November 20, 2017

Weekly Reflection – Tiny Habits

Weekly Reflection – Tiny Habits

Tiny Habits – Changing for Good

Each of us experiences the life-long challenge to bring our lives into greater harmony with the Will of God. It matters not how “holy” we are or how long we have been on the journey. Each Christian is called to draw ever closer to our Lord and His Will. We are repeatedly challenged by the scriptures to change.

For example, Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you…”. He wanted His disciples to begin doing things differently. Paul wrote in Romans 12 that we are to be, “…transformed by the renewing of our minds.” In Ephesians 4 he wrote about shifting from our “old” self to a “new” self. Paul also wrote in Romans 7 about how difficult it was for him to change. He wanted to do one thing but found himself doing another.

Life Commandment

I have a “life commandment” that says, “Anything that takes you in the direction of better health is probably within the Will of God.” That includes my physical body, mental health, relationships, prayer-life, etc. It is sometimes overwhelming to look at my current state, ponder how much potential for improvement exists, and ask where the power to “change for good” will come from?

My experience is that the power to change comes as the Holy Spirit is unleashed in our lives. The Holy Spirit is associated with power throughout the Bible. It was present at creation, empowered the Old Testament leaders, inspired the Old Testament prophets, and came in an even fuller, final sense with Christ and on Pentecost. And the Holy Spirit will be with us forever, empowering the body of Christ.

The Spirit’s Presence

So, first of all, we need to consent to the Spirit’s presence (or at least have the intent to consent). But then we need to take some practical steps toward change. We must begin to use the power that has been made available to us! How can I change for good in practical areas such as diet, exercise, prayer time, morality, Bible study, relationships, etc? The answer seems to be the same for each of these. We begin by taking “small steps”!

B. J. Fogg, a scientist at Stanford University, has developed a straightforward technique that helps people make positive changes in their lives. In a nutshell Fogg’s method for building what he calls “tiny habits” goes something like this.

  1. Name three habits you would like to instill in your life, habits that will draw you closer to God’s Will. These  can be “big goals” if you like. 
  2. Now, write a tiny version for each of these. 
  3. Name six things (potential triggers) you do reliably at least once a day.
  4. Now, put your three “tiny (small) habits” together with three of these potential triggers.

Tiny Goals

Change occurs when one’s motivation and ability are in alignment with the goal. For example, if I want to memorize the Sermon on the Mount, I may be motivated but it is too big a project to take on all at once. I don’t have the ability, or perhaps I’m simply not sufficiently motivated to do the work. A “tiny goal” could be to first memorize a list of the 22 general sections of the Sermon on the Mount.
Then over time I can build each of these out. If I want to be able to run five kilometers without stopping, I might begin by running 100 meters (or ten meters!) without stopping. The goal is to begin with a “guaranteed win”, something you can celebrate. A friend has a note posted to his morning coffee pot. It says, “Do 2 pushups before coffee”. The note reminds him to do a “baby step”, i.e. 2 pushups, and it gives him a reward for doing it, i.e. the cup of coffee.
The scientists at Stanford are adamant that celebration must be a part of the equation. Rejoice (give yourself a spiritual hug.) every time you execute a baby step. Celebration builds motivation and invites you to do more the next time. Here is the actual “equation” they use: B = (M + A + T) times “Celebrate”, where
B = behavior, M = motivation, = ability, T = trigger

It seems that we are called to be “spiritual scientists” of our own lives. Work hard to understand what you do and why you are doing it. Look for the “triggers” that cause existing good and bad behaviors. How do these habits fit with Scripture and the Spirit’s urging? What needs to change? What “baby steps” can I take to begin?

Coaches & Cheerleaders

One other piece that Fogg suggests is that one have a “coach” to help make these changes. The observations of another person and their encouragement is sometimes essential, especially if it is a huge goal, like becoming a genuinely loving person to those who are not so loveable. We all need a cheerleader in our lives!

Would you like to try this “changing for good” formula yourself? If so, I would love to walk with you. Think deeply on this question: What one thing can’t you do but if you could/would make all the difference? The answer may surprise you. And you may find that, by starting with baby steps, you can convert what you CAN’T do to something you CAN do. And it will make all the difference!

Here is one way to get the change process started. Fill in steps 1-3 above. Then send me an email. I’ll help you with step 4 and be available as you begin moving in the direction of better health and God’s Will for your life. Yes, underpinned by the power of the Holy Spirit, we have all we need to take these practical steps toward “changing for good” and living within the Will of God. You can do it!

Chaplain Allen

Read the Chaplain’s reflections on becoming more Christ-like, Becoming a Romans 12 Christian