Four years ago, as of the writing of this post, I completely changed my eating habits. Four years ago, steak was my favorite food. I was a radical red meat eater! I also loved butter and put butter on everything! I also was not putting enough healthy fruits and vegetables in my body. Four years ago, the day after Thanksgiving, all that changed. I swore off ALL meat and dairy. I became a vegan! This year I finally I added fish occasionally back to my diet. Other than that I have stayed the course, and it has changed my life! The process wasn’t easy. The fruit has been worth it. How was I able to make such a radical change in my life? A proper understanding of habits and how to go about changing them has made all the difference in my ability to change. The same will be true for you in whatever habit you need to change!
I am more convinced than ever before that we change or fail to change, grow or stop growing, achieve or stop achieving, succeed or fail to succeed, largely due to our habits.
Our success (or the lack thereof), will largely be based on our habits! TWEET
Dictionary.com defines a habit as “an acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.” Based on this definition, here are five key characteristics of our habits:
1. Habits are acquired.
Whether positive or negative, a habit is something we acquire. Some habits we acquired (inherited) from our parents the moment we were conceived. Most habits, however, are acquired over time. Most habits have been acquired as we grew up, or after we left home, or after we got married, or after we started work, or after we took this particular position. Habits are acquired! This also means that positive and intentional can be acquired, even though they may not come naturally for us. New habits can be formed! New habits can be acquired!
2. Habits are behaviors.
Habits are things we do. They are based on decisions we make. Habits are a choice. We are not solely victims of circumstances. We choose our habits. Once again, we can view this through a negative lens or begin to realize that the greatest power we have on this earth is the power to choose. We can choose to eliminate bad habits and choose to start positive ones!
3. Habits are patterns.
Habits happen through repetition. One of the biggest lies of the enemy is to make us think that “this one time won’t hurt.” The truth is that one-time sin makes a second-time sin easier, and then we have a pattern! Another lie the enemy tries to tell us is that “this won’t hurt anyone.” The word “sin” in the Bible means “to miss the mark.” The truth is that every time we give in to the temptation of a bad habit, we miss the mark. Sin comes between us and our relationship with God. Sin also always affects our relationships with others. The truth is that when we give in to a destructive pattern, we bring harm to ourselves, our relationship with God, and our relationships with others! This is the story of how sin entered the world in the first place (see Genesis chapters 2-3).
We must begin to view our destructive patterns the way God views them: missing the mark: sin. The word repent means to change the way we think. This is where we must go in our minds about the destructive behavior patterns in our own lives. We must own our sin. If we want healing in our lives and relationships, we must change the way we think about our own habits. However, there’s a difference between confrontation and condemnation. We don’t condemn ourselves because of our bad patterns of behavior. Instead, we confront those patterns so we can recognize, refute, and reconstruct new patterns!
4. Habits are regularly followed.
The word habit, of course, comes from the word habitual. A habit is something we habitually do. A habit is repetitive. A habit is consistent. A habit is something we do over and over again. To create a new habit, all we have to do is keep doing something. If we keep doing it long enough... it becomes a habit! Positive habits require discipline.
Discipline is the ability to do what needs to be done, especially when we don’t feel like it. TWEET
The Bible says that self-control is a “fruit” of the Spirit. In other words, we should ask God to work powerfully in us to produce the “fruit” He wants to produce through us. Daily prayer, Daily focus, and daily accountability are all components of building new, positive habits.
5. Habits become second nature (“almost involuntary”).
The bad news about habits is that old habits are hard to break. The become almost involuntary. I have read that as much as 85% of participants in Alcoholics Anonymous relapse at some point. Wow. this is probably true for all addictions.
Habits tend to become addictions. TWEET
The good news is that if we can summon the discipline to start a new habit and stick with it long enough, it will tend to become second nature.
How was I able to make such a radical change in my diet years ago?
I envisioned the fruit of this change. I decided to do it. I chose a new lifestyle. I chose new habits. I stopped making excuses. I took responsibility. I began changing the way I think about food. I asked for God’s help in changing my desires. I asked those who love me to hold me accountable. I made the decision once and then just managed it daily. Today it has become second nature. Any new habit can happen this way for you or me if we’re committed to change.
Any new habit is possible if we have the right mindset and motivation. TWEET
Here are some questions for reflection:
What habit(s) do I need to stop?
What habit(s) do I need to start?
How do I need to change the way I think about this habit?
Who can help me with this?
Who can hold me accountable to this?
What will be the fruit of this new change?