Posts Tagged ‘habit’

The Power of Routine

December 1, 2016

Routine, in an intelligent man, is a sign of ambition. –W.H. Auden

I love routine. Rise at 5:30 am, read, write, post a marketing message for a local coffee cafe, breakfast, exercise. And so on.

Maintaining a routine while traveling is always tough.

Steve Jobs famously made a trip to Japan and saw how the companies all had employee uniforms. He thought, if I had a uniform, then there is one fewer decision I must make daily. So he always wore a black T-shirt and jeans. Routine. His mind could focus on more important things that what to wear today.

Bill Hybels, senior pastor at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, IL, tells a story about a man who came up to him after a service and talked about how he had turned his life around. What did you do? “I get up a little earlier in the morning and spend 15 minutes in my favorite chair reading the Bible. Every day,” he replied.

That has become a Willow Creek mantra. “Chair time.” Try it. Even when traveling.

Mihaly Csikszentmihaly studied creative people. He is credited with defining “flow”, that state of being you get into when you are totally engrossed in what you’re doing. “Most creative individuals find out early what their best rhythms are for sleeping, eating, and working, and abide by them even when it is tempting to do otherwise. They wear clothes that are comfortable, they interact only with people they find congenial, they do only things they think are important.”

What is the result of adopting this routine or rhythm of life? “Personalizing patterns of action helps to free the mind from the expectations that make demands on attention and allows intense concentration on matters that count,” concludes Csikzentmihalyi.

Over and over in the New Testament, we read things such as “Jesus, as was his custom” and “Paul, as was his custom.” I’ve always been impressed with the description of the life of Daniel, the prophet, who early on decided upon his diet and took time out from administering a vast empire to pray three times a day.

What’s in your routine?

Making A Difference In The World

September 8, 2016

There is a habit I can’t seem to break. I know how to break habits and establish new ones in their place. The chasm to leap between knowing and doing is huge. Don’t we all know that one!

I get up in the morning, and laying there on the front step, beckoning me most seductively, whispering my name–is the morning newspaper. Yes, me, Mr. Digital, gets news in paper form. Actually not one, but two papers.

Then I make a cup of coffee, settle in, and read the darn thing.

For the most part, the news is not happy. Or beneficial. I used to love NFL football. My team has had a season where it has won more than it lost just once in something like 20 years. Why do I read about it? Then I’ll start to scan a story about someone’s misfortune. But I ask, what good will this information serve? I can’t help them.

Then today. There it was. Above the fold with a large picture. A story about a church. A large church. With a large staff.

It won an award. Best place to work among Christian organizations. They interviewed some of the staff. They talked about how full of enthusiasm they were.

It’s a church of 7,000 people. 80 staff. They give away 25% of their budget to mission work. Just gave $500,000 to a hospital in Africa. They are in the midst of a 100,000-hours-of-service campaign. They are at 40,000 hours at the time the article was written.

Just goes to show, if you look you can find something worthwhile to spend your precious attention on.

There are challenges and difficulties in this world. The point is not to dwell on them, but to decide to do something to help.

You’re Late

March 5, 2015

Let’s take a look at some personal disciplines that will help you become successful however you define it. And personal disciplines spill over into spiritual disciplines.

Here is a story from a business book I once read. It seems a young man had a promising professional/managerial job. But he seemed to be going nowhere. He wasn’t really motivated. The bosses seemed to forget about him when thinking about people with promotion potential.

Problem was, he was always late. He was late to work. Late to meetings. Late with reports. He was always frazzled, disorganized, fuzzy thinking.

Then one day he faced up to his problem and decided to change. He set the alarm to get up 15 minutes earlier. He got to work early and organized his day. He arrived early at meetings and was prepared for the discussion.

His demeanor grew calmer. He became more organized and confident.

It worked so well that he started getting up an hour earlier so that he could read things that filled his mind spiritually and intellectually.

He began to be the executive that no one would have ever imagined just a few short years before.

It all began when he decided to not be late all the time.

Changing just one bad habit can change your life.

Make It a Habit

February 2, 2015

Last night’s Super Bowl was an exciting game of American football. The outcome was not certain until only 17 seconds were left in the game.

In the final contested play, a New England defensive back stepped in front of a Seattle receiver and intercepted the pass. After the game, the back was asked about the play. He said he couldn’t describe it. Of course, asking people to analyze something in the height of great emotion is pretty stupid, but I bet it’s true that he didn’t know.

His coaches had taught him cues to watch and responses to make. Then they practiced it over and over. It became a habit. He saw the play develop. His muscle memory recognized the situation and acted just as he had been trained.

Paul uses an athletic analogy at the end of chapter 9 of 1 Corinthians. He talks of an athlete disciplining his body. He says he does not run aimlessly nor box by flailing away at the air.

If Paul had read Charles Duhigg’s “The Power of Habit,” he would have understood. Learn to read the “cue;” take action; reap the reward.

That is why spiritually alive people have cultivated habits to keep them spiritually in tune with God.

You rise early in the morning heading toward your favorite chair in order to spend 15 minutes (or more) reading from the Bible or other spiritual work. You follow that with prayer and meditation for a few more minutes.

It is your habit to regularly meet with other seekers. You regularly gather with others to celebrate and worship.

And many more–fasting, living simply, serving others.

Just as a trained athlete acts to win a game, we can act to deepen our spiritual lives.

To Get Spiritually Fit You Must Practice

January 2, 2015

A friend recently spoke against “Spiritual Disciplines” because he saw them as a list of check boxes–sort of like tasks to complete on your way to salvation.

My response is that if anyone views disciplines, or practices, that way, then they have missed the “spirit” so to speak of the practice. These practices–study, worship, prayer, mediation, celebration, fasting, service, and the like–are things you can do to strengthen and deepen your spiritual life.

Paul often uses athletic language to instruct us in that regard. He tells Timothy (1 Tim 4:7) to train in godliness” for example.

Dallas Willard writing in The Spirit of the Disciplines says, “Just as with the physical, there is a specific round of activities we must do to establish, maintain, and enhance our spiritual powers. One must train as well as try.”

Another way of looking at this is to consider these as habits you’ve intentionally cultivated.

I have an ecosystem of practices that help me exercise daily. It involves going to the gym and then showering and getting physically ready for the day. It’s something I do to maintain as healthy a body as I can.

Similarly with spiritual life. Rising a little earlier (for the past few years, it’s been 5:30 am–without an alarm), I have time for study, meditation, writing before going to the gym. Study, prayer, meditation are woven into the fabric of my morning. Worship, celebration and service happen intentionally at other times of the day or week.

One key is intention. I am intentional about maintaining this routine. It is not rote habit, but habit intentionally chosen and reinforced.

I still have many personality problems to overcome, but this routine has changed my life over time. I expect it will continue to do so.

One thing that it really does is deepen my faith. To be spiritually fit, you have to practice.