Every time you perform an action it contributes to shaping your fundamental identity. When life is done, you are the sum total of your repeated actions. Here are seven actions worth repeating over and over again this year until they become habits for life.
1. Follow Someone
Take note of some area of your life in which you need to undergo rapid growth. That should be easy, unless you’re a narcissist, in which case nothing immediately comes to mind. Then select someone to learn from whom you admire for their excellence in that particular aspect of life.
The Bible says that God has gifted people in the church for our “edifying,” to help each of us grow up “to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12-13). This means there are people who are strong in areas where you are weak, who know things you don’t know, who have perspectives you don’t have, who have certain life-skills developed to levels you’re not at yet.
So God wants us to cross pollinate our influence upon one another, transmitting our small beauties into one another so that we collectively reflect the massive beauty of His character.
There are people you need to cease observing—toxic people whose influence is pulling you down—and there are others you need to begin paying attention to—people who have mastered some of the skills and graces of life that you also need to master.
Paul said, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1, KJV). Select a mentor, whether you have personal contact with them or not, whether they know it or not. Some options to consider:
- Take notice of someone whose personality you find attractive, and learn by observing them how to better interact with and relate to people.
- Find a person who relates to their family in a manner you respect, and implement what you see.
- Select a preacher whose content you need for you spiritual growth and make it a point this year to listen to their sermons and read whatever they’ve written.
Bottom line: pay attention to the habits and attitudes of Christlike people, and emulate what you see.
2. Touch People
There is healing power in affectionate touch. It is almost certainly the case that there are people in your life who need your physical and verbal touch, whether they are acutely conscious of the fact or not. Jesus touched people with His hands and with His words. “Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him” (Mark 1:41). “Somebody touched Me,” Jesus said on another occasion, “for I perceived power going out from Me” (Luke 8:46). Jesus was sensitively aware of the fact that touch transmits the vital energy of acceptance, affirmation, love.
- Wrap your arm around your son’s neck and say, “I love being your dad.”
- Kiss your daughter’s forehead and say, “Wow, you are incredible.”
- As you’re driving, reach over and rest your hand on your wife’s knee. Hopefully, if you haven’t been too much of a jerk, she will reciprocate by clasping your hand in hers.
- Warmly and firmly take into your hand the hand of that elderly woman or that elderly man at church, look straight into their eyes with kindness and say, “I love the look of your old, wise, happy face.”
3. Talk To Yourself On Paper
Tell yourself things you need to know. There are things you don’t know that you know. (I’d read that again if I were you.) By the simple act of putting your thoughts on paper (or computer) you will increase your awareness of the things God has already taught you and things you’ve lost sight of. Writing will consolidate your own thinking, define your emotions, and clarify your goals like no other process can. After just a few weeks of recording your perceptions, you will discover that you are writing your way to an ever-increasing acuity of thought, expression and purpose. It doesn’t need to be pretty or grammatically polished. Just write.
Here are some ideas of things worth writing:
- Write what you believe or feel about God, honestly, no matter what it is. What does He think and how does He feel about you, about your dog Rufus, about the person you like least, about your mother-in-law, about anything and everything that you find significant.
- Write about yourself. Answer these questions on paper: Who are the three most important people in your life and why? What is the most horrible thing that’s ever happened to you and how do you feel about it now? What is the best thing that’s ever happened to you and what exactly made it so incredible? What are your weaknesses of character and personality, and what are your strengths? If you could change one thing about yourself instantly, what would it be?
- Map out a list, a descriptive profile, of where you want to be as a human being with your character, your relationships, your education, your profession in three years, five years, 10 years, 20 years?
- Write letters, notes, emails to people who need to hear encouraging, affirming, approving words from you: your mom, your daughter, your coworker, your Uncle Ferdinand. Whoever. Don’t think too hard about it, just write loving, kind, funny, and corny stuff to people in your world and don’t worry about the fact that it will catch them off guard and make them wonder if you fell on your head recently. You will be blessed by expressing yourself and they will be blessed my hearing from you.
4. Become Best Friends With Your Spouse
One of the most beautiful lines in Scripture is where Solomon’s girl says of him, “This is my lover and my friend” (Song of Solomon 5:16, NCV). The combination of sexual self-giving and intimate friendship within the exclusive commitment of holy matrimony is the most powerful, exhilarating, and health-imparting relationship human beings can know…
and potentially the most draining, hurtful, and health-destroying thing that’s ever happened to you.
If you are married and the emotional wavelengths between the two of you have become distorted, if your hearts have grown distant or cold, you need to consider it your urgent responsibility and privilege to rectify the situation. It is your solemn Christian duty under the watchful eye of God to do all in your power to have an excellent marriage that glorifies your Maker.
A few tips:
- Whatever it takes, do not settle for cold coexistence or cycles of heated emotional explosions.
- Humble yourself if you need to do so because of stupid things you have said or done.
- Apologize, genuinely, without any excuses or blaming.
- Give your full, undivided, respectful attention to your spouse, hearing without defensiveness whatever they might have to say to you.
- Whatever is wrong, make it right, getting a third person involved as an unbiased counselor between the two of you if necessary.
- Cultivate one another’s respect and affection. Just plain ol’ hang out with one another having fun and being playful. Cook together, eat together, read together, discover new things and new places together. Flirt with one another. Have great sex. Not tolerable, not dutiful, but great, biblical sex, which happens to be—men, listen up—mutually satisfying sex in the context of being a generally great guy to your wife all day everyday, treating her like the queen of your joint household that she is. Basically, read the Song of Solomon and “go do thou likewise.”
5. Become Obsessed With One New Super Food
Okay, enough is enough!
It is simply not sane the way people are eating in this ridiculously greedy corporate food culture we’re living in. Most of us are now getting most of our daily calories from stuff out of cans, boxes, sealed packages and restaurants.
I want to challenge you—no, urge you—to make it a deliberate point of your daily existence as a human being to eat actual food; that is, things that are densely packed with living nutrition. To get you moving more in this direction, I want to recommend that you become obsessed this year with at least one new superfood. Take your pick: apples, oranges, bananas, mangoes, brussels sprouts steamed with a squirt of lemon and a dash of salt on each one.
Or go with my favorite: berries.
Call yourself the “Berry Monster” (we should never have been raised with the “Cookie Monster”). Tell yourself you’ve got to have them and get them whenever you can, wherever you can. Make a point to pick some up every time you go to the grocery store. Always have them in the refrigerator. Eat them by the multiple handfuls. When you’re hungry and on the run, go into the nearest grocery store (not to the nearest drive thru) and buy a container of raspberries or blueberries or blackberries. Walk back to your car, have a seat, and sit there and eat all of them.
Oh the delectable pleasure!
Your body craves this kind of stuff.
Become an exercise animal, or angel, if you prefer. The prophet Ezekiel reported that in one of his visions he observed that the angels “ran back and forth” non-stop (Ezekiel 1:14) and Jesus said He saw “the angels of God ascending and descending,” like on a stair-stepper (John 1:51).
Yes, my exegeses is questionable here, but I had to find something in the Bible to support my premise that you need to move your body. There should be a verse in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt exercise your body,” but the prophets and apostles walked everywhere they went and grew their own food, so the sedentary lifestyle many of us live was foreign to them.
Here’s the deal: if you only have x number of heartbeats in your lifetime, slowing your heart rate by means of cardiovascular exercise will extend your lifespan, not to mention increase the quality of your life.
“Say, for example, that a fit person’s heart beats 55 times per minute and an unfit person’s heart beats 85 times per minute, a difference of 30 beats per minute. That difference amounts to 1,800 heartbeats per hour, 43,200 beats per day, and more than 15 million heartbeats per year. Over 20 years, the fit person’s heart will save approximately 315 million heartbeats over the unfit person. That’s about 11 year’s worth of heartbeats!”1
So make it a point to form the habit of breathing hard and breaking a sweat at least four days a week: run, walk, bike, hike, swim, lift, pull weeds, chop wood, plant a garden—whatever it takes. Just get up, get out, and get moving.
And don’t whine about it!
- Use your exercise time for audio education. This passes the time quite nicely and removes the illusion that exercise is a waste of time. You can literally move through books, lectures, and sermons at an extremely rapid pace by listening while you exercise.
- Keep a calendar on which you simply put a checkmark on each day you do exercise.
- Enter into an exercise covenant with a friend. Agree between the two of you that for a specified period of months, until the habit is formed, you will contact one another on a daily basis for accountability and motivation: Did you exercise yet today? Why not? I did! The day’s not over yet. Git ‘er done!!!! I’ll call back in an hour.
7. Connect With New People
People are totally cool and amazing. Life is about people. God even says that if your life is about Him, it will be about people (Matthew 25:35-46). You’ve never met an “ordinary” person in your entire life. Every person you meet is a potential king or queen who may end up occupying the very “throne” of Christ as a “joint heir” with Him of “all things” (Romans 8:17; Revelation 3:21; 21:7).
Go out of your way to connect with at least one new person this year in a consistent personal way, preferably somebody who seems alone or boring or obnoxious or marginalized or awkward or silent because…
people limp due to the fact that they’re wounded, and wounded people begin to heal and normalize and flower into their potential beauty through gracious human contact.
Consider these avenues for widening your social circle:
- Enter into conversation with someone you never talk to. Ask questions about their life, their background, their likes and dislikes, and genuinely listen and see where it goes.
- Visit someone in the hospital or in a retirement home. Your pastor should be able to give you a few names to choose from.
- One of the best ways to engage and bond with someone is to give gifts. Obviously, this can’t be someone random you walk up to on the street, but rather someone in your work environment, your church, your extended family that you have at least peripheral contact with. And obviously it can’t be anything weird, like giving a heart-shaped waffle maker to the pastor’s wife if you’re a guy or new undies to your best friend’s husband if you’re a woman. Select somebody you would like to connect with and give them a good book or some homemade salsa or a homemade pie. Simply say, “I thought you might enjoy this,” and see where it goes.
The point is, connect with new people in tangible ways.
I think you would agree that these are definitely seven habits worth forming. Do these simple things and I promise you the quality of your life will rise… and more importantly the quality of the lives of people around you will rise.
Have a great year, and a great life!
- Dennis Kravetz, How Heart Rate Is Related to Fitness and Longevity