Our Lives Change When Our Habits Change
So how’s that New Year’s resolution coming? I am terrible at keeping resolutions. I keep it up for a few weeks and then I run out of steam. According to Kelsey Mulvey at Business Insider (2017), I’m in pretty good company: “approximately 80% of resolutions fail by the second week of February.” If you are still going strong, you have my sincere congratulations and applause — because for me, every day of forging new habits is a challenge.
I recently ran into a friend who struggled with his fitness for years. Every year he would resolve to lose weight. Every year he was going to “start right after Christmas.” Every year though, he would wind up making the same resolution and every year at about this time, he would give up. I hadn’t seen him in a while and something was different: he was thinner, stronger, and looked happier. I had to ask: “What was he doing? Who was his teacher? What had he read? What was he eating? And most importantly: “What was different this time?” After all those years, after all those trials, here he had achieved his goal; I wanted to know why.
His secret wasn’t really a secret. He decided to make the change. He made a plan and he kept to it. Every day he made the same decisions and he made those decisions a priority. There was no magic pill or powder; no mystic art form; no video series. Consistency formed the foundation of his transformation.
This one encounter got me thinking; what could I accomplish if I decided to make a change and accepted no excuses? What could you accomplish? Let’s apply that across the board: Could 2017 be the year that we become the men and women that God has destined us to be? This is exciting! We need a plan.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. “
Reflect on Meaningful Change. We do the things that we feel are important. Every action we take says to the world and to ourselves: “this is a priority.” Every action we avoid does the same thing: “this is not a priority.” What do we need to make a priority in our lives? God calls us to His will. He wants us to be the best people that we can be. The changes we make should keep that in mind. Ask yourself: “What can I do today to become the person God has destined me to be?”
Start Small and Build. Forming new habits takes time. Find one meaningful change that can be made. Be specific. After a few days of success, add another small change. Over time those small steps carry us a long way. Ask yourself, “What small changes does God ask of me today?”
Actively Choose. Who is in control of our actions? Thousands of times a day we make choices and those choices add up. When we passively make choices we allow ourselves to go on autopilot. People tend to be bad autopilots — we choose the fast, the easy, and the empty: Cookies in the breakroom? Sure, I can have one. Rushing at dinner time? Fast food is the answer. Should I exercise tonight? The couch is comfortable; I’ll do it tomorrow. When we are conscious of our choices though, we have the opportunity to choose more wisely. We choose our long-term goals over our short- term pleasure. Ask yourself, “Will this thing I am choosing help me to become the man or woman that God wants me to be? What choices can I make today that will bring me and others closer to God?”
Stay the Course. There will be bumps in the road. There will be setbacks. But change can happen. It can start now. Anything worth doing is worth the struggle. The Church has faced many setbacks in its history — many roadblocks, many trials. The Church continues today because men and women of faith knew that God’s will was worth the struggle.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”
— Joshua 1:9
When I think about my resolutions and about keeping them for a month, a year, or a lifetime I can’t imagine it — it’s too far off. What I can imagine is now. Right now I can keep my resolution; for this minute I can be strong. This minute will lead me to the next, and to the next until it’s been an hour, a day, a week, and so on. We can do it. Let’s get started!
St. Francis de Sales Parish Catholic Church
40 Granville St.
Newark, Ohio 43055