A person of faith is ‘the only Bible some people may ever read’
Every week my husband asks me if I’m ready to…
In 2021, do you want to grow closer to God, get healthy, read your Bible daily, consistently go to bed earlier or wake up early to have quiet time?
“Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” is here to help.
Author James Clear will lead you through a step-by-step plan to build better habits and create healthy behavior changes.
Clear acknowledges it’s often difficult to keep good habits going for more than a few days, even with sincere effort and the occasional burst of motivation. His book offers advice rooted in years of data collection — there’s something for everyone.
One of the best ways to build a new habit, he writes, is to identify a current habit you already do each day and then stack your new behavior on top. For example, if you want to read your Bible daily, stack it on top of drinking your morning coffee. When you pair an action you want to do with an action you need to do, it happens more easily.
“Even when you know you should start small, it’s easy to start too big,” Clear writes. “When you dream about making a change, excitement inevitably takes over, and you end up trying to do too much too soon.”
Enter the two-minute rule: When you start a new habit, it should take less than two minutes to do. So, “read before bed each night” becomes “read one page.” Small actions cast votes for the person you want to become. Even if you only read one page a night, you are still a person who reads before bed.
Personally, I knew I needed to shed my pandemic-15 (think “freshman-15”) and rebuild my lungs after contracting COVID-19. So I combined habit stacking with the two-minute rule.
Small actions cast votes for the person you want to become. Even if you only read one page a night, you are still a person who reads before bed.
After I drank my coffee in the morning, I slowly walked down my driveway and back. I wanted the coffee, I needed the exercise. For weeks, these daily walks only lasted two minutes. I cast votes for the person I wanted to be, and eventually, Clear’s methods paid off. My lungs grew stronger, and I began to look forward to my walks. Over time, I walked longer and faster. To date, I’ve lost those 15 pounds, and I no longer struggle with my breathing.
“It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis,” Clear writes. “Meanwhile, improving by 1 percent isn’t particularly notable — sometimes it isn’t even noticeable — but it can be far more meaningful.”
My defining moment: Realizing whatever I could do each day was enough.
So now you’re probably thinking of a few small habits you want to create. Great! But first, you may want to kick some of your bad habits. This can be challenging, Clear writes, for two reasons: We try to change the wrong thing, and we try to change our habits in the wrong way.
“Habits are like the entrance ramp to a highway,” Clear writes. “They lead you down a path, and, before you know it, you’re speeding toward the next behavior. It seems to be easier to continue what you are already doing than to start doing something different.”
We live in an immediate reward environment, he adds. Why would someone smoke if it leads to lung cancer? Why would someone overeat if they know it leads to obesity? Consequences of bad habits are delayed, while the rewards are immediate. Smoking might kill you in 10 years, but it reduces stress now. We all want better lives for our future selves. However, when the moment of decision arrives, instant gratification usually wins.
So, Clear suggests using a habit tracker such as a food journal, workout log, punch card or a calendar to cross off successful days. Seeing progress keeps us on track. I can attest that this tip works for me. Every month I print off a calendar with daily goals and check off five boxes a day that are important to me. It’s not always perfect across the board. And that’s OK, says Clear. Habits will fail, but you should never miss twice.
The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do.
True behavior change is identity change, he writes. The most practical way to change who you are is to change what you do. So, decide the type of person you want to be. Then, prove it to yourself with small wins.
Out of the many self-help books I regularly consume, this one has made it into my top five. I believe “Atomic Habits” will kickstart your Bible reading plans, health goals, quiet-time aspirations and other ambitions. This would be a good book for a small group or church class.
LAURA AKINS is Features Editor for The Christian Chronicle. Find habit trackers and other tools from “Atomic Habits” at jamesclear.com.
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