How to Develop Good Habits (and not drive yourself crazy)


We all have habits we would like to change or develop. Patterns of acting, eating, exercising, learning, or creating. Even worse for us is the maybe the lack of certain habits or patterns we wish to have, along with bad habits, like biting our nail (guilty).

But rather dwell on our bad habits, let’s make temporary peace with the shadow sides of ourselves and talk about developing good habits, patterns, and practices. Now, this isn’t a a sure-fire, 21 days to mastery post. That doesn’t really exist. The real nitty-gritty of worthwhile patterns takes longer, but we can definitely begin moving in the right direction!

My quick list of 5 habits I would like to develop (in no particular order), and why.

  1. Eat healthier – It’s good for me, I feel better, and have more energy.
  2. Play the guitar better – I like to play around people, it’s fun, and I love music.
  3. Read more – I always have loved reading, simply would like to read even more.
  4. Write diligently – I feel that I can write well, and have a story to tell.
  5. Dedicated time for Bible reading & prayer – It’s a lifeline for me, the most important, yet often neglected, practice in my life.

From my experience, all of these habits are not like snapping your fingers. They are difficult! I also experience that worthwhile habits are not the easiest to develop, as I’m sure you have as well. Humans, all the way back to Adam, look for the quickest way to success and happiness, usually at our own downfall.

I’ll quickly break down my own reasons for not developing these healthy habits.

  1. I like sugar, processed food tastes good, and it’s easy to prepare (or lack thereof)
  2. My fingers hurt and I don’t sound like David Wilcox after 10 minutes
  3. But Modern Family is so funny! As Jim Gaffigan says “You know why I like the movie more than the book? NO READING
  4. I’ve been writing for 3 months and no book deal? Screw this!
  5. It’s too early/late, the weather is too nice/bad/rainy/snowy/hot/cold, I haven’t had coffee/food/tea/ice cream, any of the above excuses will do. And of course… because I’m afraid of what I’ll be asked to do.

So that’s it. I would encourage you to do the same for your own hopeful habits. I think most of us are closer than we think, and the last steps to take are the most difficult. They are the steps that put you out in public, make failure possible. You’ll be sitting in Subway with a veggie sub, explaining why you’re reducing your meat consumption by 95%, heading towards 100%. You’ll be talking about how you turned off your TV satellite at the beginning of football season. Or the creeping terror of talking about your faith.

And then I will be overcome with guilt for my relapses, as you may be.

STOP IT

Let’s make a decision to move towards our true selves. If you would, make a short list (I find I become overwhelmed by all my inadequacies), and break down why you want to make each one a habit, and what holds you back.

Next, decide on incremental ways to turn your hopes in to habits. Maybe start 1 at a time, and go for a month with regular practice. Don’t try and do everything at once! For me, it’s to play the guitar for 30 minutes, 5 times a week. Next month, I’ll give up a TV show a week, and read for an extra 30 minutes.

Most of the time, when I can break the cycle of a bad habit or passive attitude towards development of a good habit, it loses power over me!

Just as important is to realize that when you slip, that the slip does not define you! You cannot give that action the power to whisper in your ear “See! You’re not good enough to make this change! You’ll always be the (fill in the blank badness) that everyone knows you are!”

Yes, it happened, you slipped. I fall down daily (in a spiritual sense, but sometimes physically too), and need to be reminded that my failings do not define me. I can think “Yep, that happens” and move towards wholeness and my true self.

Now it’s your turn. Join me! What are the habits you would you like to develop or break? I encourage you to find someone to help hold you accountable and check-in on your progress. And let me know in the comments, Google+ or Twitter!

Have a great day.

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