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  • Writer's picture#anabundantlifeseeker

Habits not goals - A continuous way of living not a desired result with a timeframe.

I’ve been setting goals since I was about 15. Originally coached by my mum “if you don’t get 5 A* - Cs then you will be staying in this school until you do”. This goal was rooted in being seen as a failure by my peers and the perceived embarrassment I thought I was going to have to go through if I had to retake a year.

As time went on my goals developed into completing college, passing my driving test and taking a year out to be a missionary by 19. Two of which I achieved (finishing college and being a missionary) and the other of which I didn’t (passing my driving test).

Prior to last year, I would always encourage people to set goals. I'd say "Envision what you want to do, who you want to be and what lifestyle you want to be living and then plan and commit to achieving it". Even though I didn’t pass my driving test then, because it was always a goal, I continued working towards it until I did (A year and 3 tests later).

I still see goal setting as important, however, I’ve come to understand that starting at goal setting is the horse before the cart - Habit Formation. In order to be able to commit to my goals and for them to have a long lasting impact, I’ve learnt that I needed to have healthy habits. I was previously sure that it was self discipline that I needed but I went on to find that self-discipline would work for a time, but once that goal was reached I would be tempted to slip back into my dysfunctional ways.

When I was saving to buy a house I completely cut back on all frivolous spending. I would only eat out once a week, and went from buying clothes weekly to saving my ‘spending money’ - £20 a week for an occasional sale shopping spree. Once I had reached my goal, moved in and spend time and money doing the house up, I found myself frequently browsing shops and being asked to hand over £150 at the till.

Over the course of my journey, I’ve found that goals encourage temporary habit changes which benefit you only in the short run.

Another downside to goals is that other more pressing goals can sometimes pop up out of no where and get in the way. I’ve found this to be especially true when it’s about self preservation and emotional stability. When the pressure is on, my natural tendencies kick in, to eat, sleep for extended periods of time and watch hours of TV.

Eating replaces the pain with the pleasure, turning my frown upside down in seconds, but it makes me unhealthy and sluggish. Sleeping and watching TV helps me to stop thinking for prolonged periods of time, leaving me with no time to wallow in self pity. Despite the pros, both have a way of leaving me feeling depressed about all the time that I’ve wasted and the fact that I am now further away from my goal and could have possibly jeopardised ever reaching it.

Imagine being so close to what you want to do, who you want to be and the lifestyle you want to be living to only have your natural tendencies cause you to self sabotage.

This was the sad reality for the children of Israel in Numbers chapter 13 and 14 - read it when you get a chance, as this post just about scratches the surface. They were so used to complaining and not trusting in God’s power, that despite having the goal of the Promise Land and the desire to do right by God, they hadn’t used their time in the wilderness to establish new, good habits. They hadn’t used the time to choose to practice the behaviour of trusting and believing regularly enough for it to have become a subconscious occurrence. Nor had they used the time to acquire a positive way of thinking or feeling regardless of what they were experiencing, being assured of God’s presence.

5 habits we should be aiming to develop to make sure we do not end up missing out!

From these chapters I’ve chosen five habits to focus on developing. If you come up with your own after reading, please feel free to share them in the comments.

1. Live in the present, knowing that God has your future!

As I was coming to the end of my University course, I was filled with so many questions about what was I going to do, where I meant to be, with whom I specifically called to connect with? I knew that God had called me to be an educator, but in what capacity I wasn't sure. I was baffled by the how's and that led me to thinking always about what was around the corner. One day, whilst I was doing some research for my dissertation, an advert randomly came up for a job. It was at that time that I was reminded that I was meant to be concentrating on the now and not waste thoughts on the 'what's next' as God had that already covered

"do not worry about everyday life... Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?" Matthew 6:25-27

2. Focus on the Good - Gratitude is a must

This is best done by focusing on God and His power to be able to make you come out on top regardless of what it may look like now.

Paul puts it this way - Rejoice always (Philipians 4:8)

Life could always be worse. Yes there is bad but there is also good. So purpose to focus on the later. Look back if needs be and remember all the things God has done for you ‘forget not His benefits’ (psalm 103:2)

James says - When troubles of any kind come your way consider it an opportunity for great joy (James 1:2-4). James could make such a statement because he understood that hardship develops your emotional, mental and spiritual muscles; which ultimately leads to inner peace and you being ‘perfect and complete, needing nothing’.

3. Internalise who God is and what that means for you specifically.

When I first started this journey, I started reading about God as I needed to understand who God really was and what that meant for me and my life. As I read, I would have two mental columns - who God is/ what He is capable of and what is God offering. I was coming from a place of dissatisfaction, no direction and an all round low mood (which I now recognise as depression). One day I was reflecting on my life, a text that I had memorised from when I was young came to mind ’A thief comes to kill, steal and destroy but I (Jesus was speaking) have come so that they can have an abundant (rich and satisfying) life. I internalised this text so much that I would find myself always repeating it back to God. “God you said that you came so that I could have a rich and satisfying life. Show me what that really looks like and help me to develop the characteristics that would put me in a position to be able to receive that kind of life.

The people in Numbers knew who God was and what He was capable of, they had a first hand experience of His power and had a visual representation of His presence. Unfortunately, none of this mattered when it come down to it, because they had not got into the habit of making God personal they missed out.

4. Respond to bad situations in the right way.

A wise man once said, “there is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12). The best way to know how to respond is to find out from the word.

“casting all your cares [all your anxieties, all your worries, and all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares about you [with deepest affection, and watches over you very carefully].” 1 Peter 5:7 AMP*

“Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.” Romans 12:21 NLT**

“and never return evil for evil or insult for insult [avoid scolding, berating, and any kind of abuse], but on the contrary, give a blessing [pray for one another’s well-being, contentment, and protection]; for you have been called for this very purpose, that you might inherit a blessing [from God that brings well-being, happiness, and protection].” 1 Peter 3:9 AMP*

“Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God.” Philipians 4:6-7 AMP*

(If you need some more, let me know)

5. Speak and live a life of faith

Out of all the people that were present in Numbers 13 and 14, only 2 of them had the faith that impacted the way that they lived. Regardless of what they had seen in Cannan, what other people had said and their lives being threatened, they kept true to what God had said. Basing their current stance and next move on the power that was available to them. From their example, we see that believing is truly seeing.

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