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Spiritual Direction: Start Forming Habits Now For Next Year

Spiritual Direction: Start Forming Habits Now For Next Year September 28, 2021

Spiritual Direction: Start Forming Habits Now For Next Year

Start Forming Habits Now For Next Year

Today is our opportunity to start forming habits for next year.

I am not sure why, but people seem to enjoy sending me articles about how long it takes to form a new habit. Some people believe it takes just over two months of daily practice to turn an idea or intention into a new habit. Other people advocate a combination of 21 days and 90 days.

Whichever system you find most persuasive, today is the best day to begin forming a new habit.

If we commit ourselves to a specific intention today, we can be well on our way to a new habit by the beginning of next year.

What is the one habit we wish we had started forming last New Year’s, or the year before that?

Most of us develop ways of behaving and approaching life without thinking them through particularly thoroughly. We do things the ways we have always done them, or the ways we saw other people doing them. It is easy for us to feel comfortable in our patterns and not recognize we would want to change anything.

When we notice a habit we would like to change, it can be a challenge. It is easy for us not to pay attention, to continue living in the comfortable ways to which we have become accustomed. We forget we are trying to form a new habit until we have already reinforced our old habit.

Some of us put added pressure on ourselves by resolving to change habits at New Year’s. It is particularly challenging to change our ways when we want to recover from three months filled with holidays at the end of the year.

We might have time for the nap we will deserve in January if we start forming new habits today.

Starting to Form New Habits Today

Forming new habits is a journey of many steps which we take one step at a time.

The first step might be the most challenging one. Our journey begins by deciding what habit we would like to form.

I believe it is helpful to choose one habit and pay attention to it. When I plan a comprehensive effort to change many habits, I run out of steam. It is too easy for me to get distracted or confused by a large inventory of intended changes.

It is also important for me to choose a new habit which is meaningful, but not overwhelming. I want to change a habit which affects my everyday life.

In addition to choosing a specifically identifiable habit, I need to decide how I will change each day. I need to change something I do, not some universal, comprehensive sense of life.

My habit cannot be something vague like, “being more optimistic.” It is too easy for me to convince myself I have already become more optimistic, so I can move on to something else. I need a habit which causes me to do something specific each day.

It is important for me to choose a habit which goes beyond thinking or feeling a certain way. The habits which work best for me teach me to translate the ways I think or feel into how I behave.

What is the one specific habit we would like to form before New Year’s Day? How will it change the way we experience the next few months, and the years after that? Where do we begin to take our first steps on the journey toward our new habit?

When we have made our choices we can begin the journey into changing our habits.

What Makes Forming New Habits a Challenge?

Some of us allow other things to distract us from forming new habits. It is easy for us to get caught up in the demands of work and family and everyday life.

We may like to daydream about changing our habits, but are not really interested in changing.

I know people who seem to believe our habits and patterns of behavior are not particularly important. They spend their time paying attention to theories and concepts, not what they do in their everyday lives.

Some of us believe spiritual life has more to do with ideas and schools of thought than with how we treat others each day.

We may have a difficult time choosing one of our habits we believe needs to change. Some of us feel particularly comfortable with the way we live our lives and enjoy the way things are right now.

There are many reasons we might resist forming new habits. Our resistance could be an indication we need to pay more attention and spend some time reflecting on our habits.

We choose one habit, one step on our journey to take today. It may be the most challenging step we take.

Forming New Habits For Next Year

We can begin today to form new habits for next year.

No matter what system we use to count the days, we take our journey of change one step at a time. We start by choosing one habit we will change.

There may be days when we stumble or are tempted to give up or turn back. We will continue, because we recognize how we live each day is more significant than vague notions or concepts. Our patterns of behavior reflect how we experience our lives.

We are forming new habits because we believe the ways we act need to reflect what we believe.

Most of us have acquired habits, patterns of behavior, without paying attention. As we reflect, our contemplation opens our eyes and our hearts to ways we would like to change.

We are beginning today to change one habit for next year because we understand habits can speak more loudly than words.

Each of us wants to live with clarity, intention, and purpose.

How will we begin today to form new habits for next year?

What steps will we take this week as we form new habits for next year?

[Image by QuotesEverlasting]

Greg Richardson is a spiritual director in Southern California. He is a recovering assistant district attorney and associate university professor, and is a lay Oblate with New Camaldoli Hermitage near Big Sur, California. Greg’s website is StrategicMonk.com and his email address is StrategicMonk@gmail.com.

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