If I am going to teach about habits that Catholics ought to have, I ought to teach you how to form those habits. Shouldn’t I?
Sweat drenched shirt, I was leaning on the bed of my truck out of breath. I just spent the past hour lifting weights. For the next two weeks, however, I hardly left the couch while home. Great way to form a habit?
Not unless that habit is crank.
The third week, I went back; hit the iron for hour and half. Felt like I couldn’t walk the next week.
I needed a new plan.
I had happened to buy a book on principles of weight lifting. And, I read the entire book in the first week three times. Something stuck out:
The iron game is not a sprint; it is a marathon.
Well, most things aren’t the metaphoric sprint for you, not even the sprint itself.
The things you do in life, if you want to master them require habitual practice. Let’s say it takes 10,000 tries to master it, as if it took me 10,000 throws to become proficient at the discus throw to win a few major high school medals.
You know that trying to achieve something at a master level won’t happen after the first month. So you should stop believing it will happen and start working on forming the habit first.
This will allow you to master it slowly, but actually master it without burning out. Remember, the game is not a sprint; it is a marathon.
I started that next Saturday; I started with weight that I could blow through, ridiculously easy.
Felt as if I hadn’t done anything. The plan was, I would go easy and coast under my limitation, slowly increasing but never plateau.
Obviously, I would one day, but not anytime soon.
How in the World
I thought to myself, “how I could use this in the rest of my life?” Probably as you are.
There were a dozen things I had on my goal list. I approach them the same way. I would completely change my schedule for one day, and overload myself, trying to make it a habit in the period of one day.
It has similar effects as trying to do it all at once with the lifting weights. Didn’t work.
So, I looked at my list of goals. At the top, I wanted to pray the rosary, the complete rosary every day. Let me prophase, 45 minutes of meditation and prayer, 15 decades a day.
Guess how that went my first couple of tries. Not good.
So, I started with something so simple, I wondered why I was wasting time. I prayed one decade.
Yep. One decade after breakfast.
Took all of a minute or so to finish.
I did that for a week. The next week I did one decade after breakfast and lunch. Then, after all three meals, I prayed a decade, the next week. After fifteen weeks, I was meditating on all fifteen mysteries each day.
I can now say I meditate, as if I can say I lift weights. Though it isn’t much, and I sure haven’t mastered it. I am doing it.
I also figured out that it is almost more important to establish the habit than to choose the right habit.
How to Form a Habit
Set up the plan is easy. I usually take the first week to plan and build anticipation about it. This allows you to make sure the plan is viable and will in fact work. Nothing like planning to go to the gym at 5 o’clock in the morning every day before work, then walk up to a closed gym.
This also allows you to get everything ready, how would I have possibly started lifting weights again if I didn’t have the proper attire?
2. Choose Psychological Trigger
Most habits – good or bad habits – have a trigger.
You will notice with your bad habits, which seem to be the easiest to form, have a trigger. You can do it for good habits.
Example, people that smoke usually smoke after a trigger, after they eat they smoke; before they go to bed, or after they start on their commute to work. You can use this for good habits.
Choose a trigger. For me, with the Rosary, I choose after eating.
Now, after I eat, I pull out my Rosary, almost automatically.
I have a spiritual director that I report to weekly. This keeps me accountable and it will keep you accountable. Of course, I could have lied to him, but he is good at figuring out if I lie to him. Moreover, you should not lie.
You can report to anyone: Family, friends, online community, or your bible study.
Find someone or something that requires a consistent and frequent report to keep you honest.
Another good thing about having a community or person you report to is feedback. Getting feedback from that community if you did well so they can offer praise
If you mess up or want to give up, they can offer support and encouragement. They can remind you of the goal, promise, etc. the feedback will help you with not feeling like you’re on the pilgrimage alone.
Rewards work for animals; they work for you, too.
After you finish your objective that day, have a reward. Only if you do it.
So if your new habit is running in the morning, you can get a coffee only after you have run. Long-term goals work as well. Set up a massage for a month from now, and only use that appointment if you have met your goal on time. If not, call in and cancel the appointment.
The habit you pick is important.
No doubt about it, you don’t want your habit it to be a line of cocaine at your work desk during lunch hour. But, something almost as equally important is forming the habit.
Going all in on the first attempt will burn you out fast. No one formed a smoking habit by smoking an entire carton of cigarettes in one day. They built up to that two-pack-a-day habit 40 years ago by smoking one cigarette at a party, then another at another party until they are putting away 15 bucks a day in cancer.
You’ll have to take the same course with the less addictive habits.
What are some good habits you want to start up in the near future? Post them in the comment box and maybe you can find someone to help you with your habit!
Remember if you want to get a hold of me, hit me up on twitter @chrisorbuster.
Picture Source: http://patrickvandapool.com/