Reminder. Routine. Reward.
I’m discovering that each habit begins with some type of cue that leads to performing an action that results in a desired benefit.
For example my morning alarm sounds and I reach for my phone to turn it off. I check for updates and if I have a notification that is urgent I read and respond. Then I do a morning devotional.
The alarm is the reminder to wake up. The routine is to check for notifications. And the reward is spending time in the Word. This is the habit that I have developed over the past three months. I’m embarrassed to say that the devotional is not the first thing I do upon awakening each morning. But, this new habit developed when my father went into the hospital. I would check for updates on his condition.
Now that my father is no longer alive this is a habit that needs to change. So my research on habit formation started anew. Whether they are positive or negative, our habits start with some sort of goal in mind. Which means I need to have a new goal. Whereas my goal each day had become checking on my father’s condition, now my new goal is to devote time each morning to reading the Bible before I start my day.
Reminder. Some researchers call it a cue. It’s simply the signal that sets the chain of events in motion.
Routine. This is the action step that follows after the signal is received.
Reward. This is the payoff and the reason we keep repeating the action step.
This sequence is also referred to as a ‘habit loop’. The concept of a “habit loop” was popularized by Charles Duhigg in The Power of Habit.
What’s in your habit loop?
Personally, my key to changing a habit lies in this statement: Repetition develops a habit that will become an automatic reflex. I had developed the habit of checking on my father’s condition because it helped me relax so that I could focus on reading my Bible. As I seek to eliminate checking my notifications before reading my Bible I have to find a way to replace it that will make my desired habit stick.
First, I have to set myself up for success, secondly I need to make a firm commitment to myself to invest in repetition, and finally, I have to make the reward something I truly desire.
If the goal/reward is reading the Bible then I must pray for a deepening hunger and thirst for time with God each morning. This is a prayer that God always honors and has answered time and time again to help me get back in focus after a major disruption to my routine. We’ve all heard it said that it takes 21 days to develop a habit, well this is true but it’s also not true. Each person requires a different amount of time for something to stick. For some of us it’s 63 days, a weird number but there’s research behind it, and for others it’s about 90 days. Whatever the length of time it takes we have to be willing to heavily invest in repetition. We repeat the action day in and day out whether we feel like it or not until it becomes an automatic reflex.
My goal is set and I’m on my way. How about you?
Let’s Reflect: Think about what habits you want to change. Write them all down. Pray over them and then number them, making #1 the most important. Set yourself up for success and work on one habit at a time. Write down the reminder, routine, and reward you want to implement and then commit to not giving up on yourself.
Let’s Pray: Heavenly Father, as we seek to develop godly habits we are listening for Your tender whispers of correction and encouragement. Help us to hear Your voice and respond in obedience to Your call. We love You, we crave a deeper relationship with You. We seek to serve as a witness for You through our daily habits. May they reflect Your nature and bring You glory. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.