The Discernment of Self Awareness: Watching My Habits

Unintentional behaviour can quickly turn into bad habits. But it takes intentional discipline to build good habits.

In this third and last part of this series on self-awareness, I would like to dwell on the value of rhythms and habits.

We are all creatures of habit. Rhythms and habits are a means of heart and spiritual formation. It is important for us to be aware of any “auto-pilot behaviours” in our lives.

In my journey of recognising the need for self-awareness and discovering the idols of my heart, the final lesson I have learned is the value of habits. We need to be aware of habits that strengthen our confidence in God and those that weaken it.

Through increased self-awareness, we can celebrate habits that draw us near to God and deepen our love for people. Equally, we need to renounce habits that drain us and rule over our hearts.

The Pandemic Affected Our Habits

The pandemic and the lockdown was a bane but it brought some blessing. It gave me more time with my family; it helped us cut down unnecessary travel and activities. In some ways, it made me more creative and perhaps more productive.

But it also exposed my heart and revealed how I had built my identity around career, success, and busyness.

During the pandemic, I experienced increased anxiety and had many sleepless nights. It was tempting to seek comfort in overeating, binge-watching, or online shopping.

In trying to cope with the pressure of the pandemic, I was forming new and unhealthy habits. As I look back, the pandemic season revealed the nature of habit formation—something to which I had never given much attention.

My family and I certainly picked up some good habits during that season. But some unnecessary and unhealthy habits were being formed too.

I learned the need to be careful. Small changes in behaviour can easily turn into habits that are hard to break.

The simple behaviour of picking up the phone as soon as we wake up and scrolling through social media or the news can slowly take over our whole lives and control our mindset.

Habits can be tricky and powerful. Unintentional behaviour can quickly turn into bad habits. But it takes intentional discipline to build good habits.

A discipline is to learn and pursue repeated behaviours for a specific goal: waking up early so you can read the Bible, going to bed early so you get enough rest; running every day so you increase your fitness, and eating healthy. These are all choices to make to experience a change in life.

A discipline involves motivation. It is a fight to stay the course and prioritise daily choices. Discipline turns into a habit when we begin to do it at a subconscious level. It becomes a part of our life and everyday routine.

Your Heart Will Often Follow Your Habits

Gyms have completely scarred me. When I went to a gym during my college days, I found younger people lifting more weights than I could. I was too embarrassed to go back again.

But during the pandemic, I followed my wife’s diligent example and began to work out at home. I exercised almost every day and researched the benefits of working out every day. Slowly, I began to enjoy it.

Habits can be tricky and powerful. Unintentional behaviour can quickly turn into bad habits. But it takes intentional discipline to build good habits.

Surprisingly, my wife and I now work out as a habit. We schedule our day so that we can go for a run or hit the gym. Our discipline has become a good habit and we are experiencing its benefits.

What would you like to discipline yourself to learn so that it can turn into a habit? Start small and stick with it. Get up when you fall. Over a period of time, your body will become your slave.

It is Easier to Form Habits in Community

In the church I lead, we have many people who are runners and fitness enthusiasts. My wife was more interested in running because of her friends. Her interest in running then rubbed off on me.

In community, the general awareness of a good habit gains momentum and people provide mutual encouragement to one another when they need it.

Can you find some friends with similar passions? What would it look like to learn together, pursue a discipline together, and build good habits together?

Habits are also Familial

I desire so many things for my family. But I feel powerless to act on many of them. I would love for our family to eat meals together, do devotions together, and pray together.

It would be so good to take my children out on father-child dates. I want to cut down on screen time and spend more time with each other. Sometimes I am overwhelmed and I do not know where to begin.

We all have similar desires but they get drowned out by busyness and a lack of motivation.

The book “Habits of the Household” by Justin Earley offers ten practical but essential habits for a family. I’ve been reading and highly recommend this book that offers reasons behind pursuing certain habits and clear steps to consider. Maybe this could be a place to start as we navigate the maze of a busy life.

While it may sound daunting to start something new, do not be discouraged. Start with just one discipline for yourself personally and one discipline for your family.

Start with something that is easy, fun, and something you would enjoy. Expect a messy path. Anticipate resistance. Expect discouragement. Do not get obsessed. But keep reminding yourself that habits are not just about behaviour. They can slowly but surely shape your heart.