Three Steps to Creating Habits

There are so many things that I just wish came naturally to me. I want to like almonds more than sweet tarts. I want to choose an intense workout over the couch. I want to choose sweet moments with Vivi over my phone. BUT for some reason, my brain is pretty lazy sometimes and forgets how good these things are for and even how much fun I’d have doing them.

I finally finished reading The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor. I loved it so much, I think I’m giving it an honorable mention ribbon alongside my top five favorites.

One concept that really stood out to me was that we should reserve our energy for big challenges and simply create habits for the small things. I’m paraphrasing , but he said that experiments have shown that we don’t have a infinite amount of energy to be disciplined. So if we want to achieve in the big areas, we should reserve that energy for the biggest things. He even mentioned eating the same thing for breakfast just so their is one less decision to make.

So how do we create habits?? Seems like that in itself takes some time and energy? Shawn says:

The key to daily practice is to put your desired actions as close to the path of least resistance as humanly possible. Identify the activation energy – the time, the choices, the mental and physical effort they require – and then reduce it. If you can cut the activation energy for those habits that lead to success, even by as little as 20 seconds at a time, it won’t be long before you start reaping their benefits.

Let’s break that down to three tips (and a fun printable!):

1. Create two lists: one of habits you want to create and one of habits you want to break.

2. List out the steps it takes to make them happen. Go into specific details.

3. See what steps you can cut out for the habits you want to create and what steps you can add to the habits you want to create. Take action on these immediately.

Shawn’s examples: He bought at $2 guitar stand so it was set up in his living room instead of the closet. AND Taking the battery out of the TV remote and putting it in a drawer across the room. He read more often because of this.

The neatest thing about this topic is I was reading over some of my notes from the book Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst. She talked about the scientific reason why habits make sense.

Brain research shows that every conscious thought we have is recorded on our internal hard drive known as the cerebral cortex. When we have the same thought, again, the line of the original thought is deepened, causing what’s called a memory trace. With each repetition the trace goes deeper and deeper, forming and embedding a pattern of thought. When an emotion is tied to this thought pattern, the memory trace grows exponentially stronger.

The bad news is, this why old habits are hard to quit. We’ve created trenches on our brain that are hard to dig out of. The good news is, we can develop new patterns of thought (AND habits) by simple repetition. I love this quote because it helps me understand creating habits, but it goes so much deeper! It’s off-topic, but not really. THIS is why our thoughts are so important! I think knowing this will help us see the importance of creating good habits, whether it’s to eat less sugar or trust the Lord instead of worry.

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2

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