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