[This post is part of the Reshaping Christian Habits series]
Way back in June in the beginning of this series, I mentioned that you really ought to look into picking up Darren Hardy’s The Compound Effect. Coupled with a Christian focus on the goals of discipleship like N. T. Wright’s After You Believe, this book can help provide the missing link between knowing what to do and actually doing it second nature.
Having just finished by 90-day challenge early last week, I’ve been putting some thought in the lessons learned (look for a post in a day or two) and how to move forward with another 90-day challenge, this one starting today (well, technically yesterday). By starting today, my current 90-day challenge will end on January 1st, setting me up perfectly to start the next one at the beginning of a new year.
One of the things that helped on my first go around with a 90-day challenge is using the principles from The Compound Effect. To put it the most succinctly, the general idea is that:
You –> Choice + Behavior + Habit + Compound = Goals
Or in other words, you reach your goals by changing small mundane choices on a day to day basis that lead to new behaviors, which over time become habits that will compound like interest on money. The truth we don’t always reckon with is that reaching our goals is easier with incremental changes over time.
So for instance, starting with another 90-day challenge I have certain goals. In order to reach those goals, I need to work backwards and ask myself what habits I’ll need to develop in order to reach those goals. Then I’ll need to move back one more step and decide which everyday changes I’ll need to change in order to develop those habits. By doing this consistently from 90-day challenge to 90-day challenge, you could build momentum that will help you go farther than you could by trying to bite off more than you can chew from day one.
To take this into the arena of reshaping Christian habits, consider these qualifications of a real theologian. To try to develop multiple of these characteristics at once would be hard if not impossible. But, say you pick one of these, maybe being more self-controlled. To filter out what that might look like for you, approach your lack of self-control as a bad habit. In order to deconstruct the bad habit, Hardy’s book gives some helpful criteria:
- Identify your triggers (determine the “who” “what” “when” and “where” of your habits)
- Remove temptations
- Replace with a new habit (sounds kind of like “put off, put on”)
- Ease in to the changes
Now, suppose you put all these to use in trying to develop better self-control over the next 90-days. If you are successful, you would be setup to then build momentum in the next 90-days to work on another Christian character trait. Think how this works too with spiritual disciplines.
One thing I learned from my 90-day challenge with prayer was that shooting for three times a day right off the bat was a little too steep, especially once life got busy (i.e. I got a job and wasn’t just around the house working on my thesis). I probably should have shot for once a day at a consistent time for the first 30-days to establish a rhythm, then added a second time for the next 30 days and then a third for the third 30 days. That, by the end of 90-days I’ve established a habit of consistently praying three times a day, but I didn’t just try to jump right in from day one.
Some of this may be common sense to you, but I found it helpful to start thinking of my goals in incremental levels and then work backwards to making small daily choices that help build momentum. That is how the compound effect can help you develop and reshape your Christian habits. Tomorrow, I’ll get into a little more what I’ve done over the last 90-days and what I’m looking to do in the next.