design by amy rubin flett
there is a lot of information out there about habits. how to make good ones, how to break bad ones. i’ve spent most of my life trying to break bad habits. as a kid, it was chewing on my fingernails. as a teen, it was procrastination. as a college student, it was eating junk food. as a young adult, it was watching too much television. right now, it’s chewing on my lip. [i know, weird quirk, right?] and these are just the bitty tip of the iceberg. having had so many bad habits to break over the years, i know a lot about what works, what doesn’t, how long it takes to make/break a habit, & how quickly you slip back into your old ways if you fall off the wagon even one time. i could write a post about everything i’ve learned about making & breaking habits, but there are plenty of other better sources you can find on that subject. so instead i want to talk about intention.
your “reason why” makes all the difference in how you live your life. living from intention means letting your purpose or mission inform & affect your actions. instead of trying to make or break lots of smaller disconnected habits, having a clear purpose for your life can bring them all under one umbrella where they are resolved simultaneously over time.
how about a more specific example to illustrate what i’m talking about. i tend to sum up my purpose in my “student of Life” moniker. [i wrote more about what that means here.] as a student of life, i prioritize being guided by passion, growing in godliness, striving for balance, & teaching others what i learn along the way. when i live with this intention & i keep focused on this one thing alone [rather than twenty different habits i need to work on], it changes every little thing i do. i’ve long wanted to be better about getting up earlier each morning. when i’ve used habit-forming techniques, i’ve succeeded for very short spurts but never been able to sustain it. when i focus on how i want to grow in godliness because i’m a student of Life, prayer becomes a priority, & if the only way i can start my day in prayer is to get up earlier, i do it. not perfectly, not every single day, but i do it. and slowly but surely, over time, i do it more & more consistently. i’m living by intention & not by habit, good or bad.
and the great thing is that as i live intent on being a student of Life, not only am i better about getting up earlier, but i also don’t watch as much television because it doesn’t really help me learn anything. i regularly go for a walk or run because it helps me find balance in my health [mental versus physical]. i prioritize spending time with people i love because they are one of my deepest passions. also, i eat healthier, i take time to journal, i indulge in painting, & i keep the house neater. living by intention also helps me stop chewing on my lip! it’s a nervous tic i have, like chewing on your nails, & i do it mostly when stressed in some way. but the more i strive for balance as a student of Life, the less stress i experience or the less it gets to me. so i chew on my lip less. granted, i just found myself chewing on my lip as i was typing this, so obviously, i haven’t conquered all my bad habits completely! but i’m improving. and that’s the whole point.
now i want to warn you that it takes longer with this approach! you’re not focused on breaking or making specific habits, so you won’t be breaking or making habits in 21-28 days. it’s not instant gratification. it’s simpler than chasing after good habits like a mouse on a wheel, but it’s not any easier. you still have to put in the hard work. however, in the long run, because you take longer to develop the lifestyle you desire, the habits you establish as a result will be much stronger and less susceptible to being easily broken. not only is it simpler to live by intention than by habit, it is far more effectual.
what habits do you want to make or break right now? how can living intentionally help you conquer them? what other methods have helped you?