How to Fail at Building Good Habits... and How Not to Using Prudence
Building habits requires investing time and energy up front to reap the benefits in the long run. Just like investing money, your investment of time...
Building habits requires investing time and energy up front to reap the benefits in the long run. Just like investing money, your investment of time and energy compounds leading to the fullness of life Jesus has in store for you.
Part I: Where can you go wrong?
Maybe you didn’t think it through with God in prayer. Perhaps you focused on what you would do rather than your desired result. Did you consider why this mattered to you and those you care about? Did you make a plan to remove and/or overcome the obstacles that would inevitably get in your way? Did you try to be someone you’re not rather than person God made you to be? You “failed” because you set yourself up to fail.
“Failed? You haven’t failed. You’ve gained experience.”—St. Josemaria Escriva.
So fail, learn, and move on.
You got so worried about making a bad decision that you never made any decision. “I could do this. I could do that. Ooh, what if I do that? But what if...” You’re stuck in your own head, never doing anything. De-cide in Latin means to “cut off,” to cut off the possibility of doing anything other than what you decided. Feel the pain of staying the same. Let yourself hit the threshold of saying, “Enough! I’ve had it. No more. This has to change now, and I am the one to change it,” take action!
Five frogs were sitting on a log. Two decided to jump off. How many were still sitting on the log? 5 because there’s a gap between decision and execution. Even worse, there’s often a lag time between execution and results. You’re being tested to see if you’ll keep taking the right actions even when you don’t see immediate improvement. This is where resolve comes in – your grit, determination, tenacity, stick-to-itiveness that says “I will not give up. I will not be denied.” Then there’s the worst irresolution of all. When you start to see results, and you slacken your efforts until you have to start all over. Yuck.
Part II: Making a Prudent Decision
That’s right. Think it through, bring it to Jesus in prayer.
Ask yourself: What’s most important to me right now? What’s most important to Jesus right now? What area of my life would my heavenly Father want me to focus on: body, mind, heart, spirit, family/friends, work/career, stewardship/finances, giving? It’s very tempting to spend time in an area you’ve already mastered. What if God is calling you to improve an area you’ve neglected for far too long?
Know yourself: Are you a morning person or a night owl? Do you prefer routine or spontaneity? Do you like to dive right in or do you prefer to have an “on-ramp” to a new activity? Which temperament did God give you? These questions, and many others like them, can help you see how to build habits in a way that works for you.
Build on success: What good habits do you have right now? How did they develop? Are there some commonalities? How can you learn from these past experiences to set yourself up for success this time?
Wait. “What? I thought you said don’t get stuck deliberating.” Yes, I know. There’s a balance. Some people need a kick in the pants. Some people need to put on the brakes. Some situations will work themselves out without any – or hardly any – effort on your part. Particularly if your decision is to meddle in someone else’s life, then the right move might be to wait and see what God does. Waiting can also mean preparing. Prepare your body, mind, heart, spirit, community, and environment for the change that’s coming.
What do you want and why? God’s will for us is found in our deepest desires. Grab a pen and paper (or use your phone). Write what you want and why you want it. Not actions you’re going to take. Dream. What’s the result you want? If you had a magic wand, how would you design this area of your life? If this area of your life was that way, what would that give you? What emotions would you feel? Who would you become? How would that impact your loved ones? Create a compelling future.
Brainstorm: Our God is a God of Abundance, a God who provides for His children. If you think about your vision, who could help you with advice, knowledge, tips, encouragement, accountability? If you don’t know already, remember: success leaves clues. Your challenge is probably not new. Use Google to find someone who’s already developed the habit you want to build. Also consider your internal resources: courage, determination, confidence, joy, caring… This is just to give you possibilities. You’re not committing to doing anything… yet.
Pick your 3-to-thrive: From your list, choose 3 things you know will have a significant impact. For example, in the area of your body: breathing, sleep, regular activity OR hydrate, flexibility, core strength. These may not be one-and-done, but recurring themes you come back to in order to make progress.
3. Execute the plan
"Decide what to be and go be it." - The Avett Brothers
Set yourself up to win: Right now, there might be a bad habit or a limiting thought that’s stopping you. And it’s really easy to get caught up in. How can you alter your environment to make it hard? Or nearly impossible? Maybe it’s time to throw out the junk that’s holding you back. I didn’t even have to say it, and you knew. And let’s make the new habit easy to do. Want to journal? Buy/dig out a journal. Put it where you’re going to see it every day… multiple times a day. Put it on the kitchen table/counter. Put it where you sit to watch TV. Put it on your pillow so you can’t go to bed without seeing it. Make it hard to NOT journal. Put your new habit’s “paraphernalia” front and center. Make it unavoidable. Let it remind you of your new habit or goal.
Schedule your 3-to-thrive: Put your 3-to-thrive in your calendar. Set reminders. Set them up to repeat. Set up an appointment with anyone who’s going to help you. NEVER leave the site of a decision without taking some action towards its achievement! Get off the log, silly frog!
You’re not going to do this perfectly. So what? Perfectionism is the enemy of progress. You’re building. You’re growing. You’re getting better. Who cares if you’re not “perfect”? Your Father cares about you. He cares about your growth. He cares about your joy. In His eyes, perfection is getting up every time you fall down, coming to Him with your cross, letting Him hold you in His arms.