The One Habit That Will Change Your Life (and it probably isn’t what your thinking)

The One Habit That Will Change Your Life (and it probably isn’t what your thinking)

In the book, Atomic Habits by James Clear, he claims that remarkable results are caused by tiny changes.  I believe he is right.  There are habits that when implemented on a regular basis will impact your future in unbelievable ways.  If you can focus on the right habits, you can drastically change your life.

The power of a habit impacts many areas of your life.  For example, if you want to lose weight, you may want to develop the habit of considering how far you must run to burn off those calories before consuming the food.  If you want to get in shape, you may develop a habit of doing ten pushups before you open up your social media account.  Imagine how many pushups you will do during the day if you did this each time you are tempted to go on social media!

The power of habit can also be harnessed to change your spiritual journey of following Jesus.  You probably are already doing this to some degree.  If you read the Bible each morning when you wake up before breakfast, you will grow in your knowledge of God’s Word.  If you pause and pray before each meal, you have the opportunity to remind yourself of God’s provision and care for your needs.  Having a weekly habit of taking a sabbath, not working but focusing on your pursuit of God and enjoying your family, can re-orient your life for the week ahead.

James Clear points out that some habits are more powerful than others.  There are outcome-based habits and there are identity-based habits.  Outcome-based habits are motivated by setting a goal.  For instance, if I want to lose 50 pounds, I will limit my calorie intake daily by counting the calories I consume.  The goal is what is driving the change you want to affect.

There is a more powerful way to establish a habit.  It is through identity-based habits.  Rather than focusing on a goal and striving towards it, the person focuses on what they want to become.  Using the above example, a person who focuses on being a healthy person is more likely to succeed than the person who sets a goal of losing 50 pounds.  When habits are connected to identity, the habit is more transforming.  Research has born this out consistently.

The Apostle Paul seems to know this as he consistently calls the church to recognize their identity in Christ before instructing them to live consistently in holy ways.  “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God”, Paul writes in Colossians 3:1.  He continues, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Col 3:12).  He reminds them of their identity which drives the actions of living.

The most powerful habit that you can put into practice to change your life is to focus on your identity in Christ.  Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.”  The Spirit of God is constantly whispering into our ear our new identity in Christ.  We need to habitually reflect on this truth because it changes everything.  This is our identity!  Yet we continually question the care of God in our lives.  We tend to live more like orphans than like children of God who are promised God’s full co-inheritance with Christ.

In my book, Three Passions of the Soul, I break down what it means to be a child of God and fully loved.  We were created with three needs in the soul that can only be fully met by God Himself – acceptance, significance, and security.  These needs underpin the SDI 2.0 Triangle (BLUE – Acceptance, RED – significance, GREEN – Security).  We all have these needs, but we tend to meet these needs apart from God.  The Bible calls these substitutes idols.  When we focus on our identity in Christ (child of God that is fully loved) we refocus our identity where it belongs.  Our old habit of thinking these needs must be met by ourselves is not easily broken.  We have old habits of focusing on idols (i.e. I seek my significance through my accomplishments, I seek my security through my financial plan, I seek my acceptance through striving to be liked by others).  Our behavior will shift when we see ourselves the way God indicates in His Word.  This requires a new habit.

Imagine if we lived as a child of God?  I am fully loved!  Nothing can separate me from his love!  I have nothing to fear.  I don’t have to strive for anything to fill a void in my soul.  I would be free to live for the one that saved me.  I would be free indeed.  This doesn’t come by striving, trying harder, or focusing on a change in behavior.  Christ is our sanctifier!  Pay attention to what he has to say about your identity.

James Clear also helps us to know how to best cement our new habit into our lives.  He says that the strongest habits are connected to stimulus.  This is because there is an automatic nature to the way God has made us.  Habits that are triggered by a stimulus will more likely take hold.  When the doorbell rings, my dog immediately gets up and begins to bark and runs to the front door.  The bell is the stimulus that always results in the dog’s response.  We need a stimulus to remind us of our identity in Christ!

Let me suggest that your emotions could serve as that stimulus.  When you fear, let that be the bell that reminds you of your identity in Christ.  Why am I afraid?  What does the Spirit of God say about my identity?  If you experience anger, ask yourself why you are angry.  How does this connect to your identity?  Is your identity connected to what someone else does or says?  Is my acceptance, significance, or security being challenged?  Where am I getting that need met?  Your emotions are like smoke so you can find the fire.  Don’t ignore your emotions or be overwhelmed by them.  Rather use your emotions to refocus your identity in Christ.

Our emotions are not our enemy.  Suppressing our emotions by covering them up (medicine, drugs, distractions, sleeping pills, busyness, entertainment) is not the solution.  Emotions are the bell that can help us recall our true identity in Christ, if we have received the wonderful gift of eternal life by faith.

The habit of recalling our identity in Christ is the key to living a life pleasing to our Lord.  It will undergird every change that you want to see happen in your life.  Allow the voice of the Spirit of God to be loud in your ear – you are a child of king and that nothing can separate you from the love of God.  He meets your every need.  It will change the way you relate to God, and it will change how you relate to the people around you.  When your soul is full, you will spill out the love of God on all you touch.

Bruce Terpstra

Our President, Dr. Bruce Terpstra, has 36 years of pastoral ministry experience. He is a veteran of 17 years in denominational leadership and developed more than 70 new churches in the New York metro area and has given oversight to almost 400 pastors. He holds a doctorate in Leadership Development and is also the founder of 3KeyCoaching and the author of Three Passions of the Soul.