Four Life-Changing Habits

“You’ll never change your life until you change something you do daily.  The secret to your success is found in your daily routine.” – John C. Maxwell

“You cannot change your future, but you can change your habits, and surely your habits will change your future.” – Abdul Kalam

“Habit is either the best of servants of the worst of masters.” – Nathanael Emmons

“So, then, be careful how you live.  Do not be unwise but wise.” – Ephesians 5:15 ISV

I love the deep truth found in the quote above from John Maxwell – pointing out the profound impact of daily habits and routines.  What we do each day, what we think about, and how we choose to respond dictates the quality and purpose of our lives more than we realize.

The key then is doing and thinking about the right things consistently each day – developing valuable habits that become a part of our natural routine.

When you look hard at your own life, what routines are getting in the way of your success?  What daily habits do you need to reinforce, and which need to be abandoned? 

Think for a moment about LIFE-CHANGING habits – not those that keep your weight down to a manageable level or help you save a little more money or keep your work/life balance more reasonable.  Think about habits that will change how you think, change how you respond to both blessings and hardship, and ultimately change your destiny.

As you contemplate these types of habits, consider the following:

Embrace NOW

“Look, therefore, to this one day, for it and it alone is life.” – Indian Sanskrit Poem

“Learning to live in the present moment is part of the path of joy.” – Sarah Ban Breathnach

Make it a habit each day to bring yourself into the present moment – experiencing life as it unfolds in front of you.  I’m not talking about doing what makes you happy or focusing on filling your time with all that fulfills your dreams and desires.  I’m talking about sitting within the moment you find yourself in – absorbing and experiencing the details of what it means to be alive this day and this specific moment.

Too many of us waste these moments dwelling on past hurts or mistakes.  Some of us spend it worried and anxious about a future that’s impossible to predict with any precision or accuracy.  When we do this, we are wasting the moments and experiences that life is offering us NOW.

Learn to do this sporadically throughout your day to start.  Smell the aroma of the food before you eat or feel the warmth of the coffee cup as you hold it.  Take a minute to listen to the birds before jumping in the car or watching the clouds as they form and pass above you.

Look at the beauty found in the eyes and the words of those you love.  Feel the comfort of the bed before you drift off to sleep or listen to the wind as it flutters through the tree tops. See the colors, experience the sounds, and feel the textures of life RIGHT NOW.

Don’t let life pass you by.  Stop getting lost in the grind of the job, the fretting of what used to be, or the uncertainty of tomorrow.  Learn to bring yourself into the present moments where life is unfolding before you – looking at it in a deeper, more meaningful way.

When you do these things each day, you will find yourself truly LIVING and walking the path of joy that Sarah Ban Breathnach mentions above.

Look for Good with Intention

“Our intention creates our reality.” – Wayne Dyer

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” – Desmond Tutu

“Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you.” – Charlotte Whitton

Take a moment to think about the worst things that have happened to you in your life.  As you reflect on what that might be for you, analyze with intention the good you can see within them – what positive things unfolded as a result.

How did the illness positively change you or others?  How did the death of a loved one deepen your love or appreciation for them or brighten your life through their memories?  How is your work changing or refining your purpose?  How are your relational conflicts changing you or the others in a better way?  Can you see the good that has come from the divorce, the unexpected trauma, or the uncontrollable loss?

Why are we so conditioned to see things in the worst light or in a clouded, negative fashion?  It becomes too easy to see what’s wrong, but very difficult to take the time to find the virtuous within evil, the positive within the hardship, or the benefits in what seems useless at the time.  Even in the worst of circumstances, there is goodness if we look hard enough for it.

The problem lies in looking for it with intention.  How are you making it a habit to do this in your own life?  As Wayne Dyer mentions above, looking for this good with intention will change the reality of your life dramatically!

Take time each evening to contemplate all the things within your life that you view as negative, difficult, or unbearable.  WITH INTENTION, look for the good you can find within each.  Habitually do this and you will begin to change your reality. 

More importantly, think about how your personal actions or your individual thoughts can bring a positive approach or outlook to a situation that seems bleak for you or others.  With intention, what goodness can you bring to light within it?

Listen for God’s Voice

“Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” – Jeremiah 33:3 NIV

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” – James 1:5 ESV

“The more we listen to God’s voice, the easier it is to recognize when He speaks to us.” – Larry Burkett

Think if you had unfathomable wisdom to approach any problem you encountered or a form of divine omniscience that knew what direction to take and precisely when to take it.  How would you feel if words of love and encouragement were spoken to you during time of uncertainty or a sense of indescribable peace filled your soul as you listened for a gentle whisper of assurance when all seemed lost?

My friend, God has promised us all of these things in our relationship with Him, but we are often so busy with life we neglect the time needed to simply be still and listen.

Many of us pray and reel off our list of things we need, but seldom do we take the necessary time to listen to the Creator of the universe – hearing needed wisdom or loving reassurance or simply sitting still in the peace of His presence.

Learn to take time each day (start with just 10 minutes of stillness) to listen for God with intention.  You will be surprised at what you hear – so surprised in fact that you will long to increase the amount of time you listen daily!

Think about the guidance, wisdom, assurance, and peace that will enter your life as a result of forming this daily habit!

End Each Day with Self-Reflection

“If we don’t change, we don’t grow.  If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.” – Gail Sheehy

“The journey into self-love and self-acceptance must begin with self-examination.  Until you take the journey of self-reflection, it is almost impossible to grown or learn in life.” – Iyanla Vanzant

Think if you ended each day focused on your own personal growth.  Would it change the quality of your life and the lives of those you touched?

Too often, we race through life and fall into bed exhausted – missing out on all the individual lessons and personal growth opportunities found in self-reflection.

How did I handle that difficulty today?  What could I have done differently to improve my relationships?  Where did I get distracted or lose my focus?  Were my actions purpose-driven and filled with positive intention?

While self-reflection should be challenging and focused on personal growth, it must also be accompanied by self-love and acceptance as Iyanla Vanzant suggests above.  This is something I am learning currently – to self-reflect with less condemnation and more grace – with critical analysis but balanced with an understanding of what it means to be human.

Without this balance, we lose the motivation to keep improving and destroy our self-image in the process.

Think my friend about a life that continually looks for the positive in each situation – that intentionally finds and focuses on the goodness that is present in each circumstance it encounters.

Think about a life that slows down enough to fully experience EACH MOMENT – the sounds, the smells, and what it means to be alive RIGHT NOW – gleaning the most it can out of each tiny detail. 

What about one that LISTENS each day for the Creator – thriving on the wisdom, love, and direction He provides without reproach?  Think about the peace that comes within this stillness each day and the joy it brings to life.

Imagine a life continually focused on improvement and personal growth – all within the context of self-love and acceptance.  Isn’t that the reason we are all here in the first place?

My prayer for us all today is to make each of these four things a habitual part of who we are. 

May each of us be blessed with the insight and peace that accompanies them!

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