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Habitual Pathways

By Joy West

Hidden beneath the surface of the brackish waters of the Tagus estuary’s high tide exists what some call a habit. Murky water, time, exposure, and routine have formed this riverbed path. Time and routine are also essential elements in the formation of our habits.

A quick search on the internet reveals a myriad of information about habits, how they are formed, how to change them, how to create new ones. One could delve into the complex brain science behind this, but we won’t do that here.

I’m grateful that God created us with the ability to engrave those well-worn pathways in our brains. Most of our habits are good ones like our daily routines and commutes, which help conserve about 45% of our brain energy so we can fully focus on important tasks such as work, study, and building relationships.

Unfortunately, forming bad habits is usually easier than forming good or healthy habits. Like water, we tend to take the path of least resistance toward a reward. Yes, that piece — or should I say pieces — of chocolate after lunch is a delicious habit. Or that additional cup of coffee — love the taste but don’t need the jitters. Research suggests that it takes an average of 66 days to form a habit but can take between 18 and 254 days depending on circumstances and self-control.

I have no control over the habit carved into the river’s edge, nor control over habits I think other people should establish (like family members? — ouch). However, I do have the power of choice over my own habits by recognizing the trigger and reward, and reviewing what path I normally take between the two.

As Christians, we are transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2), and the Holy Spirit gives us power in the transformation process. We are on a continual journey of growing stronger in our faith, and we must allow the Holy Spirit to show us areas in our life where we need to establish habits that please God.

Here is a summary of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective Christians*

1. Read and Obey God’s Word

2. Have an Effective Prayer Life

3. Set Spiritual Goals

4. Cultivate Talents of Others

5. Take Responsibility for Souls

6. Serve Others

7. Remain Focused on the Kingdom

How might you apply these to your daily walk with Jesus, focusing on healthy, spiritual habits and disciplines?

Challenge: Take a moment to reread the above 7 habits of a highly effective Christian. While all seven work hand-in-hand to achieve complete effectiveness, begin by asking the Holy Spirit to speak to you about one of these habits.

Which one requires a tweak, realignment, or a total overhaul?

What will you do this week to work toward forming this habit?


*7 Habits of Highly Effective Christians (24-minute video and transcript):

Interesting reading:

A summary of Stephen R. Covey’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People:

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