We all live in a series of habits in life, from the way we brush our teeth, to the route we drive to work, even the way we communicate. Understanding what is behind our habits in the cue, the routine, and the reward can give us, says author Charles Duhigg in his book The Habit Loop, the power to take control or enlist the power of habits in our lives.
Since habits begin with a certain cue which tells our brains to kick in what we have learned works best and the reason we enter the realm of a certain routine is because we have found the reward most pleasant which can be as simple as, “job accomplished.” That means if we are seeking to change a habit or establish a new habit we need to make sure we cover these bases.
Psalm 119:9–16 (ESV) — 9 How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. 10 With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! 11 I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. 12 Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your statutes! 13 With my lips I declare all the rules of your mouth. 14 In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. 15 I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways. 16 I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word.
Let’s say you want to begin the habit of reading your Bible every day. The Scripture above is a motivation to be in the word every day. But if you are not doing this regularly then there is another habit that will need to change, the habit of NOT spending time with God in the word. So, let’s begin with the cue. The cue to spend time in God’s word is awaking in the morning. Secondly, the routine that needs to be established should be drawn out in detail so as to make an easy entry into the routine. In this case, deciding on a place, having your Bible,reading plan, a notebook, and pen in the place so you can get right down to business is all part of the plan. Before you seek to establish the habit, it would be good to cover the anticipated rewards. Rewards in this case would include God’s instrument to keep you out of sin and the blessing of the presence of Christ in your life and all that brings.
John 15:4–7 (ESV) — 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
Now you have the cue, the routine, and the rewards in mind so it’s now a matter of execution and the application of discipline. As you begin your new habit, seeking to make it a daily routine, keep in mind it will take you a few days to fight off the interruptions to stay on track which means you keep your focus on the reward.
The added benefit of establishing habits of spiritual disciplines is the power of God, the Holy Spirit in our lives. In other words, you are not left to yourself, you have God on your side to do what is pleasing to Him and beneficial to your walk with Him.
There is power in the application of establishing good habits in your life. It’s not impossible if you cover the bases in preparation, application, discipline, while relying upon the power of God. Of course, that is also the benefit of applying good habits.
1 Corinthians 9:24–27 (ESV) — 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 25 Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. 27 But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.