How to make a habit stick

Foolproof: make a habit stick
How to make a habit stick

We all have habits. We have good habits, bad habits and neutral habits. Bad habits are hard to break and good habits are hard to stick with. Often we commit to a new habit and find ourselves abandoning the effort after a short time. I have found a technique to stick with a new habit that really works. I call it piggybacking habits. Simply put, I associate the new habit I want to establish with an old habit already ingrained in my routine. It works without much effort and it lasts.

Proverbs 18:9, “Slack habits and sloppy work are as bad as vandalism.” MSG

EXERCISE

Unfortunately, I am not able to exercise at all because of myasthenia gravis. I miss it dearly. Before I was diagnosed I was in exceptionally good shape. However, until about four years ago I rarely exercised. I could not seem to find the motivation, energy or time. Can anybody relate? In the evening I was tired and wanted to just sit and read a book. So I made a deal with myself; I chose a page-turning suspense novel, by Ted Dekker I think, and did not allow myself to read a single page unless I was on my stationary bicycle. I read for twenty minutes a day, pedaling without even noticing the effort. I did not want to exercise, but I was excited to see what happened in the next chapter of the thriller. Within a short period of time, I had a new habit and a new passion for cycling. Eventually, I bought a road bicycle and rode about five thousand miles before my muscles suddenly quit talking to my nerves. If you don’t like to read, maybe you have a favorite TV show. Try forbidding yourself from ever watching it unless you are doing leg lifts or using a resistance band or walking on a treadmill.

1 Timothy 4:8, “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” ESV

PRAYER

I used to sit in church every Sunday and commit to be more disciplined in my prayer life. Then I would not think about it again until the following Sunday. I was sincere, but the busyness of my life distracted me. Fortunately, I used my serious addiction to coffee to help. The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is head for the coffee pot. In fact my first coherent thought is, “Coffee!” Nevermind, it is not a coherent thought. Anyway, I made a decision to meet God there, to talk with Him while the aromatic. dark liquid I love was brewing. Soon I was in the habit of starting my day with prayer, asking God to direct my steps.

Psalm 63:1, “O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” NKJV

BIBLE READING

I wanted to read the Message Bible from beginning to end. It may not sound ambitious, but I committed to read one or two pages at a time, while I used a hairdryer. My hair dries pretty quickly, so after nearly ten years I am only in the book of Ezekiel. Over the years, the Lord has given me just the right verse at just the right time through this exercise. I have been immensely blessed through His word. I never allow myself to dry my hair without reading it. By the way, Ezekiel is way more than half way through the Bible, so I am thinking I should be done in about six more years. I’ll let you know.

Deuteronomy 32:47, “They are not just idle words for you-they are your life. By them you will live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.” NIV

SCRIPTURE MEMORIZATION

This is my favorite. We need to know God’s word deep in our marrow to equip us for life’s ups and downs. I like to memorize and I believe anyone can do it. You know I love index cards. I write the verse I want to memorize on a card, then put it in my car. Whenever I am driving, I rehearse the verse until I have it memorized. So don’t laugh if you pull up beside me and think I am talking to myself. I am arming myself with the sword of the Spirit.

Ephesians 6:17, “And take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” WEB

PIGGYBACKING HABITS

If you need to take medication once a day, try putting it with your toothbrush. If you don’t brush your teeth every day, well then I cannot help you. These techniques apply to habits and require discipline. We all need discipline in our lives, but our actual walk with the Lord cannot be successful through tricks and tools.  The power to live for Him comes from Him.  He requires our dependence, which is something I am only beginning to learn.

Even in Christian circles we are prone to depend upon techniques and methods in the work that Christ has given us to do. Without a complete dependence on the Holy Spirit we can only fail. If we have been misled to believe we can do Christ’s work ourselves, it will never be done. The man God will use must be undone.” A. W. Tozer

Have you tried to establish a new habit in the past and can’t stick with it? Try piggybacking, it works.Share in the comments a new habit you want to begin, or what has worked for you.

16 thoughts on “How to make a habit stick

  1. Dear Vicki, This is GOOD! You are allowing God’s Holy Spirit to use you in a very special way, and I, for one, am so thankful. Have a blessed day! Love, Myrlene Tedford

  2. I guess I’ve done this some without realizing it…kinda sorta. But I sure want to think about this more and integrate it in my life. You really can enjoy exercise? I’ve walked talking to my daughters/sister on the phone with earplugs or with my husband discussing our lives. Prayed while walking. I’ve actually seen a young man walking in the neighborhood reading a book a few times. Did he read your blog? 😉 Thanks for giving us wonderful motivation. You’re a good example of someone who will accomplish things!

  3. Vicki, you inspire me! I have felt tremendous loss for you since your retirement. It certainly wasn’t your plan for your life to have your amazing career cut short. I believe God always has our best interest at heart. So, when He redirects our steps, He has an even better plan for our life. You have been chosen, and blessed with His gifts, to bless and inspire others with your writing. What an honor to be used for His glory! Thank you for sharing what the Lord gives you. You may think it is a small thing, but if you will recall how He blessed a few loaves and fishes, you can see how He, blessing your writing, multiplies its benefit and nourishment to the souls of the multitude. God bless you!

    1. It depends. First, it is not my Bible study or devotional time. That is separate. It’s just an extra. Sometimes I feel like I am going through the motions, then sometimes I feel whacked upside the head with a verse for my situation.

  4. Piggybacking does work. I guess I’ve done this unintentionally and not realized it. Our kids left the house at the same time…. one got married (lived at home until this happened) and the other went off to college. We became immediate empty nesters. To fill our time and also to spend some time together, Chris and I started running together… really he trotted while I struggled to run to keep up…. first 2-3 miles, then a 10K, then a half-marathon, then marathons, then trail running and then ultra (anything 30 miles and above). Running was also our time to talk with each other and it actually brought us even closer as a couple and we have met some amazing friends through this avenue. I also stumble to the coffeepot first thing and grab my devotional before anything else. It’s the only way to start the day.

  5. Thank you so much for this. It is exactly what I needed today.
    I look forward to your post. They inspire me!

  6. I am still early in my diagnosis and treatment, still being tested, still bitter at what I have lost. As an active pre-op RN, I have been used to working hard, doing for others. Now the shoe is on the other foot. I cannot do for others physically, I can barely handle activities of daily living. Sometimes, I can’t even do that. It is hard for me to adapt and accept the fact that I must depend on others. Thank you LORD for a loving and patient wife and family.
    Vicki, I appreciate hearing your experiences and your journey through this disease. Hearing what you have experienced and are continually experiencing is encouraging. Thank you for the pertinent scriptures. This disease has brought me closer to the LORD and has improved my prayer life greatly. I may not be able to serve physically, but I can pray. Thanks again!

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