The Best Habit You Can Learn This New Year

“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.”

Bill Gates

I love New Years.  I love being able to look back at last year, surprised by what happened, happy at some things that got accomplished that I actually planned, and recommitted to try again on the things that didn’t pan out so well.  I also love Mondays, because with Mondays I get 52 mini-New-Years to course correct my plans and habits.  So I’m probably a mutant.

Whether you like New Year’s Resolutions or not, you should be happy about that fact that you are still alive, there is still an opportunity to grow, improve, and enjoy life.  You should also be happy about the fact that the God of the Universe gives you a new day, a New Year, and a clean balance sheet:

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.               Lamentations 3:22-23

Not only does a new year give us a new opportunity, it brings our kids new opportunities.  After experimenting and finding great success in my own life last year, I am ready to spend this year teaching my kids the Power of Habit.  God has designed our brains to LOVE habits.  They make life easier, more efficient, and more pleasurable.

Except when they are bad habits.  Then they do something between dragging us down or completely ruining our lives and the lives of those around us.  Habits are powerful things.

There’s a great book by Charles Duhigg called “The Power of Habit” that not only teaches about how the brain is wired to form and master habits, but also how you can create or replace a habit.  I’ll put a link here for you to watch a simple talk on how to replace a habit.

Here’s my 30 second explanation of the Habit Loop for replacing or creating habits.  But you should really watch the video:

Habits have three parts.  

  1. The Cue (a person, place, time of day, emotion, or activity that triggers a habit)
  2. The Routine (the actual habit)
  3. The Reward (our payoff for doing the habit)

The key to creating a habit is to identify your cue, determine your routine, and then give yourself an immediate reward that is enjoyable enough to give you motivation to do the habit.  After a few weeks of repetition, an amazing thing happens in your brain.  Your brain begins to associate the Routine with the Reward, and you start to find pleasure in the Routine.  At this point, you’ve created a habit.  

I used this method to finally master getting out of bed an hour before my children in the morning for extended prayer and Bible study.  My reward: fancy coffee and premium chocolate.  At this point, I’m hardwired to wake up.  I don’t need the chocolate any more, and I actually really enjoy my routine.  PLUS, I learned an incredibly valuable tool for creating future habits.

As we seek to parent our kids on purpose this year, I can think of few things more powerful than teaching them the life skill of identifying, replacing, and developing habits.  It works with Scripture memory, cleaning the house, exercising… essentially any activity that can be incorporated into life.

SO here’s my suggestion.  Pick something.  Pick something fun, something rewarding.  Watch the video below, and if you want more in depth teaching on this, either buy the book or listen to this sermon.  Make it a family challenge with each person picking ONE habit to develop.  Create good, immediate rewards as well as a stretch reward for several weeks of successful habit formation.  And have FUN!!!

So what’s the best habit you can learn this New Year?  It’s the habit of taking control of your habits!

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