In my last blog, I shared some of my New Years Resolutions for 2017, as well as some goals I hope to reach in the New Year. One of my resolutions was to take more vacations, and I’m happy to report I just returned from spending a week laying on a beach in sunny Florida a few weeks ago.
Look at me knocking out New Years Resolutions with a 1-2 punch :)
I think we can all agree that if there’s something we’d like to change about our life, the first step is assessing our habits. My blogging buddy, Amy Austin wrote a great piece on this a few weeks ago and it got me thinking about the habits I have formed that got me to the place I’m in, with wanting to make some changes. The reason I have things I want to change, is because, somewhere along the way, I developed a habit that fed that behavior; so if I want to change the behavior, I have to first learn to create new habits. After all, the best way to eliminate a bad habit is by replacing it with a good habit.
At the end of her blog, Amy gave the option to leave a comment on the “ONE habit you’re working on for 2017.” Well, instead of leaving a comment, I figured I’d piggyback off of that and write a whole blog on how I’m going to work to replace a bad habit with a good one.
There are many bad habits in my life I’d like to break, but, like she suggested, it’s best to start with one, then knock out the rest like dominoes. Discipline begets discipline, so if I can learn to create this one new habit, perhaps the others will follow suite. Because, I really want to make some changes. I really want the peace I know they will bring. So, now is the time for hard work.
The first habit I’d like to break has to do with attitude. No, not copping a ‘tude, but the way I view my life and daily responsibilities. And I believe in changing this particular attitude, I will then be able to celebrate victories, and love God, others, & myself better.
No matter what each of us do, vocationally or in our day-to-day routine, we have within us the ability to view our daily life with a positive spin, or a negative one. Let me elaborate:
Many of us struggle with comparing and coveting; we look at the job, spouse, house, family, material possessions, anything belonging to another person and think our lives would be better if we had (fill in the blank). And yet, I think if we all sat back and took a good, hard look at our lives, we would realize that we have it pretty darn good. Sure, we all go through difficult seasons, but those seasons don’t have to be as difficult if we have an “attitude of gratitude.” This isn’t a new concept. Ann Voskamp wrote a great book on thankfulness in the mundane and insignificant.
I know you may be thinking, “been there, done that, read the book.”
And yet, if you’re anything like me, gratitude still takes a lot of work. For me, it’s a daily, mental exercise, sometimes just as tedious as convincing myself to get out of bed early and get on the treadmill. I can think of all the reasons I should stay in bed much faster than all the reasons I should get that workout over with for the day. I know I will feel better, have more energy, and reap the benefits of those endorphins, and yet that initial thought of willing myself out of bed is where implementing the habit begins.
In the same way, breaking the habit of a thought process and an attitude is the same way. It all starts with that knee-jerk response; that first thought about that particular thing.
So here’s my habit and how I intend to break it:
“I have to.”
This is something I’ll think to myself multiple times throughout the day.
“Ugh, I have to get up.”
“I have to workout.”
“I have to do the laundry.”
And since April is around the corner…
“I have to work on my taxes.”
This might seem like a normal, harmless thought to have, and yet it sets the trajectory for the whole day. When I think to myself, “I have to,” about anything, it then becomes a chore; a dreaded activity that I’m being forced into doing like a child who is being called in from the playground to do their homework.
The fact of the matter is, we all have certain activities in our lives that are less enjoyable than others. And yet, if this thought is allowed to continue and grow, it will infiltrate the way you view everything. You can actually get to the point where you dread doing the very thing you love. I know, because I’ve actually gotten to that point many times before. Without being too specific, I’ve actually had that feeling of dread about some of the very things I’ve worked my whole life to be able to do.
And how did I get to that point? I let that weed of negativity grow. I had that attitude of, “ugh, I have to ____,” about something small and insignificant and it ended up becoming my attitude about almost everything.
Our lives are what we make of them. If there’s something in each of our lives that we absolutely cannot stand and feel like we’ll scream if we must do it once more, we all have the ability to make a change. But I’d venture to guess, it’s not so much the fact that you have to clean one more dish or change one more diaper, but rather your heart behind your action.
So, the way I’m working on breaking this habit is simple. Like stupid, simple.
When that thought creeps into my brain, I immediately replace it with, “I get to.”
“I get to go to work, because I’m blessed to live in a country where (I’m a woman and) I can own my own business, work as much as I want, and work in a field that I love.”
“I get to fold these clothes…because I have clothes. I am not cold and living on the streets. I get to fold all of these clothes, because I’ve been blessed financially.”
I could go on and on with all the “I get to’s” but frankly, everything I do on a daily basis is a blessing and a privilege; it’s up to me if I choose to view it that way or not.
And I’m not saying it’s easy, it definitely requires flexing my mental muscles more often, catching the bad habit before it begins, but it’s so simple.
And after a while of implementing this mental exercise, it will become a habit. That’s the beauty of habits. When we create good ones, after a while, it will become second nature. The trick is putting in the work now.
So, my challenge to you is this:
I’m sure there is something in your life that you have a negative attitude about and think, “I have to,” when it comes to carrying out that task or showing up for that responsibility. So, instead, this week, say to yourself, “I get to,” and even follow it up with a “because____,” and see how that simple exercise changes your entire outlook that day.
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies. Philippians 4:8-9 (MSG)