Archives For Habits

With the New Year here, many are setting out to change their lives. As ubiquitous as New Years resolutions are, they almost universally fail.

There are at least three approaches to New Year’s Resolutions. Some better than others depending on what you hope to accomplish.

The Goal

Most people confuse a goal with an intention. For instance “I’d like to lose weight” is an intention. “I will loose 10 pounds by eating 2 healthy meals a day for the next 60 days” is a goal. Use the tried and true framework “SMART” to help you articulate a goal you can succeed at:







Unlike a goal, a habit is a change of lifestyle. Examples of habits include “exercise daily” and “never check email before 9am.” The best way to learn a new habit it to subvert an existing one.

In The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg, talks about how he broke his mid-morning cookie habit. He realized that what he enjoyed was not the chewy chocolate chips, but the opportunity to move around and socialize. He replaced his cookie break with a short time to walk around the office and socialize. The cookie was hardly missed, and he even lost a little weight.


We all have abilities we’d like to attain, like speaking a foreign language, learning to paint or write code. While mastering a skill may take 10,000 hours, basic competence can be achieved in only 20 hours.

According to Josh Kaufman,

[Rapid skill acquisition is] a way of breaking down the skill you’re trying to acquire into the smallest possible parts, identifying which of those parts are most important, then deliberately practicing those elements first.

The amount of time it will take you to acquire a new skill is mostly a matter of how much concentrated time you’re willing to invest in deliberate practice and smart experimentation and how good you need to become to perform at the level you desire.

Kaufman’s 10 Principles of Rapid Skill Acquisition are:

  1. Choose a lovable project.
  2. Focus energy on one skill at a time.
  3. Define your target performance level.
  4. Deconstruct the skill into sub-skills.
  5. Obtain critical tools.
  6. Eliminate barriers to practice.
  7. Make dedicated time for practice.
  8. Create fast feedback loops.
  9. Practice by the clock in short bursts.
  10. Emphasize quantity and speed.

How do you want to change in 2014?

Some practices or habits we engage in are thin, like exercising or brushing our teeth. We do these habits toward a particular end, to be in shape and have clean teeth. Thin practices don’t touch on our identity. “It would be an odd thing, for instance, for me to think of myself first and foremost as a ‘tooth brusher.’ These practices or habits don’t touch our love or fundamental desire.”

Thick practices or (liturgies) are rituals of ultimate concern, rituals that are identity-forming and telos-laden, that embed particular visions of the good life, and do so in a way that seeks to trump other ritual formations.

So what kind of liturgies do the people in the congregation you serve in embody? How do they increase people’s honesty and love for God? How do they help shape people for God’s purposes in the world?

JR Woodward, Creating a Missional Culture: Equipping the Church for the Sake of the World

Habits that Change the World

Wednesday Spotlight: Songza

Chris —  January 16, 2013

8c3cb62d511bc073b324075fb199eb86_songza_defaultLike the idea of Pandora, but hate the commercials and the shallow, computer generated playlists? Like Spotify, but wish it had an alarm clock? Or do just want something that will play music for you, and is free?

What you want is Songza.

I tripped on Songza because I really wanted Spotify to have an alarm clock.  I found that, and much more.

Songza is driven by human curated playlists.  These lists are organized by themes such as activities and moods.  A few I’ve used are “Waking up Smiling” (Soul and R&B anthems), and “Ambient Music for Reading” (which is exactly what it sounds like.)  These playlists provide something Spotify does not, great music I don’t have to think about to find.

Songza is helping me develop one of my new habits for 2013, becoming a morning person.  I set a timer to play  some super chill tunes or white noise for 90 minutes as I go to sleep.  Then, it cranks back up with my morning playlist about 10 minutes before I need to get out of bed.

You can listen free online, or download the app.

I love New Years resolutions. I love the idea that if I just decide and try hard enough I can change.  But for the most part resolutions don’t last.  Goals are better, but they’re easier to make than they are to stick to.  That’s why I am trying this year to focus more on building habits.

Habits I Hope to Master in 2013

  • Become a Morning Person
    I hate that this is a goal, but I think it needs to happen.  There’s just too much I want to do, between church, work, grad school, and oh yeah, the whole hopes and dreams thing.  My hope is to create a habit of regularly waking up in the morning, and I’m using the carrot of fancy coffee when I actually pull it off.
  • Create a Regular Devotional Pattern
    My devotional life has always been haphazard.  The key I am using this year is to have a specific pattern and stick to it.  For now, that means reading a few chapters in the scriptures every morning
    and responding in my prayer journal.  I’m also using a few of the classic devotionals to mix it up.
  • Write 200 Words a Day
    If I could be really good at one thing, and then use my superpower for good, it would be writing.  I’ve always been one to write and reflect, but as Ira says, I have more taste than talent. My goal this year isn’t necessarily to post daily wisdom on the blog or get a book published, but simply force myself to write every day.  Anything under 200 words doesn’t count.

The question is, how do you build a habit?  Well that’s something I’m trying to learn.  I’ve been inspired Charles’ Duhigg’s exploration in The Power of Habitthat habits come from the combination of cues, rewards and routines. I’m using tools like the Jerry Seinfeld’s productivity secret and I’m even considering paying my enemies if I break a habit.

What methods have you found help with building habits?