Our daily life is made up of habits and routine, which can greatly help us to accomplish our life’s goals, provided those habits are good ones. Positive habits are a great asset. Negative habits, however, are like black holes sucking up productive, innovative, and beneficial possibilities in our lives. Someone once said, “People don’t decide their future; they decide their habits, and their habits decide their future.”
The progress formula
When dealing with a mathematical problem, you simply follow the formula. Although overcoming bad habits is not exactly a mathematical operation, here’s a helpful formula for making forward progress: Desire. Believe you can. Examine your surroundings. Expose your excuses. Create a plan. Monitor your progress.
How much do you want the change? Enough that you are willing to change your life to reach your goal? Enough to ditch your negative habits and replace them with positive ones? Enough to sacrifice whatever is working against the particular change and progress that you desire?
Many people want to change their bad habits, but they don’t want the change enough to do what’s necessary to get there; thus, their efforts are superficial and ineffective.
Believe you can
You might desire a change and feel that you are willing to pay the price for that change, but deep down, you might be wondering if you can actually do it.
Belief is an amazing thing, as the Bible says, “As he thinks in his heart, so is he.”1 Another verse reads, “A healthy spirit conquers adversity.”2 What these verses show is that the human will is a very powerful force, especially when accompanied by faith in God’s capacity.
If you’re having a hard time believing you can change, adopt a positive, full-of-faith attitude, even if you don’t feel it. Start saying positive, change-reinforcing statements such as, “By the grace of God, I can change. I will change.”
Examine your surroundings
Often, having a desire to change isn’t enough to complete the process. We have to honestly and practically look at our surroundings and identify the things we’re doing on a day-to-day basis that are working against our progress or reinforcing our negative habits.
We may find that with every habit we’re trying to create or break, there are certain physical things that work for or against us. We need to find out what those are and change them as needed.
Expose your excuses
We need to take an honest look at ourselves and recognize the excuses we’ve been using. Write them down and formulate a counterattack, a superior reason that will motivate you to not give in to the excuse.
Create a plan
It’s helpful to document our goals and how we’re going to get there. A goal isn’t a plan unless it’s written down. And a plan isn’t an effective plan unless it’s reviewed often.
When making your plan, remember to be realistic. If your plan is unrealistic, you’ll get discouraged, and perhaps quit before you ever reach your goal. It’s better to be realistic and to reach your goal gradually than to never get there at all.
And last of all, don’t get discouraged. We all have times when we slip up or have a bad day. We should expect that there will be some setbacks and anticipate them, so that we’re not overwhelmed when they happen.
Monitor your progress
Last but not least, monitor your progress. Regularly evaluate your plan to see if it’s working for you; if not, change it! Your plan is a tool for progress. If your original plan was unrealistic, adjust it. If it was too lenient, tighten it.
With every plan we make, it’s helpful to have it broken down into three categories:
- Long-term goals (to be reached within two to five years)
- Short-term goals (to be reached within six months to a year)
- Immediate goals (to be reached within 30 days)
Having our plans broken down into long-term, short-term, and immediate goals gives them structure, along with a yardstick by which we can measure progress. Then, when we revisit our plans every month, for example, we can measure our progress according to last month’s immediate goals, adjust our plan, create new immediate goals, and then keep going.
If we take the time to apply this progress formula to our lives, we’ll know what to do each time we go through a nonproductive patch. We’ll know how to fill it and what to fill it with!
God wants you to make progress, but most of all, He wants you to have a relationship with His Son, Jesus. You can get started by praying this simple prayer:
Dear Jesus, I believe You are the Son of God and that You died for my sins. I open the door of my heart and invite You to come into my life. Please fill me with Your Spirit and help me grow in my knowledge and understanding of You through reading Your Word. Amen.
- Proverbs 23:7
- Proverbs 18:14 MSG