What do you think your odds are of developing a new habit? What are the odds that you could break a nasty habit? If you find it really difficult to start a habit or stop one, how normal is this? How discouraged should you be?
Many people get discouraged—feeling they are just not normal. They feel like normal people ought to be able to stay on the diet. Normal people ought to be able to stick to a budget. Normal people exercise every day. Normal Christians have quiet times every day. What is wrong with me?
Actually, it is pretty normal to fail. Half of all Americans make New Year’s resolutions each year. 88% of them fail. That’s 156 million people who fail to keep New Year’s resolutions each year. Feel like you’re in good company?
Like to break free from the pack? Dave Ramsey says, “Normal is broke. Be weird.”
But, what if it was really important that you change a new habit? What if it were life-and-death? My dad changed the habit of eating sweets when he was diagnosed with diabetes. My memory of him growing up was that he had a nice round belly. When he discovered he had diabetes, that belly went away. When he realized that eating sweets might kill him, he changed. This is normal, right?
As it turns out it’s not. Here is what the experts say:
What if you were given that choice? For real. What if it weren’t just the hyperbolic rhetoric that conflates corporate performance with life or death? Not the overblown exhortations of a rabid boss, or a maniacal coach, or a slick motivational speaker, or a self-dramatizing chief executive officer or political leader. We’re talking actual life and death now. Your own life and death. What if a well-informed, trusted authority figure said you had to make difficult and enduring changes in the way you think, feel, and act? If you didn’t, your time would end soon—a lot sooner than it had to. Could you change when change really mattered? When it mattered most?
Yes, you say?
Yes? You’re probably deluding yourself.
That’s what the experts say.
They say that you wouldn’t change.
Don’t believe it? You want odds? Here are the odds that the experts are laying down, their scientifically studied odds: nine to one. That’s nine to one against you. How do you like those odds?
When confronted with the reality that they must change or die, only one in 10 people are able to do so. But, there are answers. The first one is to work on one thing at a time. The second one is to find a friend. The third one is to find a way of escape.
The way of escape
If you want to start a habit or stop a habit the key is not to try really hard to do this or stop doing that. Trying hard is overrated. Not to say there is not a place for trying hard. But trying hard is like a spare tire. You need a spare tire because every now and then you have a flat. But, if you live your whole life on a spare tire, you are in trouble.
Developing a new habit starts with identifying one habit and working on one habit at a time. The next step is to find a friend to take the journey with you.
The next step is to find a way of escape.
Allow me to misquote a verse. See if you can catch where I got this wrong:
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will provide supernatural strength so that you can stand up under it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
Did you catch it? Here’s the real verse. See if you can find the difference:
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NIV)
Success is rarely about trying really hard. It is about finding the way of escape.
Deutschman, Alan (2009-10-13). Change or Die (pp. 1-2). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.