If your habits don’t line up with your dream, then you either need to change your habit or change your dream. – John Maxwell
Ah habits – some of them good and some of them not-so-good. Like it or not, our habits can have a significant impact on our success at work, our relationships and our overall health and well-being. What positive behaviors do you need to add to your regular routine in order to improve your life?
Habits can be defined as repeated, nearly automatic actions and are typically triggered by contextual cues. For instance, buckling your seatbelt when you jump into the car or listening to the news while putting on your make-up. In order to begin a new habit, we not only want to choose the new behavior, but also choose the situation, time and place in which this behavior will occur.
Prayerfully and thoughtfully consider what new actions you want to invite into your life. These may correlate with some of the goals which you have set for the year. Let’s say your goal is to grow spiritually over the next year, so you want to get in the habit of having a regular quiet time including prayer and meditating on His Word.
Begin by choosing a context for your new habit. In starting a regular routine for spiritual growth, you will need to think about a time and comfortable place where you can be alone. Planning is key, so keep a journal, pen and Bible in that area, then these tools are waiting for you when you arrive. Connect this new behavior with a situation or habit that you already do. For instance allow your first cup of coffee in the morning to be your cue or trigger to go to your special quiet place.
Make simple, incremental changes when you are adding new habits to your life. It may seem overwhelming to set aside a large chunk of time to read, study, meditate and pray. Ease yourself into your new routine by setting aside a shorter period (say 10 or 15 minutes) and then allow the time to grow as you develop the routine into your daily life.
Recognize that “enjoyment” is a key component to starting a habit. Perhaps initially, reading the Bible or trying to pray seems a little daunting or maybe it just doesn’t even seem fun to you. Add a favorite devotional book to your time – something that you can look forward to reading. For me personally, I add a routine of writing down 5 things for which I am thankful. This practice always makes me happy as I recognize the ways God is working in my life. Discover what delights your heart and add it to your new habit.
Creating habits requires determination and self-discipline, but it also has the reward of feeling a sense of accomplishment. Over time, habits become second nature and you don’t have to think about them anymore – they just happen! Most likely you have heard that it takes 21 days to form a new habit, but some research suggests a range anywhere between 18 to 254 days (yikes!). The good news is, studies also show that it only takes about two weeks for a new behavior to feel as though it is a part of your natural routine.
Don’t be discouraged – persevere, keeping your goal in sight. Always remember, you are not alone. Just as we can seek the Lord’s help in curbing negative behaviors and habits, we can also ask for His strength in establishing positive ones. As the apostle Paul wrote, “It is God who is at work in you both to will and to act according to His good purpose.”
Looking for a new devotional for your quiet time? Check out Pursuing God in the Quiet Places which highlights the attributes of God.
Have you already fizzled on your New Year’s resolutions? Join the crowd! In fact, this Thursday, January 17 is officially called, “Ditch Your Resolutions Day.” It’s good to know we are not alone, right? But why do we tend to give up on our goals? Often the reasons are quite simple. Most people tend to:
- Set unrealistic goals
- Set too many goals
- Forget about their goals or lose interest
Let’s consider some practical ways for us to get back on target and stay there. Here are three simple secrets:
- Review at the First of Each Month. It’s difficult to keep the momentum going in September for goals you set in January, so consider revisiting your goals at the beginning of each month. I recommend setting monthly goals instead of yearly goals. Make an appointment with yourself on the first day of the month to set your objectives and think about what you need to accomplish.. Write your monthly goals on index cards and place the cards where you will see them often, or add them as an alert on your phone. You are much more likely to remember your goals if you see them in front of you on a regular basis. Keep your goals realistic and achievable, but stretching and challenging as well.
- Reduce the Amount of Goals You Want to Achieve. A plethora of goals can be overwhelming and set you up for failure, so I suggest that you reduce your monthly goals to simply three. Setting three monthly goals helps you narrow your focus and feel less scattered, plus they are easier to remember and keep at the forefront of your mind. Don’t confuse goals with new habits you may want start (we’ll talk about positive habits in next week’s blog). Goals should be specific and measurable with an end in sight, while habits are routines that you put into action on a continual basis.
- Record your Progress. As you review and refresh your goals at the first of each month, take a look at how you did on the former month’s goals. Write down your accomplishments either on your calendar, phone or your index cards. Celebrate your achievements and revisit the areas that need improvement. Consider the factors that distracted you from your goals and then make wise adjustments for the next month.
When it comes to goal-setting, one of the most important questions to ask yourself is, “What will it take for me to accomplish this goal?” Write some of your action steps underneath each of your three goals. We set goals to help us improve, grow and be more productive. Our end goal should be to use our God-given gifts and talents to honor God and bless others. Let’s be thoughtful and prayerful as we continue to press on toward the goal of our upward call.
If your goal is to get to know the Bible or grow deeper in His word, check out this month’s $5 special. Great for individual reading or group study. Click Here for more info.
Do distractions seem to keep you from accomplishing all that you want to do in a day? If you are like most people, you have great intentions each morning but by the end of the day, the “To Do” List could be renamed the “Most of This Didn’t Happen” List. How can we live each day more intentionally and experience a sense of satisfaction when we finally slip into bed each night? Here are a few ideas to help you make the most of each day:
- Start each day with prayer. Before you hit the ground running, hit the ground on your knees. Find a quiet place where you can be alone, even for a few minutes, to seek God’s direction and ask for His leading throughout the day. Always begin with adoration, praising God for who He is and thanking Him for all He has done. Bring your needs, cares and worries before Him. Confess your sins to Him. Ask His Spirit to guide you and help you discern what is worth doing and what is a waste of time.
- Set boundaries with your distractions. We all have different things that tug and pull us away from what we need to accomplish, so the first way to fight distractions is to identify them. What are yours? Is it a co-worker who always wants to talk or gossip? Is it Instagram or facebook? Perhaps notifications or emails? Write out your top five distractions, and then make a wise plan as to how you can set a boundary for each one. Perhaps it is closing your door during certain working hours or only allowing yourself to look at Instagram at lunch time or turning off notifications on your phone. Only you know the best solution to your distractions, so think deliberately about how to conquer each one.
- Plan your day the night before. At the end of each day, make a detailed plan for the next day. Write down activities such as Prayer Time, workout and meals. Create a schedule and a plan of action for the meetings, errands and work that needs to get done. Certainly we all need to be flexible as plans may change or things may take longer than you expect, but writing down your plan allows you to wake up each morning knowing what you need to do and ready to do it. It also helps you sleep better at night, since you are not worrying or trying to remember all that needs to be done.
- Choose three priorities for each day. As you look over your plan in the morning, choose three items that are essential or most important for the day. Circle them and concentrate on getting those three activities done by the end of the day. Typically, three daily priorities are doable and easy to remember. Plus, by the end of the day you will feel a sense of accomplishment that you checked off the most important things on your list. Whatever you didn’t do by the end of the day, can go on your plan for the next day but at least you know you covered your priorities.
- Set aside power half–hours. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in a half-hour if you set your mind to it. Use a timer. I typically use an old kitchen timer because the ticking helps me stay on target. I choose not to use my phone timer, since the phone itself is a huge distraction. If you need to get a task accomplished, set the timer for 30 minutes and plunge full-focused into your task. No distractions allowed. After your power half-hour, take a break, walk around, check to make sure you didn’t miss any important calls. Then schedule another power half-hour for the next priority task at hand.
Try these five simple tips. Make them into a new habit for the new year and enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that you are seizing each day with intentionality and purpose.
As the New Year approaches it offers us a great opportunity to readjust, refocus and reconsider our priorities and goals. I encourage you to take some alone time to mediate and pray about how you want to approach 2019. Here are some points to ponder as you prepare for the coming year.
Word for the Year – Choose one word to focus on throughout the year. It will help you stay grounded and observant as you consider all that God wants to teach you in relation to that word.
This year my word is Truth. I want to seek the truth, speak the truth, live the truth. I also ask the Lord to lead me to a verse that goes with my word for the year. My verse comes from Jesus’ words, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 This year I plan to dwell on both the word and the verse and consider all it means in my life and my community.
Three Priorities – Consider three priorities for the coming year. Write them down and every month revisit these three priorities and consider how they are playing out in your life.
My three priorities for 2019 are:
Family, Engage Positive Parenting Initiative and Writing
What are your three? Share them with several other people, so that they can ask you about them and keep you accountable.
Seven Questions to ask yourself – As you transition from one year to the next, it is healthy to take an honest look at yourself and consider what needs to change in order to move forward. Here are seven questions to contemplate:
- What are the important lessons I learned from last year?
- What areas or habits do I need to change from last year?
- What new habits do I want to start this year?
- What are some of my dreams for 2019? What is it that I want to accomplish?
- What positive changes will I need to make in order to reach my goals?
- Who are some people I want to invest in or mentor this year?
- Who are some people I want to get to know better this year?
My dad often shared this simple phrase, “Everyday in every way you’re getting better and better.” Yes, we should all be bent on improvement! Let’s move forward, not backward, as we start the new year. I hope it is a great 2019 for you as you focus on the potential of what God can do through you to be a positive influence in this world.
During this Christmas week, let’s turn our eyes to the love God lavishes on us. Last week, we looked at the beauty of God’s love as expressed in the Hebrew word, Hesed. This unique term portrays the Lord’s love for us in such a gracious and powerful way in the Old Testament, yet in the New Testament (which was written in Greek) we see another descriptive word identifying God’s love.
The Greek language has several different words for love: eros which is sensual or passionate love, philia which represents brotherly love, and storge denotes a natural affection. Yet it is the term agape which expresses a strong, altruistic and sacrificial, God-type love.
The apostle Paul elaborated on agape love in his first letter to the Corinthians. Perhaps you are familiar with his description, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” What a beautiful picture of how we are loved by God!
Now we tend to throw the word love around to mean all sorts of frivolous things:
“Oh I love your new outfit!”
“I love cake-mix-flavored frozen yogurt with sprinkles on top.”
“I love the beach.”
“I love this new book!”
What we typically mean is that we really, really, really like something or feel a type of surface-level affection for it. Sometimes we equate love with how we’ve been treated by a parent or a friend or spouse. But God’s love is beyond what we see in human affection. When we examine the definition of love that Paul gave us, we see a love defined beyond this world. We can scarcely comprehend the depth of God’s love. Earthly comparisons of altruistic love leave us lacking in the understanding of the height and breadth of the love of God.
Unfathomable love! John, the disciple who called himself “the beloved one,” wanted Christ’s followers to know how wonderfully loved they are by the Father. To God’s beloved children (that’s you and me) John wrote:
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! I John 3:1
Lavished! Did you catch that word? Lavished; bestowed profusely. God is not guarded or stingy when it comes to His love for us. His love pours out in generous measure. Stop and drink this truth from John into your heart. Allow it to permeate your being. You are lavishly loved with the sincerest, most powerful love imaginable.
That’s what Christmas is all about, God lavishing His love upon us by sending His only Son Jesus into this world, so that He could offer His life for us. What great love! What an unspeakable gift! Thank you Lord for your agape love for us! We celebrate you this Christmas!
This blog is an excerpt from Unfailing Love. To learn more about this book and the $5 special this month click here.