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  • Writer's pictureJenni

How to get a really New year: the power of Habits & Hope


source: stock photo



Some content of this post is adapted from here.



It is human to hope, to dream, to long for healthy, needed change, to desire to really live.


Yet we resist change. There is comfort and safety in the familiar – which explains why even bad behaviours remain tolerated and often, the hopes are dashed or laid aside just to cope with life. 


But to really live, in a world that doesn’t actively support us to slow down, savour and serve, we need to buck against the trends to keep our hopes afloat. This requires the power of habits – the scaffold that helps our hopes not get washed away by the demands and stresses of life. 


In fact, many of our behaviours are habitual – we don’t even have to think about them but we keep doing them.


But first, if we really want newness, we have to be really fed up with our current state. 

We have to be honest about our habits. As long as we rationalise or justify, or hide in fear, we will lack the energy to build this scaffold. 


Anger is a good force, when used rightly. It is good to be angry when things are not life-giving, and helpful to direct the energy of anger to do something constructive, like building a new scaffold of healthy habits to support our hopes.



 


Sometimes we think that being fed up is a sign of weakness or that we are being plain ungrateful. Well, we all have areas of weakness and we may well be ungrateful. It may be that your weaknesses (a lack of discipline or self-control) contribute to the state of things. Certainly, being grateful cures us of many ills so we don't live in chronic discontentment. But being fed up is different. It is a sign. It points us towards a Hope we have not articulated but is bobbing around within our souls.


The thing is when we feel fed up, we tend to blame it on others. This will only ensure we never get a New year because we have absolutely no power to change others. Instead, we have to first distill what our hopes are. We have to learn to brave it and ask:


How would I like things to be?

What am I doing that is keeping things from being the way I want them to be?


The parent who wants the eighteen year old to grow up - but continues to dole out pocket money, calls to ensure there is lunch, tidies the room for him - will only stay fed up.


So, facing up to our hopes and removing the obstacles we have placed is an important first step.


When we are fed up, we are also tired. Our resources have run out. We will begin to go through the motions. We will start to numb. We may even resort to forms of escapism. The length of time spent in gossip, playing online games, over-eating or under-eating. We may even do things we would not normally do, like visit a casino or seek out titillating experiences when prodded on by others. In other words, when we don’t actively build healthy habits to support our hopes, it is easy to develop poor ones.


Habits are like shortcuts — they’re things we can do quickly and without thinking because we’ve done them so often they’ve become automatic. We think of habits like brushing our teeth, but in fact many things are habitual for us: how we react, our thought patterns, even our spending.


We develop habits in order to conserve energy and attend to the demands of life. No wonder we find it hard to change.

But if we are fed up enough, and recognise that we have habits that are blocking our hopes for life, we can get serious about new habits.

Our community ethos to slow and savour not only cultivates a different approach and posture towards life, helping us to live more authentically and powerfully, it is also key to noticing our habitual patterns to know where to make changes. 


All habits are kept due to ‘reward’. This does not mean the rewards are always good for us. Think of the high a drug user gets or the dopamine hits a gamer enjoys. For many of us, the ‘reward’ is simply that life goes on. But what we want is a true reward that serves us in growth and supports our hopes.



 


Well, a new page of your life is waiting to be written, take some time to slow down and consider how things are in your life.


a. How would I like things to be? [list 1-2 areas of your life]

b. What are some possible habits that may be keeping things from being the way I want them to be?  

c. Where is my energy level now for these areas?

d. What saps me most and what refuels me?


These questions give you a clear-eyed vision of the true state of things. It surfaces longings, your anxieties, your life management. You can examine what habits you need to stop or adjust, and what new ones you need to put in place.


Social scientists recommend that we introduce habits with changes in our lives. For example, you can start a new morning routine when a child begins school. 


Another feature about habits is that they are triggered by our surroundings. This is why I have set up a special chair for my time of prayer. It calls out to me and reminds me that I want prayer to be a habit in my life. Also, if I want to pray for an hour a day, I begin with ten minutes. Small steps are very important.


In our world of ease and impatience, ‘rewards’ are often dangled before us to make healthy habits challenging. It is easier to snack than prepare a healthy meal. But if we keep in view our hopes and recognise how important they are, we can find the strength to reorganise our environment and how we schedule our days. It can and must be done! A trick is to pair a good habit with a reward. I have paired my exercise routine with an hour of me-time which helps me savour the fruit of a healthier body with a happier soul.


But do not beat yourself up! Building up habits is a journey of growth, not a competitive race. Give yourself room to adjust and adapt.


Good habits will reward you, as they hold up your hopes and help you see them come to pass. The start is tough, and so a community can be most helpful! Sharing our hopes and the habits we hope to cultivate with others can help keep us on track. Also, once a habit has begun, it is easier to build on it.


All you need for the New Year is within you.


The stronger marriage between your parents.

The lighter and more caring atmosphere at home.

The community of faithful friends.

The steadier, closer walk with God.

That organised kitchen/desk/wardrobe.

The commitment and joy of meaningful work.

The loosening of bonds that hold others in poverty and oppression.


Your dreams and longings. Your hopes and aspirations. Your wild ideas. 


They may be held back because you are not taking them seriously enough, allowing your fears to stall you. They may be held back because you have not rested, eaten, exercised well so that you are alert and energetic. They may be held back because you have not built the scaffold of habits to support them. 


But you can.


Let’s help each other grow stronger, wiser and watch our hopes come to fruition!

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