The Importance of Habits

Several weeks ago, I hurt my ankle playing soccer. It was not the first time I had sprained my ankle. I have sprained my ankle 5 or 6 times. Sometimes worse than others, but it has happened about every year for the last five years. Every time after I sprained it, I put ice it, put on a brace, and do ankle building exercises that I find on the internet. However, after about a month, my ankle is better, and I entirely stop all ankle stretches and exercises. I will not do them again until I hurt my ankle the next year.

What I have found in my life is that many times our habits or disciple is like my ankle exercises. We oversleep that important meeting, so we decide to make a habit of getting up early. We fall into sin, so we try to make a discipline of reading our Bible every day. Someone comments on our weight or appearance, so we decide to workout several times a week. We fail a test, so we decide to make a habit of studying for several hours every day. The problem is that many times these are not habits. They are reactions to something that has happened in our life. They only last about a month, and generally, we think that we have fixed the problem. However, reactions do not help us achieve our goals. Here is a great quote I heard about this. “Whenever there is a gap between your habits and your goals, your habits will always win.” I want to share with you a few things that I am trying to do to create and maintain habits.

Starting with the small things

I am sure you have heard about the speech of a soldier who said if you want to succeed in life, you should make your bed every morning as soon as you wake up. That might be oversimplifying life, but the truth is that the little things are what determine the big things in our life. It has been said, “Every action is a vote for the type of person you wish to become.” If you oversleep, you are voting for yourself to become a late riser. If you waste time and slack on the job, you are voting for yourself to be a slacker and lazy bum. If you are always looking at your phone, you are voting to be a person who cares more about social media than the people around them. If you don’t keep your word, then you are voting for yourself to be someone that nobody trusts. The little things make a difference.

Not setting the bar too high

I think a problem many times when we start a habit is that we set the bar too high. I recently read about a man who never flossed his teeth but one day decide that he should so he made a habit of flossing one tooth every night. If he felt like doing more, he could, but he would at least floss one tooth every night. He started with something sustainable, and I would bet that he is still flossing at least one tooth a night. We should set attainable habits. You might not be able to do a thirty-minute family devotion every day, but you can do a 5-minute family devotion. You might not be able to write a long journal entre every day, but you can probably write one sentence. You might not be able not to exercise for an hour, but you can do 5 minutes of exercise.

Reviewing your habits every week

I try to take an hour or two every week to consider what I accomplished or in what I failed at during the week. I think that we always have to be making a course correction. When I was taking lessons to get my private pilot license, I learned a lot about course correction. If the plane were off a few degrees from the direction it was supposed to be going, I would end up miles away from my destination. So, every couple of minutes, I would have to make a course correction. I think it is the same in our lives. We have to take time on a weekly or a monthly basis to check to see if the habits in our life are helping us reach our goals. If we do not see the results that we want, maybe we should change our habits in our life.

“Your current habits are perfectly designed to deliver your current results.” – James Clear

Thoughts on Using Our Time Effectively

We are living in strange times. Because of the coronavirus, millions of people around the world are in quarantine. They are not allowed to leave their houses or strongly recommend not to. I have just completed several weeks of quarantine and hopefully only have one of two more. Because of this, I have realized more than ever that I don’t use my time very effectively. 

I recently read a book that said that if your task for the day is to write twenty letters, then it will take all day. If your task for the day is to write one letter, then that will take all day as well. We tend to adjust our time to fit the tasks that need to be accomplished. The problem is that when we are in our houses and cannot leave, there is not a whole lot of things that we HAVE to do. So we end up spending all day on a few things that would typically take us a couple of hours. Here are a few things that I am trying to do to use my time more effectively. 

I am planning out my day the night before. If I take the time to write down my schedule for the next day, I tend to wake up more motivated and excited about accomplishing my goals. You can write it on your computer, on your phone, or in a notebook. It doesn’t matter where but the important thing is that you write out a schedule. 

I am breaking down my schedule into 1-hour blocks. I remember several years ago, a very busy pastor explaining to me that he had his day broken down into 30-minute blocks. That blew my mind at the time, but now I realize the value of assigning every hour a task. One day I may be busy enough to switch to 30-minute segments, but for now, 1-hour blocks work well for me. I think an hour block is a perfect amount of time because it is short enough to allow you to focus without getting tired but long enough to enable you to accomplish something of value. The critical thing is that you should know what you should be working on or doing every hour of the day. 

I am prioritizing my top three tasks. If you don’t get anything else done, but you accomplish your top three priorities, then you will probably achieve a lot in your life and reach your goals. I have been trying to take three Post-it notes every night and writing my top three things that I need to accomplish the next day. I then stick them on my desk, and I see them first thing the following day. After I accomplish each task, I will throw that Post-it note in the waste bin. If it is getting close to the end of the day and I still have one of those Post-it notes left on my desk, I know what needs to be accomplished. 

I am planning breaks. Most of the time, if I say that I am going to work for 4 hours straight, after two hours of working, I will be reading the news, checking Facebook, or messaging my friends. However, if I work for 55 minutes and take a 5-minute break and then do that four times, I am usually very productive during my work time. Set a timer and don’t look at new messages or the internet for 55 minutes, and you will be amazed at what you can accomplish. 

Here are a few ideas of some things to work on if you have extra time. 

  1. Read the Bible – It is God’s Word, and it will change your life. We have more time than ever to read it, so maybe we should take the next two weeks and read the entire New Testament. 
  2. Read books – that will help you grow. Read a book about time management. Read a book about leadership. 
  3. Jornal – I use an application called Day One, and I try to take some time every day to write something that is happening in my life or something I am learning. You will look back in the years to come and see how much you have grown and will be able to remember the process that brought you to where you are today. 
  4. Write – I have decided to attempt to write more blog posts with my free time, and my just this week wrote a kid’s books. You can only improve by trying. 
  5. Get Ahead – There are many things that we can get ahead on. Maybe you could read all the assigned books for this semester in the next week. Perhaps you could write and schedule blog posts for the next year! I have been working on scheduling social media posts for my Facebook page through the end of the year. I won’t have to think about that for another eight months! 
  6. Organize – I recently went through about two thousand books in Spanish and organized them so that a group of missionaries and I would be able to use them better. 
  7. Exercise – take one of your hour blocks and do 30 minutes of exercise. Even with the warmup and showering after you will be done well under an hour and will feel much better and more motivated to work on your other projects.  
  8. Clean – clean your office, your desk, and your house. It won’t take that much time, and you will feel more motivated to get things done. 
  9. Spend more time with your family – Plan on doing things with your kids or wife. I have found that my being in the house does not equal me spending more quality time with my family. 
  10. Do something that you have always wanted to do but have never had the time to do – Maybe you could start a podcast. Maybe you could memorize a chapter of the Bible. Perhaps you could read through the entire Bible if you have never done that before. Perhaps you could do a thousand pushups in a day. (This is what I did) 

I think sometimes we assume that this is wasted time, but I would argue that we can use this is a great way to grow in our relationship with God, grow in our relationship with others, and attempt things we would never have. We must be intentional about how we use our time, or like most things not managed correctly, we will waste it. 

Learning to Fail

I think one of the greatest things that I have learned in the nine months that I have been on the mission field is that failing is good. I am not talking about being a quitter. I am not talking about not putting the effort or planning in, but I am talking about continuing to do what you know you should do even though you know that you will make mistakes and fail. I am learning that one of the most significant barriers to growth and success is the fear of failing and making mistakes. 

I grew up in a home with eleven siblings. Yes, that is right, including my parents, we were a family of fourteen. It was a great experience, and I enjoyed growing up in a big family. My family is very competitive, and we love playing sports. As you might guess, this instilled in me from a very early age the desire to win. We generally had a great time, although occasional games ended up in punching matches or with the monopoly board thrown across the living room. A majority of the games that ended up in fights were because of me. I would get furious if my team did not win, or if it looked like we were going to lose. I think I have learned how to control my anger much better now, although it tends to come out in a family basketball game ocassional. I am telling you this to say I have a tough time being neutral about sports or anything in life. I don’t like losing. I like winning. 

We may express this in different ways, but I would guess that a majority of us would say that we like winning, and as a natural result of that, we don’t like losing or failing. We have such a love of winning that we feel sad or depressed when our football team loses even though we did not play, and we were not at the game. We are so consumed by winning that we let a game hundreds of miles away affect us. We don’t like to lose under any circumstances. It is not entirely wrong to want to win, but the biggest problem with this is that many times the fear of failure prevents us from taking the steps to winning in the long run. I have recently experienced this in my life and it is one of the things that I struggle with on a daily basis. I am currently in language school learning Spanish. My goal as a missionary for the past nine months and the next year or so is to learn Spanish. I know that winning means that at the end of two years, I will be able to teach, preach, and speak fluent Spanish. However, every day there is a fear of failing. If I do go on this trip with only Peruvians, do you know how many times I will be corrected? If I do practice my Spanish with my friend this afternoon, I am going to make a lot of mistakes so it would be easier to study for a message. If I do preach this sermon, I am going to say some words wrong, so it would just be easier to stick with teaching the memory verse as I have been doing. If I do teach this class at Bible College, there will be times I will not be able to put into words what I want to say. It would just be easier to knock doors because I pretty much already know what I am going to tell them. However, I know that I must embrace failing in these small things to learn and win in the long run. 

The tendency is to try to make ourselves look good in the short term and not put ourselves in a situation where we fail. The problem with that is that after a year or two goes by, sure maybe we haven’t had many embarrassing moments, but we are about to have the hugely embarrassing moment of not reaching our goals or growing at all. I don’t know what your fear of failure might be, but if it is necessary or helps you reach your goal, you should learn to love failure. Maybe there is a new skill or language that you want to learn, but you are afraid of failing, so you study on your own and never tell your friends or ask for help from someone who could really help you. You don’t practice in real-world situations because you don’t want to make mistakes, and so after two years, you can barely speak or have hardly any practical knowledge of the skill you wanted to learn. Maybe you have a desire to start a ministry or to win people to Christ, but you don’t want to fail, so you decide you will wait to see when God will open the door. Two years later, you have done nothing or very little. However, if you had decided to embrace failure, you would have started a ministry and tried many different ways to win people to Christ. You would have failed and made a lot of mistakes. Maybe people at the church would still be talking about some of the stupid stuff you did. BUT you probably would have seen someone saved and shared the Gospel with a lot of people. Learning to overcome your fear of short term failure will allow you to see long term success.

Failure is not the opposite of success; it is part of success 

I honestly do not want to publish this article right now because I know that my writing skills are not very good. Still, I have decided to try to live what I preach, so I am publishing this not so great article with the hope that one day after many failed articles, I will learn to write a good one.

I Will Look to God!

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills From whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, Which made heaven and earth Psalms 121:1-2 

I will look unto the Lord for my help. When I am facing things that are hard and difficult I will look to God. I know that my help comes from God. I know that He is the one that made me and created the world. We should not look to other people of things when we are in trouble. We should look to God and to Him alone. 

Praise God!

Seven times a day do I praise thee Because of thy righteous judgments Psalms 119:64

The Psalmist said that he praised God seven times a day. He praised God because of his righteous judgement. He praised God because God is worthy to be praised. How many times do we praise God in our lives? Are we looking for ways to praise Him or are we looking at all of our problems? Are we praising Him? When was the last time we praised God seven times in a day? Are we praising and rejoicing in Him?

God Hears Us

In my distress I cried unto the Lord, And he heard me. Psalms 120:1 

When the psalmist was dealing with things in his life where did he turn? He turned to God! In his distress he cried out out and God heard his prayer. What our we dealing with in our lives? Are we crying out to God? Are we looking to Him for our help? We should know that God will hear us! 

God’s Word is a Lamp

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, And a light unto my path. Psalms 119:105 

The Bible is a lamp for us! It is the light that shows us the way. It is the thing that guides us and helps us find our way. Without it we do not know where we are going. It keeps us from falling and losing our way. It shows us the truth. I hope that I am using the Word of God as a lamp and light!

Sweeter Than Honey

How sweet are thy words unto my taste! Yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Psalms 119:103 

I was a beekeeper growing up and I have had the chance to take a chunk of honeycomb and eat it. It will almost give you a headache from how sweet it is. It is by far the sweetest thing that I have tasted. The Bible compares the word of God to honey. It says that God’s word should be sweeter than the honey. It should be something that we desire and crave for! It should be something that we love and want. Do you have a desire for God’s Word?  

Better Than Gold and Silver

The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver. Psalms 119:72 

What value do we put on the law of God or the word of God? Do we think that it is some nice suggestions that God has for us? Do we think that His word is a motivation book that helps us live our lives better or do we think that God’s law is worth more than everything that we posses? Do we think that God’s Law if worth thousands in gold and silver or do we think that what he has written is a nice decoration for our coffee table? What value do we put on the Law of God? 

Vanity

Turn away mine eyes from beholding vanity; And quicken thou me in thy way. Psalms 119:37 

The Palmist here is asking God to help him turn his eyes away from vanity. Sadly, many times today all we are focused on is vanity. We care more about our football team than what the God of Heaven wants. We think more about our car or our toys than we think about how we can serve God. Where are we looking in our lives? Are we looking at vanity or are we looking to the Lord of Creation?