I gave up coffee for over a month.

Doesn't sound impressive - and it certainly isn't, - but it was a big change for me.

On a typical morning I used to start with 2 or 3 Nespresso shots at breakfast, following that up with filter coffee, or Aeropress coffee, and even more shots during the day.

About half a dozen coffees on average.

I've been a habitual coffee drinker for years now, long enough to become a Coffee Person with all the associated paraphernalia: fancy beans, grinders, and an assortment of coffee making machines.

It becomes part of your identity eventually.

Things you do repeatedly will tend to have that effect, but it's not just habits that you integrate, it's your successes and failures too.

Notice how people who are good at lifting heavy things but bad at following a diet often call themselves "powerlifters"?

Or how people who aren't gifted at building muscle tend to fetishise compound lifts and claim bicep curls are only for the vain?

And how about people who completely self-destruct when following structured diets, don't they typically become "intuitive eaters"?

It's because forming a stable identity requires some kind of opposition, something to push back against to define the boundaries of who you are.

For me coffee was the foundation of my morning routine, it was part of the scaffolding of my day. It was like a placeholder that allowed other things to line up. A default when there was nothing else to do.

But I think it was also a way of pushing back against people who say coffee is unhealthy, or that it ruins their sleep, and saying fuck you to boring nutrition people.

So why did I give it up?

I had dental work done and was advised to avoid any foods that might stain my teeth for a couple of weeks.

I invested time and money in my teeth, so there was no question I would follow the advice.

Apart from a couple of days with headaches, I didn't notice anything different, except not knowing what to drink... Water, I guess?

Productivity didn't change. Sleep didn't change. Workouts didn't change.

And shockingly, I realised I could probably do it forever.

When you discover that your identity is fungible, - that rather than being fixed it's more like a stream of consciousness which continually explores and redefines itself, - you are free to change things that you thought were essential.

I never used to be a morning person. I became one and in the process realised that the time I woke up didn't matter so much as having a purpose for each day.

I was never organised with my time. I became organised and discovered that organisation was easy when I was clear on what I wanted to achieve.

It's not habits in isolation that are the key to change.

It's that habits open up your mind to new ways of seeing yourself, allowing you to let go of the person you were before, including all the limitations you put on yourself.

But if all you have is a collection of habits, you won't get anywhere. That's like collecting building materials and hoping a house will emerge without you doing anything with them.

If you're trying to change your situation, start by looking inwards before trying to change all your habits.

Find out who you want to be, and who you don't want to be, first.