Without a second, or even first, thought, you did it again. You bit your nails, cracked your knuckles, or snoozed your alarm . . . for the twelfth time. Habits like these form a larger part of our life than what we may think. Our brain is hard-wired to create neuro shortcuts based previous activities. Unfortunately, we don’t always choose the best activities to form into habits.
Some habits, like cracking your joints, don’t really affect our lives in either a positive or negative manner while others need to be eliminated or improved. So as we head into the summer, now is the time to work on dropping the habits you’d like to stop and developing good habits in their place. While there is some controversy over how long it takes to break a habit, summer provides a four month jump-start on erasing the habit regardless of which expert you believe.
But research also shows that breaking a old habit is extremely difficult if you aren’t forming a new habit. The old wiring in our brain doesn’t just go dormant; it must be reshaped into new pathways (habits) for us to follow. Thus, getting rid of an old habit is usually accompanied by forming a new one.
Stories of men and women getting saved and quitting their old habits are common. And many times, these stories can be depressing to hear for those in the middle of a great struggle to change their habits. However, kicking a smoking habit after conversion doesn’t just bring puffing on a Marlboro to an end. Instead, it usually brings new habits and a new reward system: reading God’s Word, fellowshipping and worshipping with the Church and ministering to those in need. The habit of smoking was both erased and replaced.
But the majority of habits aren’t removed, or gained, overnight. It takes time. So this summer, take the time to form a productive habit and, in the process, work to curb or eliminate an old one. Instead of habitually playing video games for hours on end, set a limit and then use that extra time to form an hour reading habit. Instead of watching Netflix for hours on end by default, start a week without television and try to learn a new skill, like carving wood or drawing, that could become a more profitable habit.
Instead of falling for Satan’s snare again, set aside this summer and dedicate yourself to living in a habitual, God-honoring way. Don’t platonically live the same life as yesterday out of habit or ease. This summer create a new habit that is productive and curb, or eliminate, those that aren’t useful long-term.
‘Cause let’s be honest, no one needs the ability to quote whole episodes of The Office.