Thoughts on Habits and Ants

February 5, 2016

I have a long history of making declarations (drink more water, eat more produce, exercise regularly, read scripture daily). I follow through for a short time and then quit. I hear I may not be the only one who does that.

Last summer I helped our daughter and her husband move and settle into a new home. Even though we didn’t have their belongings in and beds made until late Monday night, Caitlyn was committed to teaching her regularly scheduled spinning exercise class the next morning at 6:45 a.m. “Of course, I’ll go with you!” I said.  (We moms do things like that.)

Getting up early and going to the class bleary-eyed brought back vivid memories of Caitlyn’s senior year of high school when she and I regularly attended a 5:15 a.m. spinning class together. Together was great! If one of us wanted to opt out, the other one would encourage and we’d end up at class. As much as I liked the class and getting my exercise done before coffee, my consistency with Caitlyn became inconsistency on my own.

When I returned home after their move, I laid out my clothes, set my alarm and made it to the spinning class the next morning. And then I did it again. And again.

A few weeks later, Gary joined me and kept going. I had a spinning partner again!  A lot of times we were both ready to get up and go, but if one didn’t feel like it, the other one would hold the line.

Then January came.

And there went our attendance at the spinning class.

Oh, we talked about it, as in, “Are we spinning tomorrow?” “We should.” “So are we?” “I don’t know.”

(We didn’t.)

We recently found our way out of bed and back to the class – a great start to the day.

That evening I asked rhetorically, “Why is it so much easier to break a good habit than to develop one?”

It’s an age-old question, but that evening I heard it, really heard it for the first time.

The truth is, our habit was developed AND  was broken by the answer to a simple question: are we spinning tomorrow?

Before January, we answered yes. After January, we answered no.

Building the exercise habit was neither hard nor easy. It was answering the question with a yes. Breaking the habit was neither hard nor easy. It was answering with a no. The habit was established — and then broken with a single word. What our minds set on, our bodies did.

Hmmm… What other things have I deemed difficult, that may simply need a different answer?

For me, writing falls in that category. I want to write and like to write. In fact, I believe God asks me to write. However, without deadlines, or an editor breathing down my neck, it’s easy to distract myself with some other task or diversion when writing gets difficult or a little too personal.

Is there a question being asked for me to answer?” I think so: “Will I write today, put some words – ANY words – where that blinking cursor is?” Yes, I will,” or “No, I won’t.”

I have to admit part of being mature is making the decision that will move me forward – even if I can’t see very far down the road.

Our few months of spinning before Christmas did not result in either of us replacing our wardrobes for smaller sizes, but I had more energy and Gary enjoyed skiing in Colorado more than before.

Not everything I write will be published – even on my own blog. But if I keep writing, I’ll find some kernels to build on.

Donald Miller, author and founder of Storyline, suggests making better decisions by imagining ourselves a year removed from a decision we need to make. As we look back at it from a year down the road, how do we want to see it? For example, if someone hurts my feelings today, what actions do I want to see when I look back on it from next year– revenge or forgiveness? When we remove ourselves from the immediacy and emotion of a situation or decision, and, instead, see it from a year down the road, the perspective changes.

A year from now, I don’t want to say, “I really should get back to an exercise program?” I want to look back and see a year of exercising fairly regularly 3-4 times a week!

Likewise, I don’t want to look back and see I wrote very little in 2016. I want to see a writing routine I can build on for the NEXT year!

When life gives me a bump in the road, I can wonder what the God’s word says, or I can KNOW what it says because I’ve been reading it.

While establishing good habits and practices is important, I have to admit it may not be as difficult as I’ve believed. Rather, it’s a pattern of small decisions – the next best decision I can make to move my life forward.

Proverbs 30:24-25 calls ants wise, “Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer.”

I hope I’m not aiming too high, but I’d like to be at LEAST as wise as an ant. How about you? Maybe together we could become an Army of Wise Ants. (AWA – maybe?)

Can we encourage each other to exercise maturity, act with wisdom and say yes to the things we can do, or say no to the things we can give up to take a step forward in life?

We can do this.

What is your next best decision?

Let’s not let ants give better answers than we do.

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