Usually, when I want to change something in my life it is either a behavior I want to start or a behavior I want to stop. For years, I struggled with feeling weak and that I just didn’t have any “willpower.” However, I have discovered that willpower is a myth. I once heard willpower described as “God’s will and power in my life.”
Isn’t that a great description?
I got it all wrong when it came to stopping behaviors in my life because I did not change my focus. I did not replace the behavior with something else. Whatever I focus on I will want and will probably give in to. For example, if I am trying to stop eating chocolate cake and just tell myself over and over, “Don’t eat chocolate cake. Don’t eat chocolate cake. Don’t eat chocolate cake,” I will probably eat chocolate cake. It is not enough to simply resist the chocolate cake; I need to replace the thoughts and behavior with a different one. Otherwise, we often will replace one unhealthy behavior for another one. Jesus speaks about this concept in Matthew 12:43-45:
“When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”
Changes that Last
Replacing old behaviors with new ones can be hard. When I had my third child, I was thirty-six years old. Just like with all my pregnancies, I gained more than I was supposed to. I finally decided that I wanted to make a real change so I did two things that have worked for me in the past.
1. I asked for accountability.
2. I created small, obtainable goals.
I texted a good friend of mine and asked if she would be my accountability partner. Then I set a list of goals for that week. My first goals were to walk 5,000 steps daily, journal all my food intake, and do some kind of intentional exercise for fifteen minutes three times a week. Every other Friday I would send a picture of the number on the scale.
Gradually, I worked up to 10,000 daily steps and continued journaling my food. I also added goals of drinking 64 ounces of water each day and thirty minutes of exercise five days a week. And, I continued to send a picture of my number on the scale to my friend every other week. Having to be honest with another person by texting her each day whether or not I reached my goals really made me think about my choices and kept me motivated to reach my goals each day. I lost twenty-five pounds before I found that I was pregnant again!
This idea of strength in numbers is also rooted in scripture. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says:
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Proverbs 27 also contains words of wisdom about a friend’s counsel in verses 9 and 17:
9 The heartfelt counsel of a friend
is as sweet as perfume and incense…
17 As iron sharpens iron,
so a friend sharpens a friend.
How do you bring about changes that last in your life?