A Recipe for Change

“I just can’t change.” Ever said that to yourself, or at least thought it? I have. Even at age 61, there are still many of my actions and attitudes that I would like to change. In spite of that long list of “want-to’s,” I am gratified to look back and recognize that I am not the person I was at age 21. I have indeed made many changes. And I’ve come to recognize that whenever I have been successful in breaking a bad habit, or establishing a good habit… I have followed more or less the same recipe:

C… Choose the behavior change which will be your focus for the next six weeks (it usually takes about 40 days of consistent behavior to establish a new habit… which may be why God often chose 40 days in which to accomplish major changes). Of course the project needs to be realistic enough to actually implement. Telling myself that I’m going to change into a more loving wife may sound nice, but unless I choose a specific loving behavior to implement, I’m unlikely to meet my goal.

H… Harness support from other sources. If my objective is to organize the garage, I might be wise to consult a “how-to” book or video. Sometimes accountability to others helps. For example, when I decided to start memorizing Scripture each week, I asked a friend to call me, so that I could recite my verses to her… a huge motivator. And of course the Lord is always our best Helper! Simply calling on Him at the start of each day and quoting Scriptures like, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me the strength,” bolsters determination and confidence.

A… Activate the new behavior. That’s right… start doing it every day or several times a day if possible. Make it a priority. Think about it, talk about it and practice it over and over and over. Most of us learn by doing, and by doing repeatedly. We’ve heard the old saying, “Practice makes perfect.” But perhaps it could be better stated as, “Practice makes permanent!”

N… Nip failures in the bud. Most people have great intentions, but when they slip back into their old way, they quickly throw in the towel and quit. Children learn to walk only after repeated falls and repeated “trying again.” Likewise, the path to change involves slip-ups, but there will be success to those who quickly brush themselves off, jump up and try again.

G… Give yourself short-term deadlines and rewards for meeting them. For example, the goal of losing 100 pounds won’t be accomplished in six weeks. But a realistic short-term goal of losing five pounds over the next six weeks could be reasonable. And giving yourself a little reward for meeting the objective can motivate you to continue on.

E…Expect success. Many individuals program themselves for failure right from the get-go by giving only a half-hearted effort. I’ve found I must envision myself comfortably established in the new behavior. When I picture myself speaking the new way, or behaving the new way, it helps spur me on. It is really an exercise in faith… believing that with the Lord’s help, I WILL be able to follow through on this project.

This same recipe has not only worked in my own life, but also was effective in helping my children learn many new skills and habits as they were growing up. Although change isn’t usually easy for any of us, many life-giving improvements are definitely within the realm of possibility. In fact, I might just choose a new one to get started on today!J