I’ve done it! I’ve established the habit. With this being the last day of March, I can happily report that I’ve written an entry for Tune My Heart every day this month and actually through the last week in February. That’s almost 40 days, and most of the self-help gurus, Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, and the like, agree that you can establish a habit in 21 days. Apparently, that figure comes from Maxwell Maltz, whose book Psycho-Cybernetics, serves as a sort of Bible for people who don’t want to use the Bible to improve themselves.
With my 21-day habit almost doubled, I should find daily blogging doubly established as a habit in my life. There’s just one problem. I’ve done this before. I’ve gone months regularly posting entries, sometimes writing not just regularly but every single day. And then I’ve seen that habit fall by the wayside. If you can establish a habit in 21 days and it then goes away, how much of a habit was it?
Maybe I just didn’t go long enough? Maybe I need to keep posting daily through April. That’s what science seems to tell us. And we know that science is never wrong.
On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behavior becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. And how long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behavior, the person, and the circumstances.
For all the wisdom that is in work by either scientists or by people like Maltz or Ziglar or Robbins or Dale Carnegie, they frequently lean more on human understanding and ability than on God’s understanding and ability. They ignore the short and long-term effects of sin in gumming up the machinery of our lives.
The book of Judges in particular and the entire Bible in some ways records a pattern of habits: sinning and then returning to God and then falling away and then returning. It’s summed up in Judges 2:18-19:
Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for the Israelites, the Lord was with him and saved the people from the power of their enemies while the judge was still alive. The Lord was moved to pity whenever they groaned because of those who were oppressing and afflicting them. Whenever the judge died, the Israelites would act even more corruptly than their fathers, following other gods to serve them and bow in worship to them. They did not turn from their evil practices or their obstinate ways.
I have established a habit. Whether it is good for you or not, it is a good habit for me. Will I allow this habit to fade away like I have before? That’s not my intention, but I wouldn’t be shocked. Sin has a way of corrupting all our behaviors.
We can’t say that this is okay, but it is the way of a fallen world. And if I could succeed by following the prescriptions of Maxwell Maltz or some other best-selling guide to self-actualization, I really wouldn’t need God, would I? And we know that won’t be happening.