It is said that the most successful people are those who have built good habits, automating much of their lives so that their brain power and energy is used on the truly creative and developmental and not ‘wasted’ on those actions that can be done almost mindlessly. In other words, if I build a habit of morning exercise, I take the struggle out of it. Instead of getting up in the morning and going through a mental battle about whether I want to exercise or not, I get up, get my workout clothes on and get with the program. Sure, I still have to do the work (can’t “automate” the actual exercise), but I have automated the mental part of it. That’s the habit; that’s the part that no longer needs negotiating. Once exercise becomes a habit, it’s a “given.” My brain and my body understand that that this is what we do in the morning.
When I first read the concept about building habits to become successful, I was thoroughly intrigued. I started thinking of habits that I could build that would make me “successful” according to my definition—that is, congruent with my values. What actions/activities could I automate so that I would no longer struggle with whether or not to do them? I came up with a list, and I’ve shared it many times with My Pleasant Places readers. It’s called my MITs—my Most Important Things.
As I am writing this, it occurred to me that I can abbreviate my list for this article even further. My desired habits boil down to Reading, ‘Riting and Running. Awesome, huh? That I could reduce my list of desired habits to three “R’s.” Joy is in the little things.
For me, the reading that I want to automate—to make a deeply ingrained habit—is Bible reading. And quite honestly, it is more ‘studying’ than reading. I want to get up in the morning and, without a second thought, without a mental battle, get into the Word of God. I want this to be so much a part of who I am that I don’t even consider not doing it. There’s other aspects to this which I will write about at another time—namely, what to do to make sure Bible reading doesn’t become a ‘dead’ ritual (a common by-product of serious habits)—but the bottom line: my life is in the Word of God! It is my instruction manual, it is my spiritual food, it is my weaponry in the battles of life, it is what gives meaning and definition to who I am. So though I may have to battle getting stuck in some kind of rut on occasion, I cannot afford to neglect this habit. It must become second nature to me.
If you are reading this blog, then you most likely share my values to some degree. Have you considered making this ‘R’ second nature? How can you live life to the fullest without it? Job said, “I have treasured His words more than daily food.” Shouldn’t it be that important to us, too? If you concur, then I challenge you to automate Bible study into your day. Where and when is up to you, but making it an integral part of who you are—a habit—should be considered a priority.
At this time of my life, writing is a priority. It hasn’t always been that way, and it may not remain that way forever, but for right now, I am working to habitualize writing. It’s what I perceive as God’s specific call on my life in this current season. Therefore, I have been working for a few months now in making this a serious component of my daily routine (all you have to do is look at my past several 30-day challenges, and you will see this clearly). You most likely don’t share this same priority (or maybe you do), but I’m sure there are actions that you could slip into this slot and commit to making it a “second-nature habit” just as as I have inserted writing. (If you’re lucky, it will start with an ‘R’—or at least the ‘R’ sound.)
I have taken a little literary liberty here to stay with my 3 ‘Rs’ theme. It’s not so much running that I am committed to, as it is fitness. However, if you read MPP regularly, you know that, for me, running is indeed my exercise of choice. However, I don’t run every day, as I don’t feel it is best for my body. Still, on those days that I don’t run, I continue to practice some kind of fitness regimen—strength training, core training, walking, biking, elliptical, etc. Whether running or some other exercise, I try to implement some form of fitness activity as part of my daily regimen in order to automate—habitualize—exercise.
Fitness is not just a preference or a fad with me; it is truly one of my values. I know all too well that I can become very lethargic—and subsequently lazy—if I don’t exercise. When I’m lazy, I become selfish. When I’m selfish, the first thing to go is anything that I don’t absolutely have to do—which is most often those things that are done in obedience to God and in service to man. Those things that “have to be done” generally fall into the “urgent” categories of tasks that won’t matter five years from now. Those things done for God and man—the important things—will last forever. So you see, exercise is a spiritual habit for me, not just a physical one.
If you do not share my passion for exercise, I urge you to reconsider. We’re all human, and we all have the same physical needs. You need oxygen to your brain, just like I do. You need energy to keep from becoming lazy and selfish, too. You need strong bones and muscles in order to enjoy quality of life. Therefore, you NEED physical exercise; it’s not really an option. Thus, in some form or other, fitness ought to be a habit.
As I finish up this post, I can happily check off my first two ‘Rs’ for the day—Reading and ‘Riting. Now I must sign off and go take care of the Running. Then I can confidently affirm that I have started my day with habits that accurately reflect my values and will serve me well for the long term.
What are the components of your daily routine? Do you agree with the opening statement about successful people and habits? Have you narrowed down your “must do’s” to a short list that will build you internally and externally in such a way that it will matter for the long-term? I would love to read your comments on this!