When people think of making habits or breaking habits they tend to think of trying really hard to do something they don’t want to do. Or, they think of not doing something they want really badly to do. This rarely works. Trying really hard rarely works. Let me show you a more excellent way.
Science and the Bible agree: we are profoundly influenced by the behavior of the people we consider to be “our people.” If you want to develop a new habit, take a friend with you. In an ideal world, you will be able to find a friend who wants to take the same journey. There is a reason why Weight Watchers works. And, it is not because the diet itself is an amazing diet. It is easier to lose weight if you do so with a friend.
It is true in every arena in life. It is easier to quit smoking if you have a friend who is trying to quit. There actually has been research done on this. Quitting smoking is contagious. If you and your wife smoke, and she quits, you are 67% more likely to quit.
Obesity is contagious and so is losing weight. But, don’t just take my word for it. Here’s the opinion of smart people:
The findings are based on the results of the 2009 Shape Up Rhode Island (SURI) campaign, a 12-week statewide online weight loss competition designed by study co-author Rajiv Kumar, M.D. Participants joined with a team and could compete against other teams in three divisions: weight loss, physical activity and pedometer steps. The weight loss competition included 3,330 overweight or obese individuals (BMI of 31.2 or greater), representing 987 teams averaging between 5 and 11 members each. The majority of these individuals enrolled in all three divisions.
Weight loss outcomes were clearly determined by which team an individual was on. Participants who lost clinically significant amounts of weight (at least 5 percent of their initial body weight) tended to be on the same teams, and being on a team with more teammates in the weight loss division was also associated with a greater weight loss. Individuals who reported higher levels of teammate social influence increased their odds of achieving a clinically significant weight loss by 20 percent. This effect was stronger than any other team characteristic, Leahey said.
Teenage pregnancy is contagious. If you are a teenage girl and your older sister gets pregnant you are twice as likely to get pregnant as well. It is not all that difficult to understand why. If your older sister gets pregnant, getting pregnant just becomes your normal. Getting pregnant is no longer a shocking, scandalous thing that “those people” do, it is what our people do. We are profoundly affected by the behavior of the people that we consider to be, “our people.”
What does the Bible say?
If you are a Christian, you won’t be surprised to learn that God knew this before science knew it. Here are a few verses that speak to this reality.
I write Bible study lessons for a living. I call them Good Questions Have Groups Talking. I love examining the Scripture through a question and answer format. Let’s do that with this verse.
In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. Ephesians 2:21 (NIV)
The “whole building” is a reference to the church. “Rises” is a reference to the spiritual growth of Christians. So, here is the question. What does this verse teach us about spiritual growth?
There may be a number of right answers, but one thing it teaches us is this: we grow as we are joined together. The word picture in this verse is that of bricks stacked on top of each other. If you want to make a really tall stack of bricks, you will need to put mortar between the bricks to connect them together. Connected, they can rise far higher than they could if they were just a pile of bricks.