Cultivating Good Habits
Cultivating Good Habits
Good Habits Do Not Restrict My Freedom
“Despite their efficiency, some people still wonder about the benefits of habits. The argument goes like this: ‘Will habits make my life dull? I don’t want to pigeonhole myself into a lifestyle I don’t enjoy. Doesn’t so much routine take away from the vibrancy and spontaneity of life?’ Hardly. Such questions set up a false dichotomy. They make you think that you have to choose between building habits and attaining freedom. In reality, the two compliment each other. Habits do not restrict freedom. They create it. In fact, the people who don’t have their habits handled are often the ones with the least amount of freedom. Without good financial habits, you will always be struggling for the next dollar. Without good health habits, you will always seem to be short on energy. Without good learning habits, you will always feel like you are behind the curve. If you are always forced to make decisions about simple tasks… when I should work out, where do I go to write, when do I pay the bills… then you have less time for freedom. It is only by making the fundaments of life easier that you can create the mental space needed for free thinking and creativity. Conversely, when you have your habits dialed in and the basics of life are handled and done, your mind is free to focus on new challenges and master the next set of problems. Building habits in the present allows you to do more of what you want in the future” (Atomic Habits, James Clear, pp.46-47).
- The above writer made a number of valid observations. Being responsible and godly will not pigeonhole one. Rather, what will really limit you and your options will be sin. Sin brings slavery (John 8:31-32), and it is no respecter of persons. It is sin that will limit your viable choices and options in the future. Keep on sinning and you will be pigeonholed.
- Good habits will not make you a boring or dull person, because you will be always growing and learning (Philippians 3:12-15).
- By building good habits you are rewarding yourself with less problems and more free time now and in the future.
Do I See Myself as a Victim of Architect?
We will run into many people who somehow feel that they are at the mercy of circumstances and that the person they have become is purely the product of the environment and culture in which they live. If they have bad habits, then it is due to the fault of someone else. Yet, the Bible and reality disagree. We have a choice here. We can either do the easy thing (with hard consequences), and feel that we are a helpless pawn and victim. Or, we can believe the truth and realize that we actually do play a major role in constructing ourselves:
- “But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith” (Jude 20).
- “The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands” (Proverbs 14:1).
What am I Allowing? What is Winning? What am I Feeding?
- Anything that you allow to win in your life… grows.
- Do not practice what you do not want to become.
- “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).
Works of the Flesh
Fruit of the Spirit
Sexual Immorality, Lust, Immoral thoughts and actions, living for the pleasure of the moment.
Love, Joy, Peace
Worshipping something other than God, dabbling in the occult, drug use for the purpose of supposed enlightenment.
Patience, Kindness, Goodness
Enmity, strife, promoting self, jealousy, seething in anger, relational drama, creating division based on personal opinions.
Faithfulness, Gentleness, Self-Control.
Envy, discontent, drunkenness.
So which one of these lists is winning in my life. Which team am I giving the upper-hand? Which animal am I feeding? Which one am I practicing? So when Jesus warned us about the dangers of anger and lust, He was not exaggerating. “Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court” (Matthew 5:22); “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (5:27). Observe the word already. Yes, you do become what you practice, but Jesus reminds us that you are already what you practice.
You Get What You Repeat: 2 Peter 2:22
I am not sure what it is, but when you are in sin, you have this weird idea that this time the results will be different. This time that sin will truly satisfy me. This time it will bring a more lasting happiness.
Watch Your Environment
- “Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
- “In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation” (1 Peter 4:4).
- “He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20).
- “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked” (Psalm 1:1).
In 1971, it was revealed that over 15 percent of U.S. soldiers who were stationed in Vietnam were heroin addicts. “Lee Robins was one of the researchers in charge. In a finding that completely upended the accepted beliefs about addiction, Robins found that when soldiers who had been heroin users returned home, only 5 percent of them became re-addicted within a year… In other words, approximately nine out of ten soldiers who used heroin in Vietnam eliminated their addiction nearly overnight. This finding contradicted the prevailing view at the time, which considered heroin addiction to be a permanent and irreversible condition. Instead, Robins revealed that addictions could spontaneously dissolve if there was a radical change in the environment… When the context changed, so did the habit” (Atomic Habits, p. 92). Among other things, here are some things we have learned:
- Disciplined people do not necessarily have more self-control than other people. Instead, disciplined people are wise when it comes to structuring their lives (which is wise use of self control). They choose to spend less of their time in tempting situations.
- Therefore, to overcome a temptation, one thing you can do is make it invisible. That is, either remove yourself from a tempting environment or structure your environment in such a way that the triggers for that temptation are reduced.
- God is right about the danger of having the wrong companions. Various scientific studies have only confirmed the truth of passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:33. “There is tremendous internal pressure to comply with the norms of the group. The reward of being accepted is often greater than the reward of winning an argument, looking smart, or finding truth. Most days, we would rather be wrong with the crowd than be right by ourselves” (Atomic Habits, p. 121).
- The opposite is also true. If you want to start a new and good habit, make it obvious. “Join a culture where your desired behavior is the normal behavior… Surround yourself with people who have the habits you want to have yourself. You will rise together” (Atomic Habits, p. 117). Let’s be a people that rise together! (Ephesians 4:16).
Mark Dunagan | firstname.lastname@example.org
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017