There’s a lot of talk going around about habits, goals, and bettering ourselves.
I’ve heard a lot of buzz about the concept of getting 1% better. If you get just 1% better every day, then but the end of the year you’ll have perfected whatever it is you’re trying to do.
The book Atomic Habits by James Clear (which is on my to-read list) encourages us to develop habits instead of setting goals. By doing so, we subtly change our own identity – how we see ourselves and present ourselves to others. You aren’t just going for runs every so often. You are a runner.
What it all comes down to is consistency. Nothing will become a habit if you aren’t consistent. You won’t reach your goals without putting in the work day in and day out. You aren’t in it for the short-term results (which you probably won’t see on a day to day basis). You’re in it for the month over month, year over year progress toward becoming the person you truly want to be.
Consistency is critical. You can’t walk into a gym, do some bicep curls, and expect to gain muscle mass after one session. You may feel the pain of muscle breakdown and regrowth. You will get stronger. But the real gains come after months or years of effort.
Similarly, if you’re only investing one hour a week in your faith, you probably won’t have that strong of a foundation for when times of hardship come (see The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders in Matthew 7). Jesus told us not just to listen to his words but to put them into practice. Do what he says. Take up our cross daily and follow him.
So how do we become more consistent? Here are some things I’ve tried based on expert suggestions. These principles can apply to fitness, faith, or any number of aspects of your life.
1. Make time, don’t just find time.
This is one area where technology can be a valuable tool or a complete disaster. We are all busy. I know that. So use the resources at your disposal. Put everything down in your calendar. Is there an event at church? Calendar. Need to block off time to exercise? Calendar. Schedule these things. After a while it will become assumed, and that time will be preserved.
Need help remembering to pray, or drink water, or stand up from your computer desk, or read your daily devotional? Set reminders. Put them on your to-do list. Anything that isn’t prioritized become expendable.
2. Make it easy because you’re lazy.
Sorry, but you just are. Humans, water, and electricity all take the path of least resistance. Any minor inconvenience can set you back and derail your consistency.
Lay out your work out clothes and prepare your gym bag the night before. Put your Bible or devotional book on your night stand, side table, or by the toilet – wherever it will be most convenient for you to read. Set up verse-of-the-day notifications. Hide the junk food and actually prep the vegetables! You want to make it easier to do the good activity and harder to do the not-so-good things. Because you’re lazy. I’m lazy. We’re all lazy. Don’t rely on self-starting motivation every morning. Simplify, automate, streamline, whatever it takes.
3. Don’t give up just because you don’t see immediate results.
You didn’t gain that weight overnight. You’re not going to lose it overnight either. Losing body fat is about your diet. Gaining muscle mass is accomplished through exercise. And you’ll see quicker results by maintaining a calorie deficit than you will by working out a few times a week. But that doesn’t mean it will be easy. Some weeks you might gain weight. Some weeks you might not hit the same weights as you did last week.
But if you’re being consistent, the overall trend will be in the right direction for you.
So it is with our faith. Discipleship is a life-long journey. We will never “arrive” in this life. Reading scripture, praying, worshiping with other believers, doing acts of service, pursuing justice, practicing the spiritual disciplines – if we’re only in it for the payoff, we’ve missed the point. We’re no better than the man who asked “what good thing must I do to inherit eternal life?” What really matters is “faith expressing itself through love.” Or as Eugene Peterson worded it (as the title of one of his books) God is looking for “a long obedience in the same direction.”
There is a lot more I could talk about – accountability, tracking progress, celebrating little wins, finding a reward system, and so on. But I think if you started with these three – Making time, Making it easy, Not getting discouraged – then you’ll be on the right track.
What else would you suggest? What has helped you develop consistency in your routines? Let me know in the comments below!