.

“Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow, and the day after that. Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you’d be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in. Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become.” — Chris Hadfield

The process of becoming is not always linear.

Sometimes, we stumble into patterns unintentionally. A series of reactive behaviours might solidify into habits that contradict our intended self. Complete control over our being might be an illusion. Our desires, shaped by our experiences and environment, influence our decisions. External forces can limit our options.

But we can still choose how to react, how to act and who we become. Conscious reflection of our actions and their outcomes can help us identify patterns that no longer serve us. We can then make new decisions, create new habits, and course-correct the trajectory of our being.

To become is to decide to repeat habits that contribute to your becoming. It’s a philosophy, a mantra. It’s how I’ve taken ownership of my life.

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