“True behavior change is identity change. You might start a habit because of motivation, but the only reason you’ll stick with one is that it becomes part of your identity… Your behaviors are usually a reflection of your identity. What you do is an indication of the type of person you believe that you are either consciously or unconsciously.” Pg 34
We are all creatures of habit.
I hadn’t given this fact much particular thought until my sons step brother asked me if I would check out his blog (https://www.superiorpsyche.com), which is where I once again stumbled across the book Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear. It had been recently recommended as life-changing by numerous acquaintances, so I finally took the universe’s hint and bought the book. Boy, were they right!
James Clear's writing style makes comprehending complex subjects easy to digest. He explains that every one of our decisions will eventually form our identity. Through our conscious and unconscious actions, we get to choose who we will become. Our lives are constantly changing, and we need to get out of autopilot and periodically check in to see if our old habits and beliefs are still serving us. He states on page 33, “It’s hard to change your habits if you never change the underlying beliefs that led to your past behavior. You have a new goal and a new plan, but you haven’t changed who you are.”
But who am I?
My identity is that I am a beloved child of God.
The Bible tells us:
“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God,” John 1:12 ESV
“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called
children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us
is that it did not know Him.” 1 John 3:1 NIV
“Now if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ,
if indeed we share in his sufferings so that we may also share in his glory.”
Romans 8:17-19 NIV
That last verse resonates with me at the moment. I’m in a “crushing” life season, where the fruit is pressed to make new wine… but being crushed hurts. Yet through it all, it gives me hope to know that as the son of God, Christ knows what suffering feels like more than I do. His pain was used for our good. However, I won’t pretend I am an innocent lamb like Christ was. Truth be told, I’m more like a sheep with fangs at the moment. Sharp pointy teeth. Think Monty Python and the Holy Grail rabbit going straight for the juggler-style teeth. Jesus keeps having to leave the 99 other sheep to drag me back out of the cave where I was waiting for my opportune time to strike my enemies again… just like that innocent-looking savage rabbit.
I started reading this book the day after I broke off my engagement and canceled my wedding. Breakups have a funny way of pointing out any bitterness in your heart, even if you are the one who decides the pain is enough and that it's time to stop the insanity. So I've been actively praying that the Lord removes those roots. I pray that the Lord gives him favor and that he finds joy and happiness again. Then there are plenty of moments when my thoughts about him don’t align with my daughter of God identity. When I find myself there, I have to turn the negative thoughts back over to the cross and choose forgiveness. Again. And again. And again.
The recent series of events has me currently in a season of soul-searching and self-reflection as to how I ended up here. Relationships don’t fail because of only one person, so I want to take the time to heal correctly and clean my side of the street so the insanity stops and I don’t make the same mistakes in the future. As much as I want to point the finger at my ex, doing so won’t help me become a better person. Examining my behaviors and beliefs will help me grow when I surrender to Christ and let him help me build good habits and break bad ones.
How do we build good habits and break bad ones?
We simply show up.
We can’t lay down in our depression and quit.
We can’t give in and drown in addictive distractions.
We let Jesus kill the parts of our flesh that are killing us.
We take the time to imagine who we want to become and take small steps forward to become that person.
James Clear says he never saw himself becoming a writer. It was only because he took steps to become one that he did. “Whatever your identity is right now, you only believe it because you have proof of it… I didn’t start out a writer. I became one through my habits.” Pg 37
Honestly, I didn’t even want to write a blog this week. But if I want to be a writer, I must show up and write even when I don’t feel like it, even when everything in me wants to lay down and quit.
I want to become a better version of the person God created me to be.
So if I want to become a better person, I need to define what that means and then take the appropriate steps to become a better person.
When I imagine what a better version of me would look like, she would: ideally listen better, be more respectful, and would act more Christlike.
If I want to become a better listener, I need to take the time to listen to others.
Action step: Make it a point to stay fully present in conversations and quit trying to multitask when someone is talking. I will keep my phone in my pocket when someone is talking to me. I will listen to at least one more person than I did the day before.
If I want to become more respectful, I need to show more respect to others.
Action step: Keep my condescending comments to myself. I will be more intentional about not having disrespectful tones of voice. Whenever I am tempted to respond with sarcastic judgment, I will say one piece of positive feedback first (and if that is not possible, then I will not say anything at all).
If I want to become more like Christ, I must live as He did.
Action step: Read my Bible and study how Christ lived. Pray more. Love others even when I am tempted to hate. Forgive even when they don't deserve it.
Even if I do one percent better in these areas than I did the day before, then progress has been made. That is the path to victory: one small step at a time.
The battlefield always starts in the mind. Our thoughts are often against us, encouraging us to move in the wrong direction. For this reason, we are called to take them captive. (“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Cor 10:5) We don’t have to be victims of our environments, whether that be mental or physical. We can architect new and healthier ones when ours are toxic or holding us back. James Clear states, “The central idea is to create an environment where doing the right thing is as easy as possible.” Pg 155
We create new good habits.
For a better explanation on how to do that, please check out Atomic Habits today.
I’m going to go read my Bible. One small step towards living more like Christ today.
One big leap toward becoming a better person tomorrow.
Have a blessed week.