A Two-week Challenge

10 05 2010

It only takes about a month to gain a new habit. Seriously. And honestly, it doesn’t even matter if you fail a few times (ahem, a lot) during that month. But even that month depends on the first two weeks. So really, it takes about 2 weeks to kick off a new habit (or stop one).

For example: You want to go to the gym four times a week. That’s a good number, gives you some room for missing out. Or eat more vegetables. Or pray daily. Or write a journal / blog. Or not smoke.

All you have to do is: (1) make a commitment to just 1 week and (2) connect it to a “trigger” action.

(1) A week is short and definable, it’s easy to see the end of it. If you “really want” to do something, you can usually use that to get through the first week.

(2) Find a realistic time to put it in your schedule. Waking up an hour early to do it probably won’t work. But going to the gym after work, or praying between brushing your teeth and going to bed – those are reasonable. Smokers – a little trickier as there is a chemical addiction, but deal with the physical habit. Try chewing gum. Take a smoking break like before, take a long stick of gum, and chew it slowly, by biting off small bits. In other words, make it as similar to smoking as possible. Try to connect it to your real schedule so that something you already do will “trigger” the newest habit.


Why aren’t you?

5 05 2010

How do you change your behavior? How do you change a whole group’s behavior?  There are things you do that you shouldn’t, and things you should be, but you don’t. The problem is, most people start by asking the wrong questions.

I should eat healthier. Why? What are the benefits? Why is it important? Why should I?

That’s the wrong question. You already know you should. Here’s the right one:

Why aren’t you?

Find out what’s stopping you from doing what you should be doing, and take away the barriers. Like this:

I’m not eating healthier because I’m too busy to really care. Because I like the taste of junk food. Because I need my extra-calorie-laden mocha every morning. Because I really don’t know how to eat healthier. Because my body’s addicted to sugar or salt or fat and I don’t even know it. Because I don’t know how to cook. I don’t like to cook. I don’t like vegetables. I’m a meat-and-potato kind of person.

If you really dig down, you might be surprised what’s really stopping you from doing what you should.

You should fire the unproductive employee. You should finish that project on time. You should stop smoking. You should spend more time with your kids.

So why aren’t you?

Some Teenage Wisdom

20 03 2010

As a teenager, I came up with my motto for life: No regrets. Now, that’s not so unique, but I went further. I named two corollaries. Or rather, two applications of this rule.

First, the past. Whatever has happened is in the past. It’s over. Sure, we’ve got to live with it. But there’s no point crying over spilled milk. You just get a rag and clean it up. Particularly in my life, this meant there was no point being angry about a screwed up childhood. Others made their choices and I have to live with it. But I’m not going to regret it.

But then this also applied to the present and future. I’m eighteen and I’ve got a life to live before me. Choices to make. Life choices. “I don’t want to stand with the setting sun and hate myself for the things that I’ve done.” So I won’t. I’ll make my choices with care and consideration. If I do this tonight, will I regret it tomorrow? Yes. Then I’m not doing it. Simple as that.*

At least, it all seemed that simple. No regrets. Move forward. Look forward. Watch where you step along the way and keep moving.

Those steps led me to God. Then there was a whole world of other mottos: Love God. Love others. Serve God. Keep the Sabbath. Meditate on the word. Ask everything of God. Be humble. Be gracious. Loving. Kind. Honest.

Frankly, I forgot about the “No regrets” rule. There were too many other things to worry about. But now, as I’m hitting 30 this year, I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting.

And you know what? I think “no regrets” pretty well sums up where I am in life. And I’d say that’s pretty biblical.

*Yeah, I’ll make some mistakes along the way, but then it falls under the first corollary.

What’s in a ring?

10 03 2010

Just found my class ring. These clumpy rings mean a lot of things to a lot of different people. The best years of their life. A time when they thought being on the swim team was their greatest success. For some, it’s the awkward reminder of the geek in band. A first love. A petty fight. Friends and growing up.

Not mine. High school was a bleak time with a few bright spots. But mostly it was a time of tears. Not the tears of a broken teenage heart. The tears of a broken soul in the night. Tears of hopelessness and homelessness. These are the tears shed in silence. In darkness. In solitude.

But the ring… that was pure defiance. I was forbidden from purchasing it, so I got a secret job and did. It was an extreme act of self-definition, of independence. I didn’t know it at the time, but the message I was trying to send was this:

“I’m not a bad kid. I want simple things. I want normal things. And I’m willing to do what it takes to get them myself, because I know no one’s handing them to me. So, lay off. Back off. Keep your distance if you’re not going to help me. Because I’m not a bad kid. The things I want aren’t bad things. I want a class ring. I want to graduate high school. I want to go to college. So stay out of my way, because I’m doing it. With or without you.”

Just a few months after this, I finally moved out of the house: A teenage run-away for all the right reasons.

Now, I know this blog is supposed to be about God. About the academics of faith. But you see, I don’t come from ivory towers. I wasn’t born to this life I live. I wasn’t raised to this faith I profess.

I’m not the same person that bought that ring. But if I’d never been that person, I would never be who I am today. The anger and defiance, the yearning for something more – those drove me on. And that, that was God. That’s my theology.

More than ten years have passed since I bought a ring. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be putting it on again.

I want to wash the dishes!

19 01 2010

Getting busy lately, I hear certain words pounding in my head: “I should”. I should wash the dishes. I should walk the dog. I should study Korean. I should get some sleep. I don’t know where this voice is coming from, but it’s loud and clear. It’s the voice trying to rule my life that I don’t want to listen to. I’ve determined one thing: it’s not God!

How do I know this? Simple – it makes me feel guilty, ashamed, lazy, and most especially – it makes me not want to do the very thing it’s suggesting!

That “should” is really all about obligation. I have to do something, I’m supposed to, I must… for someone else or simply for the abstract “right thing to do”. There’s a teeter-totter in my head. As soon as that weighty word “should” jumps in on one side, interest and desire, which weren’t very heavy in the first place, go flying off the other.

So what’s a busy person to do? Ask for strength to do all the shoulds? Not do them and feel guilty?

I’ve learned a better solution. It’s all a matter of vocabulary! Change “should” to “want to”. As soon as I think I “should” do something, before all the weariness kicks in, I rephrase it in my mind to I “want to” do it. I want to wash the dishes. I want to walk the dog. I want to study Korean.

See, because the truth is, ultimately I really do want these things. I don’t “feel” like getting started, but I definitely want them done. Washing the dishes is often a great time for some quiet thoughts and when it’s time to cook, I’ll be glad for the clean kitchen. Walking the dog gets me out of the house and into the fresh air. Studying Korean helps me deal with daily life.

Amazingly, just changing that word will often motivate me. It reminds me of the reasons I “should”, reminds me that these are ultimately my free choice. So, next time you think you “should” do something and try to drag yourself toward it, just re-phrase that thought to “I want to!”