The Identity Switch: A Review

A.J. Winter’s The Identity Switch is another book that promises a lot!

‘Change Your Life by Flipping One Switch in Your Mind

If you could change your life by flipping one switch your mind, what would you alter?

Would you be slimmer and healthier? Would you develop a better relationship with your family, would you earn more money?

It’s time to start turning those dreams into reality…’

I understand that these incredible promises are necessary to sell books in today’s very competitive markets, but they risk a lot of disappointed buyers, since the books are almost always unable to live up to the blurb. The ‘identity switch’ Winters offers, unsurprisingly, involves a lot more than flipping just one switch in your mind!

Nonetheless, leaving aside the sales pitch, was it a good read? I’d say, on the whole, yes.

For those of you who follow this blog, you might remember me saying I’d enjoyed Winter’s free (on Kindle) book The Motivation Switch, which contained a brief trailer for The Identity SwitchThe Motivation Switch was pretty good considering it was free, and so, as The Identity Switch seemed worth a try, at much less than the cost of coffee on campus (which perhaps says more about the exorbitant cost of coffees, especially on university campuses, but nonetheless…!)

The book goes through some very basic steps which can help anyone to improve areas of their life. It takes a very pragmatic approach, and this is its real strength. Winters recognises that, at heart, most of us are very lazy creatures with wavering levels of commitment, and therefore many traditional goal-orientated approaches fail for most people, because they require a level of commitment which we just can’t muster day in day out for months. On January 1st, keen to get fit, we might sign up to a gym, and go along diligently for the first week or too, but our attendance will probably tail off until we reach the next January no fitter than before.

What Winters offers is a realistic solution. It’s a ‘baby step’ approach, quite literally. She suggests we pick one to three ‘baby steps’ in areas of our life where we really want to see change. These have to be things so easy that we’re certain we will do them every day, no matter how we feel. For example, one of mine is doing one press-up a day. I almost never have a good reason not to do just one press-up. And then, if we’ve achieved that baby step, that’s success, but we’ll find we often go beyond it and end up doing more, and that’s why the method works. This approach is then combined with goal-orientated positive statements to provide a slow & steady route to changing our habits. Winters also explains the possible pitfalls, and how to avoid them.

In some ways, the content is common sense, but the framework is far more watertight that anything my common sense has thus far cobbled together, to be honest. So I think it is a useful approach. In theory, at least. My issue, so far, has been mustering even the motivation to stick to this ‘baby steps’ thing in the middle of a busy life.

I read this book about a month ago. I set myself 3 baby steps:
1) When I wake up, turn on a morning offering podcast.
2) One press up a day.
3) Open evening prayer document on my phone before going to sleep.
And each one had a positive statement that went with it:
1) I really like starting the day with serving God.
2) I think keeping fit and healthy is really important.
3) I love ending each day in prayer.
For the first few weeks, I diligently did my baby steps, and yes they almost always led to me going further. I usually then listened to the whole 5 minute faith-based reflection to start my day, did 20 press ups, and said my evening prayers before sleeping. Great. The thing the book doesn’t really address is that my brain knows by now that doing that ‘baby step’ will almost certainly lead to going to whole hog, and so, on days where I’m not really “up for it”, my mind is like “oh no, don’t do that ‘baby step’, I’m too tired/busy/fed up for a morning faith-based podcast/exercise/prayer, I’d prefer to have an extra five-minutes lying in/chill out/go to sleep now.” The good thing is that because, as the book advises, I’ve chosen areas I really do want to change and motivational statements I really do believe, I haven’t given up yet – building in these new daily routines is a harder battle than the book suggests (it makes it sound pretty easy and painless, tbh!), but it’s one I’m still committed to fighting.

I have to say that, as a Christian, I don’t agree with her approach at the start of the book. Her viewpoint is that admitting ‘that our lives could use some improvement’ is ‘depressing’, and that’s why goal-orientated programs don’t work. I believe that admitting that our lives could all do with considerable improvement is liberating, at least within the context of having a loving, hands-on God in my life. I feel great freedom in being able to say “I know I keep messing up all the time, and I’m sorry for all the things I get wrong, and I know I can’t fix any of this mess on my own. But I know You can help me to change and You can enable me to sort things out. So please help me.” I’ve never felt freer than the times when I’ve surrender myself and my life completely into God’s Hands, and just try my best to do His Will in the moment (simple as that), and trust Him to take care of absolutely everything else, and know that whatever happens  it will be within His plan and completely okay. So I don’t share the perspective Winters comes from, at all. I believe repentance is the beginning, middle, and end of Christian life, and something wonderful and freeing, not something burdensome to ignore and deny. But fortunately the practical steps in the book still worked with my faith-based perspective, so I think the book is a good and useful one for Christians and non-Christians alike, even though it clearly isn’t written from within a Christian worldview.

For just $0.99, I think this is definitely worth a read for anyone looking to make some changes in their life or create some healthy routines. And I hope I keep sticking to my ‘baby steps’ and that over time I do manage to create new good habits in different areas of my life. I’ll keep you updated!

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