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.

Take 5: Simple Tasks that Make Life Better


A recent challenge I’ve taken on is to take 5 minutes to accomplish simple tasks. Doing this improves my mood, health, relationships (including marriage), and organization. The challenge is to follow through and complete the simple tasks that present themselves during your day.

My Examples:

  • Washing my dish after each meal (inspired by Joshua)
  • Making the bed
  • Putting away clothes after changing
  • Going for a walk
  • Pushups, Pullups, or Situps (see the Thousand Cuts method)
  • Stretch
  • Meditate or pray
  • Show someone I care and send an email or a quick phone call
  • Dance with my wife
  • Play with my dog
  • Pick up around the house
  • Park at the far end of the lot and walk in to the store

You may think “doing this makes my life more difficult, not easier!”

At the time, yes, it is easier to leave my dish in the sink. But I will have to wash it later (along with all the others I left), or load/unload the dishwasher, not to mention pay for the additional water and power to run it!

I’ve grown up thinking a workout has to last an hour, when I can do 10 pushups at a time throughout the day. I don’t consider a quick walk to be helpful, until I feel the sun. I don’t think a quick email or phone call will brighten someone’s day, but it always does. I make up excuses for myself, that I don’t have time to take 5.

I could drop my clothes on the chair, but eventually they need to be picked up, all of them. It’s the accumulation of mess, which is intimidating to me, and so I delay. The absence of clutter is freeing, because you can focus more on the activities I want to do, and passions I want to follow.

When I’m intentional about simple tasks, I’m accepting responsibility for the messes I create. When I can do that for small matters, and follow through to completion, I am ready to accept responsibility for larger matters.

In reality, when I am making excuses and not doing these simple tasks, I’m being undisciplined and passive. It is so easy for me to slip in to this mindset of “It’s not a big deal“. I nearly always have 5 minutes to spare during the day, if I’m intentional about when to use it. There are days that are busier than others, but I believe we can carve out the time. Saying I am too busy is usually a passive lie I tell myself.

What are the simple tasks you want to accomplish during the day? Do you think this is realistic? I will enjoy hearing back from you!

5 Ways to Keep Posting Regularly


On Tuesday, I wrote about pushing through the Dip, or when the novelty has worn off and you need to figure out whether you really want to keep doing – “ya know, whatever it is ya do around here” – Bobs style.

I digress. Here are 5 ways that I try and keep the ideas flowing, and make sure that I don’t get 4-5 days in to a dip without anything to write about.

  1. Write down your ideas – This seems obvious, but you need to do it. Put it in your phone, carry a scrap of paper around, a field notes book in your pocket, whatever. I can’t tell you how many ideas have slipped my mind because I thought about it, and didn’t write it down. We are bombarded with information every day, and your idea probably will not make the cut. Write ’em down.
  2. Outline your idea in a first draft – When possible, take your idea from where you put it, and make a shitty first draft (click to read, and thank you Anne Lamott). Just get it all out there, and edit later. It may take a hundred words of crap to get to what you want.
  3. Write multiple posts a day – If you’re in the zone, keep writing. Just like you’ll have days where it’s a struggle, you’ll have some days where everything just flows out naturally, and you’ll feel like you can hardly type fast enough to get everything down. Of course, these days are rare, so take advantage of them!
  4. Stick to a schedule – Now, you must resist the urge to post multiple times a day (unless you’re a big deal and writing is all you do). Personally, I want to post 3-4 times a week, or every other day. This gives me a solid 15 posts a month, which isn’t too overwhelming for me or the good folks who subscribe. If I fill up their inbox 4 times one day, and then don’t post for a week, that has to be annoying. Be consistent. All of these steps build on each other, and give you content to write about when you’re in a dip.
  5. Ask for help (guest posts, reader requests) – Finally, be willing to ask for help. I’m sure someone would be willing to guest post for you, or do a poll to discover what  topics your readers would like for you to cover. Likely they will ask about something in your sphere of knowledge, or they won’t, and you can expand that sphere. A great part is you’re getting involved with people.

Incidentally, this post followed the rules listed. I thought of it a week ago, wrote it down on my phone, drafted, edited, and waited. As life turns out, the topic actually meshes with yesterday’s post on the dip, and is a nice segue.

I hope these rules help you out with your writing, and I believe they can help in work as well. For instance, keep a running file or word doc of your ideas, and keep throwing a couple out every meeting. Nobody wants to hear all 10 of your ideas at once, and you don’t want to implement 10 ideas starting tomorrow. Just get a couple out there each week, and get ready to make something happen!

What are some of the rules you follow for staying consistent in work, creativity, and life?

Southern Ground: 5 Independent Coffee Shops I Love


I love coffee. I first started drinking it regularly during my summers at Rockmont, but this infatuation did not start in earnest until I graduated college. Coffee has become a welcome daily ritual, something warm, and a drink to gather around. I’ve begun to even have particular roasts and regions I’m fond of, developing a bit of snobbery around it. Hey, if you’re gonna drink it, enjoy it.

Since I travel a good bit, I also have come to enjoy the coffee shop, especially local places with funky art on the wall and banana bread from down the street. I’d much rather give them my $2. It’s great to track these places down, and return each time I visit the city. To go back gives a sense of place that helps me settle in. Along with a cup of coffee.

Here are the top 5 I have frequented over the past 3 years.

Dynamite Coffee, Black Mountain, NC:

This is my hometown roaster and shop. It’s a small place, because most of the building is dedicated to the roasting process. Fine with me, because it smells fantastic. Favorite blends are Suplicar Clemencia and Winter. They take mail orders if you’re interested.

The Frothy Monkey, Nashville, TN:

Frothy is the best coffee house I’ve been to, meaning the actual building, warmth, and decor. They also make great specialty drinks, like the banana hot chocolate. It’s located in the fantastic 12 South Neighborhood of Nashville, I could spend all day there shuttling between Frothy Monkey, 12 South Taproom, Burger Up, Mafioza’s Pizza, and Corner Music.

Jittery Joes (on Broad St), Athens, GA:

Athens is perhaps my favorite college town, even slightly moreso than my beloved Gainesville. There’s good food, the music scene is great, and locally focused. Jittery Joe’s is one of the big reasons for that, you must swing by and grab a cup if you’re in town. I recommend the main roasting site on Broad St, because of the smell, the building, and it’s not overrun by college students. Plus they make the best coffee labels, great art!

Grassroots Coffee, Thomasville, GA:

I really like this place. It’s in the historic district of Thomasville, very old, comfortable spot where I can relax and get plenty of work or reading done. Like most of these places, they also roast their own coffee, giving the shop a great vibe. Last time I was there, they also had a book-borrowing service set up, which I like.

Volta Coffee, Gainesville, FL:

A fantastic and modern coffee shop in Gainesville, FL. As you can see from the picture, Volta has a very clean, sharp look that facilitates stuff getting done. The folks at Volta take their coffee very seriously, which I am a big fan of. The other great thing? They are involved with UF and their community, hosting Pecha Kucha nights and UF MFA poetry readings. Gotta enjoy that.

Honorable Mention:

That’s my list, what’s yours? I would enjoy hearing about some places that I have missed.

5 No Equipment Exercises to Keep You Fit


Since I’m on the road a decent amount, and have grown bored with traditional gyms, I’ve gone back to the basics of movement and using body-weight (BW) exercises to stay in shape. The great thing about any of these movements is that they require no equipment or special space. They can be done in your living room, hotel room, or the local park. The only thing stopping you is YOU.

  1. Running – Just lace up your shoes and go. Anytime, anywhere. Start with what you’re comfortable with, maybe it’s 10 minutes, or run 4 minutes walk 2. Just get out there.
  2. Push-ups – The most common BW exercise. Make sure your body stays in alignment from shoulders to heels. If the reps get too much, put your knees on the ground and keep going.           
  3. Burpees – You should just watch this video to get the idea (mute your volume if you don’t want to hear the rock music). A great workout!
  4. Form Squats – No need for weight, simply keep your back aligned, feet apart, and lower at the knees, butt coming straight down.
  5. Core WorkSit-ups, 6 inch Killers, Planks, Russian Twists, Supermans. There are several BW core exercises, mix it up to keep your muscles guessing.

For a good list of no-equipment workouts, check this out ( via the good people at Carolina CrossFit in Columbia, SC).

5 Christian Writers Who Aren’t Famous, But Worth Reading


A couple weeks ago I posted a list of 5 Christian writers who were breaking the mold of what was expected. Thing is, those guys were pretty famous already. So I wanted to give you a list of writers who are making a difference in their communities, and have thoughts to share on it.

Ryan Taylor – Ryan is the Director of Access Denver, and has great thoughts on the gospel and what it means for us in our daily lives. In his bio, Ryan says what has been driving him the past few years:

In the past few years I’ve been inspired by modern day monastic-like thinkers such as Shane Claiborne who are rethinking the posture and practices of the church in present day culture, seeking to be like Jesus through honest confrontation of injustices, helping the poor and hungry, and doing it all together within Christ centered community.

Check out his blog and work at TallMonasticGuy.typepad.com

Shawn Marler – Shawn is a co-worker of mine, so I’m a little biased. I do believe though that Shawn has a good heart and eye for the scriptures, and is especially good at analyzing the text and being a student of it. Which is good, since he spent the last few year getting his Master’s of Divinity from Erskine. You can read his blog here.

Dave Gardner – Dave is also a friend of mine, and is currently on the 4th month of the World Race. World Race is not a game show or reality TV like The Amazing Race, but it is reality in the freshest sense, because Dave is visiting 11 countries in 11 months, doing God’s work every step of the way. He is a talented writer, interning at Yahoo Sports, writing for various online publications, and even turning down a job out of college in order to follow where God was leading him. Reading his blog of the work God has him doing around the world is inspiring. Follow his journey here.

Mike Todd – I have to admit I haven’t read a ton of Mike’s stuff, but what I have I enjoy. I found him through Ryan’s blog, and have been reading intermittently since then. What really grabbed me was this line in his bio.

What can I say? I have a story like everyone else. After a dozen years on Bay Street wearing a suit, tie and Bostonians, my wife Sue and I sold off, packed up and moved out to North Vancouver. Now the corporate uniform is fleece and hiking shoes. I split my time between Linwood House Ministries, blogging, a little construction work, and hanging out with the whatever – our little faith community where we are trying to figure out what it means to be apprentices of Jesus Christ. We’ve tried being believers, but we’re no longer convinced that’s what He had in mind.

Read more from Mike here.

Rev. Shannon Kershner – Shannon is the pastor of Black Mountain Presbyterian Church, which I have frequented on several occasions. She is a fine teacher of the gospel, and very direct in her sermons. I always feel equally affirmed, questioned, and challenged after hearing her speak the word. Sadly, she doesn’t blog yet, but you can find some of her writings and podcasts here.

Do you have any additional writers or speakers that can be added to this list? I would love to hear about them. Thanks!

5 Christian Writers Who Break the Mold


What mold? I think the public considers a stereotypical Christian writer to be in one of these categories:

  • Fire & Brimestone.
  • Get Right or Go to Hell.
  • I’m Better Than You.
  • Your life would be better if you weren’t sinning so much. Sinner.
  • If you believe in God everything will be fixed and you’ll be rich with an attractive spouse! Oh, it’s not? Well then you’re still sinning too much.

I don’t want that to be the case for the Christian writer. Are there grains of truth in those categories? Yes. But they don’t paint a full picture of the Gospel. Of course, none of us can in our human language and minds, but here are 5 writers that are prayerfully moving towards it, paintbrush in hand.

Francis Chan

Francis has written several books, including Crazy Love, Forgotten God, and Erasing Hell. All of them have been deeply moving and convicting for me, with Crazy love topping the list. Francis write with a sincere heart, challenging questions, and biblical clarity. His books are very well researched in scriptural content, but also in the historical context of the day. You can visit his main site or his blog.

Rob Bell

Rob has caught a lot of flack from believers because of his latest book, Love Wins. I’m still formulating my own opinion of it, but like most issues, I’ll take some and leave some. I don’t think as black and white as I used to, and thus don’t need to fully dismiss a person because I don’t agree with a part of what he says. Who fully agrees with any one person anyway? I will say that Rob has written some books that have been very important for me and my walk with God, especially Velvet Elvis. His NOOMA video series is very well done and thought-provoking. As with Francis, Rob’s books are well researched, both scripturally and historically. The bottom line is that he will challenge your beliefs in a healthy way. Visit his main site or the Mars Hill Church site, and follow him on Twitter.

Donald Miller

Along with Rob, I read a few of Don’s books when I was in college and soon after. Blue Like Jazz had a big impact on me, and I saw ways that Jesus was relevant in this day and age. The story of his reverse-confession booth at Reed College, and his friend’s tithing jar are still meaningful to me today. I have also read Searching for God Knows What, and my brother Mark raves about Through Painted Deserts. Read Don’s blog here and follow him on Twitter.

Richard Rohr

Richard Rohr writes some deep, soul searching books. They have a lot of depth to them, certainly not bedtime or beach reading. You have to be ready for it. That being said, he has written a lot things that have been very meaningful to me. Rohr’s main focus is Male Spirituality, what Jesus taught, ways it showed up in mythology, and the Hero’s Journey (via Joseph Campbell). I have read a few of his books: Radical GraceWild Man to Wise Man, Adam’s Return, and Preparing for Christmas. Being a male that is still developing, and working with young men ages 6-22 at Camp Rockmont, it has been very helpful. His reflections on poverty, hitting bottom, simplicity, and daily living have also been great. Check out his work site, the new blog, and follow him on Twitter.

Shane Claiborne

Shane’s writing introduced me to possibility of living in poverty as a way of ministering and living in God’s light. Shane has done amazing work in Philadelphia’s inner city, living in a co-op called The Simple Way. He has great points on living in a Godly community, what that community looks like, God’s message to the poor, sharing resources, and communal finances. His breakthrough book was The Irresistible Revolution, and combined with his trademark dreadlocks, made him a person of interest to a Christian community desperate for someone to relate to their youth. Shane tries to shy away from Christian Rock Star status though, preferring to be in Philly. Definitely worth reading about, and following him on Twitter.

That’s my list for now, do you have anyone to add?