The Power of Habits
People are creatures of habit. We all have certain ways of doing things that we get used to – whether its daily routines, thought patterns, how your home is organized, your sleep schedule, how much water you drink every day, and even your productivity levels.
These habits we create and cultivate are powerful little beasts. And the frustrating part is, the bad ones seem to come into being without our even trying, whereas the good ones require an incredible amount of intentionality and perseverance.
What we often don't realize though is habits are choices. Although they're often created over a period of time subconsciously, they're still choices that we make volitionally.
How do you feel about this last year? Are you pleased with the overall pattern of your choices? Do you wish you had done some things differently?
Did you pursue your God-given dreams with the passion you always dreamed about? Or did you let things slide, slipping into a rut of apathy? Maybe you didn’t (and don’t) even know how to go about making your dreams a reality – moving from idea to action. Maybe you feel stuck in that rut left from last year.
If this is you, darling, breathe deep, let down your hair, and embrace the warm blanket of Grace. It’s okay.
There’s will always be decisions we regret, and seasons of our lives we feel were wasted, but you know what? Dwelling on your mistakes is only going to drag you down into a pit that has no end – there is no way out of focusing on the past, because it always stays behind us. The only way out is to assess what went wrong, what needs to happen differently, and then make choices in the present – the here and now - while facing towards the future.
So, how about it?
You and me – let’s take some steps towards an intentional new year. Let’s choose not to let bad habits overrun our lives with roads filled with pot-holes leading to dead-ends. Let’s forge new paths that will make our journey this year a little bit easier, with fewer regrets and more beneficial productivity.
Go grab a piece of paper & your favorite pen (we're going to do a fun little writing exercise). I’ll wait.
Got it? Good.
Now, I want you to write down the bad habits that have been really getting to you lately. You didn't mean to fall into them, and you really intended to do things differently that time, but again and again you seem to struggle with these main patterns of behavior.
If you’re feeling stuck just trying to think of stuff, here are some I’ve personally been struggling with for quite a while:
- Checking Facebook, e-mail, & Internet incessantly throughout the day. (I mean legit, y’all, like upwards of a dozen to two dozen times a day. It’s baaaaaad.)
- Putting comfort & pleasure before needs & commitments
- Not writing
- Not exercising
- Going to bed extremely late & therefore waking up late
- Turning to distractions the moment I feel tired or faced with unpleasant tasks or difficulties
- Staying comfy inside my introverted bubble instead of reaching out to the people around me
- Not taking any time to devote my whole attention to the Father in prayer
- Waiting till the last minute to get things done
As you can see from my own list, these bad habits can be actions or lack of action. It’s basically just patterns of behavior.
Your list may look like mine, and it may look completely different. Be honest with yourself and with the Lord. Pray through this.
It’s hard to do authentic soul-searching – it ain’t glamorous work. It’s nitty-gritty and under-cover. It’s just you, your struggles and having to face the unpleasantness of your mess. Face it anyway, knowing that His Love is there to walk with you through the process. There’s redemption waiting for you in the outcome.
Once you have your list down (a minimum of three, but try for 5-7 – NOT being legalistic here, just giving you some accountability), and draw a line across the page (or just get a new sheet of paper).
Now, write what habits you want to be part of your life.
What patterns do you admire in others? What routines have you been telling yourself (and everyone else) that you’re going to implement, or need to implement? Write those down. They may be simply the opposite of your “bad habits” list, or they may take things a few steps further. Here's my list just to jumpstart your imagination:
- Embracing discomfort for the sake of people, of growth, of the Gospel, of what really matters
- Putting responsibilities before pleasure
- Writing daily
- Exercising daily
- Going to bed at a decent hour and waking up early
- Checking Facebook, e-mail, and other Internet sites only at set times and for specific purposes, NOT “just to see what’s new”
- Turning to Jesus in prayer & Scripture for comfort & refreshment when I’m feeling tired, bored, and/or have a list of unpleasant & difficult tasks to attend to
- Making a habit of coming away from everything else to pray without distraction three times a day, like Daniel
- Getting things done as early as possible
Now that you have both lists, you’re openly acknowledging the bad habits that ruled your past and the good habits you hope will characterize your future. The thing is, though, these habits don’t happen by themselves, and old habits cannot be erased.
First, look at your bad habits as habits to be replaced, not erased.
You don’t clear away old habits to make room for new ones – rather, the new ones gradually push out the old ones. So focus on the habits that you do want to be a part of your life.
Second, look at habits as your friends.
They are nifty little tools, when used rightly, and can make your life easier, enabling you to pursue your dreams and actually make things happen.
Now you know the secret power of habits – harness their strength to help you make your world-changing ideas take flight.
It matters. You matter. This is worth spending your time on.
The change you're longing for starts when you are honest, and intentional. Write it down, so you can hold yourself accountable. That’s what it takes to get out of the rut. It’s not easy, but it’s good.
Will you take these steps of courage?
I believe in you. It’s time you did too.
With grit, grace, & gusto,