I’ll never forget when my 8th grade U.S. History teacher told us that it took about 21 days to break a habit. Being middle school, I’m sure she meant biting your nails. However, now that I’m in my 30’s, I’ve discovered there’s a lot of habits I have, that I’d either like to break, and in some instance, acquire. But the older we become, the harder it seems to break those ingrained parts of your life you don’t like or don’t want. 21 days just doesn’t seem long enough for repetition to take hold.
Combine that with our society’s obsession with self-help and improvement, where we seek infomercials and reality shows as the solution to our lack of self-discipline. Now, I do not sit in judgment, rather I am completely guilty of these trends. In college, I bought a VHS tape of a military-style workout routine, while my roommate bought a Susan Powder video. In grad school, I bought an Ab-roller, and after I got married, I bought a six week program to weight loss.
Weight-loss is a huge market today for many reasons—poor diet & lifestyle, laziness, lack of self-control. But there is so much more wrong with the world today than being healthy—apathy, debt, self-indulgence, and selfishness are just a few that define the world today.
We can’t fix the world if we ourselves aren’t right, so that’s where we start. But I’ve realized that when I begin to list all the things I need to change, I feel overwhelmed. It’s because I see the forest, but not the individual trees. If I tackle one habit at a time, I can focus on that one thing—not everything.
My goal, my journey, is to take each month and focus on breaking and/or building a single habit, so that the person who I become is a better me.
I use two examples that have become dear to my heart. When my husband and I got serious about saving money, we got hooked on Dave Ramsey’s debt snowball idea. We didn’t have a lot of debt, but it had us. We were paying off my car and my graduate student loan. The car loan being the smallest, we put the most toward it, and a little more than the minimum on my student loan. A year later, the car was done, so we added that amount to what we paid for the student loan—paying $700 a month. Two years later, when I got a teaching job, we paid the $3000 left on it in one day. The idea applies to me, so that at the end of a year I will have either built or broken a combination of 12 habits.
The other example spurring my yearning for change is Jesus’ parable of the talents. A master is planning to travel, and leaves currency, or talents, with his servants. Two servants put their money to work and increased what they were given. One servant buried his money, and was punished because he didn’t even put it in the bank to gain interest. I see this as an opportunity to realign myself in many ways, to put myself to work toward becoming the person I would rather be, instead of taking the easier, lazier route.