In a way, we will spend this whole book answering that question. But, part of the answer comes from one letter: the letter “s” in resolutions. We fail to keep resolutions in part because we have so many of them.
If you want to break a habit or make a habit, you do well to work on one thing at a time. Work on exercise, or getting on a budget, or complaining less than you do, or having a quiet time. Don’t work on more than one.
Amazing things happen when you successfully develop a single habit. Again, they’ve done research on this. People who develop the habit of exercising daily tend to stay on a budget. They tend to drink less and smoke less. It seems that success in one area spills over into other areas as well.
However, working on several areas simultaneously does not work. There is a verse somewhere that says, “from one degree of glory to another.” We tend to focus on the word glory. I’d like to invite you to focus on the word one. It is a reminder that we will do well to work on one thing at a time. Paul said, “this one thing I do,” not, “these 10 things I dabble in.” (Philippians 3.13)
So, here is your assignment. Pick one thing, and only one thing that you would like to make a habit. Conversely. You could pick a habit you want to break. But just pick one. Be very specific. I am working on a project with my church and got a little feedback this last weekend. One man said he wanted to memorize more Scripture. More is not a goal. I invited him to think in terms of setting a goal along the lines of, “memorizing one verse a week and retaining it for at least three months.” This kind of specificity sticks to the brain and leads to success. My goal is to exercise every day. One lady in our church said her goal was to straighten out her husband. Good luck with that.
Once you have success developing one habit, it will be easier for you to believe that you can develop any habit. You can exercise, have a daily quiet time, stay on a budget, quit smoking, and do anything else God puts on your heart to do. We really can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. (Philippians 4.13) It seems, we just can’t do them all at once. One habit of the time, one day at a time. As the old saying goes, “Yard by yard life is hard, inch by inch it’s a cinch.”
I’m going to go ride my new bike now. That is my habit that I am working on as I write. I want to exercise every day. This is day 20. They say it takes about 66 days to form a habit—and one day to break one.
I buried a man recently who is 10 years younger than me. He died of a sudden heart attack. It was a wake-up call for me, and I realized that life is fragile. I am not immune from the same human frailties that affect all men. I work as a writer and it is a sedentary lifestyle. I need to exercise every day.
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)
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