With the baseball just around the corner, I’m reminded of a story by Tommy Lasorda, the great Dodger manager, as he described his battle to overcome bad habits.
“I took a pack of cigarettes from my pocket, stared at it and said, “Who’s stronger, you or me?” The answer was me. I stopped smoking.
Then I took a vodka martini and said to it, “Who’s stronger, you or me?” Again the answer was me. I quit drinking.
Then I went on a diet. I looked at a big plate of linguine with clam sauce and said, “Who’s stronger, you or me?”
And a little clam looked up at me and answered, “I am.” I can’t beat linguine.
We all have habits. Eating habits. Sleeping habits. Driving habits. Work habits. Money habits. Speech habits. Emotional habits. Relationship habits. Time-management habits. Even spiritual habits.
Habits are behaviors that are learned. As they are repeated over and over again, they become ingrained in us. They help define who we are. They become a part of our personality. They make up the very the fabric of our character.
Dostoyevski once said, “The second half of a man’s life is made up of the habits he acquired during the first half.” Pascal put it this way, “The strength of a man’s virtue….is measured by his habitual acts.” This is why the Bible puts so much emphasis on our attitudes and actions. Because a way of thinking and a way of acting soon becomes habitual. And it can be good or bad.
If you want to break some bad habit and develop some better ones, here’s seven steps that will help.
(1) Decide you really want to change. Be honest. Don’t kid yourself. God gave us the power to choose. Life is about choices. You have the ability to make good decisions.
(2) Realize bad habits don’t just disappear. While we may choose to eliminate a harmful habit or a sinful practice from our lives. It takes effort. Work. Determination. Habits don’t go away by themselves. We must exercise our will over the harmful habit.
(3) Specifically define the habits you want to acquire. Just saying I want to be a better person…better parent…better Christian is not enough. Be precise. Identify an area of your life that needs specific improvement.
(4) Develop a personal plan of action to help you acquire the new habit. Think it through. Write it down. Make it practical and doable. And make it yours.
(5) Evaluate your progress. Don’t become discouraged with some set backs. Celebrate your successes. And focus on the future.
(6) Elicit the help of others. Your mate. Your family. Your friends. Announce your intention to them and ask them to hold you accountable. In fact, it’s even better if it’s something you can work on together and help each other.
(7) Pray. Ask for God’s help, strength and power to overcome the habit you are trying to break and to replace it with a new one.
Once you are in control of your habits, you are in control of your health. Your time. Your finances. Your relationships. Your attitude. Your actions.
Burke Hedges was right when he wrote, “When you gain control of your habits you gain control of your life.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman