Soul Sculpting Project: Design a Habit
Behavior change is hard business. If it was easy we would have already made the change.
Brother Lawrence wanted to make a change in his behavior. For him the change was in how he connected with God. Instead of the on and off connection with God that he had been experiencing, Lawrence wanted to change to a steady on connection. He wanted to keep company with God all day long.
To make this change Lawrence used a tried and true method. He enlisted a powerful tool for long-term behavior change. Habit.
Bad habits are hard to break, but good habits are also hard to break.
For 40% of our day we are operating in habit mode. Habits are easy on the brain and our energy. Create a good habit and the sailing gets smooth.
Bro. Lawrence’s goal of living in continual company with God is not an easy goal. Will-power would not be enough to sustain him for the long haul.
Will-power is best when we have a short sprint to run. Will-power is not fit for marathons.
If we want to do something for an extended time- say the rest of our life – we need something more powerful than will-power.
- Q. What is more powerful for the long haul than will-power?
- A. Habit
Brother Lawrence became famous for succeeding at a challenging behavioral change.
How did he do it? How did he train himself to keep company with God –all day?
#1. Bro. Lawrence picked an action that would support his goal.
Action: A mental turning of his attention to God’s presence, an “interior glance” at God.
Notice that the action “interior glance” is a very small – easy action.
Very small actions mean we need less will-power to maintain as we form a habit.
#2. Bro. Lawrence needed a trigger to remind him to turn his attention to God.
Trigger: Activity change. Every time he began and ended an activity he quickly did an “interior glance” at God. This glance at the beginning and end of an activity then naturally flowed into the activity.
When he started did Bro. Lawrence always remember to do this glance at each activity change? Certainly not.
He says, “Time and much effort are needed to acquire this practice, one should not be discouraged when one fails, because a HABIT can be formed only with difficulty; but once it is formed everything will be done with pleasure.”
“Much effort”, i.e. will-power, got Bro. Lawrence started; then a formed habit carried him to success.
I have some behaviors I want to change, and I have some will-power to give me a kick-start. So I am going to try Bro. Lawrence’s method of behavioral change and create some supporting habits.
Do you have any behaviors you want to change? Will you join me?
Soul Sculpting Project: Designing a Habit
- Identify a behavior goal. (Continual connection with God)
- Pick a small easy action that supports the goal. (Interior glance at God)
- Pick a trigger to remind you to do the small action. (Activity change)
- To give your habit a super-boost, add a reward. (Thumbs-up, chocolate chip. . . )
Tip: Redesigning/adjusting habits is normal. Keep playing until you get a keeper.
Further reading: The Practice of the Presence of God: The Complete Works of Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection, Translated by Sr. Mary David (Paulist Press, 1978).
When is a good time to begin playing with Habit Design?
‘Right now’ is a possible answer.
What’s your goal?