Of course, you know those things that you would like to start doing and develop as habits. We probably all have them. There are things that we know we should do regularly, but they just fall between the cracks in our busy lives. Whether it is exercising, spending time in prayer, drinking more water, or practicing an instrument, most of us would like to develop new habits. But something stands in our way. Maybe we think we don’t have enough time, or maybe we are afraid of once again failing at trying to be consistent. We need to learn how to start habits, and we need a way that is simple enough for us to continue doing them. Well, I have 6 simple habit-building tips for you today!
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
1. Seek the Lord’s Help
As with anything we do, our first step in starting a new habit should be to ask the Lord for His strength and for Him to enable us to do it. For that matter, we should also seek His wisdom about what habits we should be forming and which ones are the most important for us to focus on first. There are so many habits that we could start on; we need to focus on the ones that we should start first!
Without receiving help from Jesus, we will fail. We can never build even one good habit without His strength.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
Not only can we not build a new habit without help from Jesus, we also cannot have pure motives for building new habits. It’s very easy for us to focus on the habit rather than the fact that habits are simply tools. They are tools that are useful in helping us get closer to Jesus and do His will. In other words, the habit itself is not the final goal: the final goal is knowing Jesus better and being faithful to do what He calls us to.
2. Start with One Habit
Have you ever set New Year’s resolutions? I have! I don’t know about yours, but my resolutions didn’t usually get very far. Besides the fact that I often tried to reach them in my own strength instead of seeking Jesus’, I probably also made too many goals. It’s easy to get excited at the prospect of a brand new year and to think that this year things are going to be different. You are going to change and do so many things that you have been needing to do!
The problem is, when you have a whole list of things you are trying to do and change at one time, it’s overwhelming. Instead of changing a lot of things, it’s far too easy to end up changing nothing. This is one reason why change should happen all year long and not just when a new year rolls around. Starting a lot of habits at one time is not how to start habits that stick. You may start strong, but sooner or later you will probably become discouraged and drop those habits by the wayside.
Instead of setting out to change everything all at once, how about starting with just one habit? If you actually make one change, you will have accomplished more than if you made out a whole list and did none of it. I like to give myself at least a week on a new habit before adding in another to work on, but it actually takes longer than a week for it to truly become a habit.
3. Make It As Simple As Possible
One important tip for how to start habits is to make it simple to do it. What do I mean by this? Let me give you an example. Let’s say that you want to start the habit of reading a chapter in the Bible first thing in the morning. You wake up, look over at your nightstand, and spot your cell phone lying there. You know that you should read your Bible before getting on your phone, but your Bible is in the living room.
Reading your Bible would involve getting out of bed and going to get your Bible. So instead, you decide that you will just get on your phone a few minutes to wake up. Next thing you know, your Bible reading time is gone and it’s time to get up and start your day.
Now, what if you had put your phone in the living room out of sight and laid your Bible on the nightstand before you went to sleep? You would have set yourself up for success the night before by making your habit as easy as possible to achieve. Doing this will look different for the various habits you build, but try to have things that you need kept close to each other and within easy reach of where you will be performing the habit.
4. Learn to Habit Stack
It’s quite possible that you have heard of habit stacking. I think that it’s a pretty common term these days, but I just learned about it last year. And, I was very interested in it I might add.
Habit stacking is taking a habit that you already do and adding a new habit either before or after it. Let’s say you already brush your teeth every night before getting into bed. So, you decide that after you brush your teeth, you will lay out your clothes for the next day. Or, maybe you decide that you will go for a walk every day before you eat breakfast.
There are many ways that you could use habit stacking to build new habits. The benefit of doing this is that the habits you already have can become cues that remind you to do the new habit.
5. Track Your Habits
When you are thinking about how to start habits and are preparing to take action, make sure that you don’t forget a habit tracker! They are so helpful in keeping you on track and reminding you of your goals. Habit trackers can come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have a similar purpose: to remind you of your goals and keep you focused on doing them.
In my habit tracker, I like to add habits that I am already pretty good at getting done as well as the new habit I am focusing on. That way I have more things to color in. Also, I keep adding in my habits once they aren’t so new anymore since that helps me to not be as likely to let them fall by the wayside.
Throughout the day, my mind often turns to the list of habits on my weekly habit tracker. It reminds me of the things that I should be doing.
6. Give Up Perfectionism
If you are a fellow perfectionist, then this section is for you! One thing that trips me up in tracking my habits is my desire to do them perfectly. So when I miss a day with one or more habits, I often want to try to make it up the next day. But the fact that I would have to do that habit for two days, instead of one, makes it overwhelming. This leads me to start procrastinating and not doing my habit at all, which leads to getting further behind.
Instead of trying to make up for lost time, it would be much better to start again fresh each new day. Then, if you get that day’s habit done, you might actually find the motivation to make up for the previous one. And if not, that’s fine too! It’s better to keep going and not be paralyzed by what you didn’t do yesterday. And remember, I probably need to hear this as much as you!
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- Pray before starting a new habit. Ask the Lord which habit to start and for His strength in completing it.
- Make it as simple as possible! Start one new habit at a time. Set everything up so that the habit can be done without a lot of prep. Stack the habit with something you already do. And, track your habits.
- Keep going! Don’t get discouraged if you miss a day. Each new day is a fresh opportunity!
Have you ever used a habit tracker? Did you like it? Were any of these ideas new to you? Which ones seemed like they might be helpful?
Until next time, pray, plan, and put those habits into practice!