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How To Change Your Life By Changing Your Habits - Part 2

 

“You cannot overestimate the unimportance of practically everything.” – John Maxwell

Think about that for a second... How much of your time today will be spent on things that will have absolutely no impact on your future or on eternity? Paying bills. Cleaning up a spill. Watching Hulu. The list goes on. 

The sobering reality is that time is a currency we only get to spend once. We can never get it back, or earn more. It's just gone.

In light of an eternal perspective and the brevity of life, Paul reminds us to "Make the most of your time, because the days are evil". He precedes the thought by telling us to "give careful thought" to our lives, and follows the thought by admonishing us to "know what the Lord's will is".

Brent Crowe, in Sacred Intent after exegeting the above passage, starts with this thought: what if we only had one week to live? Where and how we would spend our time? 

Pause, and think about that - more importantly, think about what you would NOT do. The house can go to ______ (you can fill in the blank) , I'm spending time with my kids, right?!

Since our lives are the sum total of our habits, shaping them is the easiest way for us to ensure we are spending our lives meaningfully and on purpose.

Here's the reality though,

We don't break bad habits, we replace them.

In other words it's easier to take back your time by starting new habits than trying to "break" old ones.

I shared a couple of these habits I've started in my last Habit post here.

Here's a few more:

Exercising @ Home

I really enjoy running, I always have. It has been challenging for me over the last year to make this a consistent habit, and see the results I wanted. The problem was two-fold:

  1. I was significantly overweight so until I started shedding pounds, I could only work my way up to about 3 miles give our take. The problem is I couldn't start shedding pounds quickly until I started doing longer runs. So I found myself in a catch-22.
  2. With our season in life, it's just not easy to leave the house, and it took so long to put running clothes on (5 minutes) + stretch (5 minutes) + answer Abi's 7 questions about what I'm doing (2 minutes) + run (35 minutes) + stretch (5 minutes) + shower (15 minutes) = 72 minutes!!!

I switched to doing free Fitness Blender workouts on youtube and it's changed everything. Did I have to turn in my man-card when I started doing aerobics? Sure, but it was worth it...

On my best weeks running I'd work out 2 times. My first week working out at home, I worked out 6 times. Plus, the huge win is, since it's not pounding the same muscle groups over and over like running does, I'm able to do cardio for over an hour!

The other win is it affords no disruption to our family so I can spend more time holding this one:

 

Audible subscription

One of the toughest transitions from single and married life to life with kids for me has been the reduced time/energy to read and study. I talked in my last post in this series about how I've switched to an audio bible on my rides to and from work.

We've also purchased an Audible subscription where we get 2 free titles a month. Shout out to Bae for making us splurge on this.

"It's fine," she said, "we'll just take it out of the kids college fund."

Do I retain as much as if I was reading vs. listening? Absolutely not! But I'm retaining a whole lot more than if I wasn't reading at all. My favorite part of this habit has been this: I can redeem lost time since I can listen and learn while doing something else. For instance, mowing the lawn is something I have to spend an hour of my life on that will mean nothing for people, nothing for eternity, and nothing for my family. But now I can take back that time with learning.

Pursuing my passions

There's never a great time to pursue your dreams, but at some point you just have to start.

For me that's writing. I wrote a book several years ago that I want to edit and publish, and I've wanted to begin blogging on a larger scale for some time now.

Here's how I've made this a daily habit:

One of the most effective ways to start great habits is tie them to an existing one. Whenever you bite your nails, meditate on a scripture! For me there's nothing in my life more sacred or consistent than my morning routine. Coffee. Jesus. Study. Dreaming. Anyway I worked in a 15 minute slot to work on my writing. I do anything from submitting articles, working on my website, content-editing my book, writing for my block, research etc. Its different every time and I put a hard stop at only 15 minutes - but its consistent.

How about you? What habits can you start today that will allow you to take back your time?

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How To Change Your Life By Changing Your Habits

You will never change your life, until you change something you do daily. The secret to success lies in your daily routine. ~John Maxwell

the last couple of months, I've spent some time filtering my life through this quote (from Maxwell's 15 invaluable laws of growth). For better or worse, your life is the sum total of your habits. this has actually been liberating in a lot of ways. Where I used to feel pressure to make seismic changes in my life, I now know that life-change lies in the smallest, and simplest daily habits.

Here's a couple of changes I've made to my daily that have made me feel like a much healthier person:

Incorporating An Audio Bible

I'm more of a reading/writing learner than an auditory one. You can find your learning style here. If I listen to a chapter in the bible, I'll comprehend/retain about half as much as if I read it. However, it's been somewhat difficult to carve out the time to sit down and read 5 chapters in the bible, and even more difficult for me to get through that time undistracted by people, whether co-workers in my office or my kids at home... I have 3 of them now.

Which is terrifying...

Exhibit A:

I figured out that I can listen to about 7-9 chapters in my drive to and from work. The math was hard to argue with: Retaining 50% of 8 Chapters was > 100% of 0 chapters. Plus, previously this was lost time in my day, and now it's productive! (I just use the free YouVersion app for this.)

Here's a common thread to a lot of the changes I've made: Shifting from something that's ideal to something that works.

In my devotional fantasies (I'm pretty sure I'm the only person that has these) I get up while still dark, light a scented candle, put a pot of coffee on, and mark up 10 chapters of my interlinear bible, after quietly reciting the Shema for 2 hours.

In the real world, I'm pumped that I'm getting multiple chapters in, at least 5 days a week! 

Drinking a gallon of water

Again: Small daily change done consistently yields a disproportionately greater impact on your life. Think of your habits like a handful of seeds that seem small in the moment, but over time yield an exponentially greater harvest.

Remember, I'm basically an expert on all this, since I've been doing it for 3 weeks.  

Anyways I've been working towards health and I'm always looking for small ways to make an impact. When we were in the hospital for Ryan's debut, they gave Lizeth this quart jug with a straw for water (the straw makes it WAY easier to down large amounts of H2O). I found an extra one in our hospital bathroom which I quickly stole.

And by stole, I mean I paid $7,000 for it. 

It's changed my life! Because it's a quart, I only have to refill it 3 times to reach a gallon. I've realized if I drink one before I leave for work, it's easy to drink a gallon (two more during my work day, and one when I get home). If I don't do that, I usually don't quite hit the one gallon mark. Days that I work out, I definitely hit my goal - drinking about a quart during my workouts alone. I can't stress enough how much the straw helps. Anyway, it's a small change, that has made my work outs more productive, yielded some water-weight loss, improved my metabolism, curbed my appetite, and given me more energy.

What something you could do daily that would change your life? Put it in the comments below!

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How To Hate Prayer - Part 3 - Structuring Your Prayer Times

I'm gonna be completely honest here.

I've pretty much had my life planned out since middle school. 

My to do list is color coded.

Each day of the week i intentionally focus on a different section of my job description... Who does that?

I have a disease. I realize that. Please pray for the people I love the most.

The other day I mapped out my week on my dry erase board in Stephen Covey's 4 productivity quadrants - if you don't know what that is, that's okay, it only means you're not sick like I am.

My ability to operate without plans and structure is not entirely unlike Jack Garratt's ability to write terrible music.

...These things are just not in the cards for Jack and I.

This was all in the interest of full disclosure so you can take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt.

We've been talking about Jesus' promise to give us joy in the place of prayer (Isaiah 56:7), and wrestling with some of the reasons we don't experience that.

So with that said, this is one of the easiest ways out there to NOT enjoy prayer:

Definitely go in without a plan

Early on in my process with Jesus, I was at some sort of meetings when I was first introduced to the idea of planning/structuring my prayer times. We were in a pre-service prayer setting, when one of the speakers walked us through the ACTS model. 

  • Adoration
  • Confession
  • Thanksgiving
  • Supplication (fancy KJV word for asking God for stuff)

I should have known. The answers to life's greatest mysteries have always been hidden within the same medium:

Acrostics!

But seriously, 15 years later and I'll still bust out the ACTS model from time to time.

Everything God builds...

Everything God creates is first given structure, and then given life. With the creation of Adam he first creates the bones, then breathes his Spirit into him. With Ezekiel he does the same thing - skeletons and tendons, then ruach. With Moses, first he gives intricate construction details for the tabernacle and liturgical process, then he fills it with glory.

Sometimes in prayer and in our other endeavors, we give God something to use, something to work with, something to move through. I think it's his way of involving us in the process.

But here's an important caveat: You WANT structure. What you DON'T want is your prayer life to become wrote religious exercise, instead of life giving relationship. Tyler Speegle has a great piece on that here.

Other than the ACTS model here are a couple other ways I've structured my prayer times:

1. Praying Through A Psalm

People talk about the power of praying the scriptures all the time. The Psalms are a great place to start praying the word, since most of them are prayers already... So it doesn't take a lot of imagination. Psalms are an easy way to give your prayer time a path to travel. Read a verse then apply that verse to a situation in your life e.g. marriage, finances, relationship with God, then use the textual language to pray it back to God. Then on to the next verse.

2. 20-20 Challenge

From time to time I'll issue the 20-20 challenge to my students. It's connecting with God for 20 minutes a day for 20 days. Why 20 days? So glad you asked. Because it takes 21 days to build a habit (the 20-21 Challenge wasn't nearly as catchy).

I'd also chart their 20 minutes for them:

  • 5 Minutes: Turn on your favorite worship leader and worship for 1 song
  • 5 Minutes: Read a Psalm - why a psalm? Because they're short - baby steps people, baby steps.
  • 5 Minutes: Pray about your prayer life like the disciples did when they said "Jesus, teach us to pray". This is huge in the beginning - Your getting distracted, great, talk to him about it. "God I'm bored." "God give me a hunger for you." "God I'm trying here, but I need your grace." "God I want to want you" "Jesus teach me to pray."
  • 5 Minutes: Requests/Needs

These are just ideas. Ask people you respect in this area, create your own, see what works for you. 

One final thought. If you're in one of those seasons where you are falling deeply in love with Jesus, hearing from him all the time, and thinking about him in every waking moment, you probably don't need a lot of structure. Mountaintops should be enjoyed, but structure will help us to be faithful in prayer  in the valleys and arid places that lie in between.