How to Create Habits That Actually Matter

Life + Faith

A couple of weeks ago I preached at an awesome college night to some super cool students. Here is, in words & such, the content of said message. Tell me what you think & how it relates to you:

Hey friends. If you’ve hung around for a bit you know I’m a serial introvert. Is that a thing?
Show of hands – would you classify yourself as an introvert? (I can’t see your hands, so we’re going on the honor system here).

On top of that, I’m also a reforming shy person. I’m still working on that. In fact, one of my favorite things to do as a shy person is pulling off the perfect Irish goodbye. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically the equivalent of ghosting. I will find a corner and make myself invisible and, just when no one is paying attention, I walk right out of the door. Us introverts don’t do small talk well plus in a Minnesota goodbye takes about 20 minutes. So ghosting is my own form of self-care – rushing out of the awkward to the sweet freedom of silence.

Self care is a big thing right now – which is good – you should certainly be taking care of your mental health. There’s something that gets left out of the conversation, though…


So let’s talk about this whole “self-care” business – what is it? It’s defined as : The practice of taking action to improve one’s own health. That’s an awesome practice to have but honestly, you can take all of the peace walks in the woods you want – if you don’t feed your spirit, it won’t satisfy or sustain you.

Your spiritual health is just as, if not more important. They go hand in hand. Having solid spiritual health will benefit your mental health more than anything else in your life.


Let’s go back to that definition: “Practice” = the actual application of an idea as opposed to the theory of it. We can name good theories to strengthen us spiritually: read your Bible, go to church, pray; the thing is – we can’t only agree with the theory as that has no effect on, well, anything.

The other definition of practice is; to perform something regularly or repeatedly to improve proficiency.  Basically we want to establish habits that lead to proficient spiritual self-care.


I’ve been obsessed with this author, James Clear, who wrote Atomic Habits. Has anyone read it (honor system, again)? Full disclosure, I have not. But I have devoured pretty much everything he’s ever said on any podcast anywhere. I’ve learned a lot from him about what it means to create habits. One of the most impactful quotes I’ve heard from him is the following,

“We don’t rise to the level of our goals, we fall to the level of our systems.”

That’s deepness for your right there. So, we come to a point where we like the idea of spiritual health and we know the theories that contribute to it but that’s not quite enough. If you have a goal to implement these things, chances are either A. they are nebulous & undefined and, therefore, almost impossible to begin or B. Even with noble intentions – there’s nothing in place to support your quest.


The question becomes: What systems do you have in place to support your spiritual self-care?

My boy James says, “A habit must be established before it can be improved.” So the first step to creating a system of spiritual self-care is to simply establish the habits that the system is composed of.


So here are 3 Atomic Habit-inspired ways to begin:


  1. Start Here

If a spiritual self-care habit you’d like to establish is, for example, reading your Bible, you’re not going to start with 1 hour a day if your current read time is 0 minutes a day. Start where you are. Maybe 2 minutes a day, 4 days a week is attainable right now. There’s no shame in building the habit piece by piece.


  1. Start With Who

My pastor always says that life is more about who you are becoming than what you are doing. So if you want to get to a place where you read you Bible or pray every day, don’t start with the goal (which is super counter-intuitive). Start with thinking, “who do I need to become? Who is the type of person who does this everyday?”

Well, that person is likely someone who plans these activities into their day – maybe on an app or with a physical calendar. They might be the kind of person who gets up a little earlier to do things if they know that night-time is not the right time for them.

Stop imitating the ideals and opinions of the culture around you,[a] but be inwardly transformed by the Holy Spirit through a total reformation of how you think. This will empower you to discern God’s will as you live a beautiful life, satisfying and perfect in his eyes.
Romans 12:2 (TPT)

Culture focuses on the goals & the grind of it all. The real key to success is character. Ask God to reveal & cultivate in you the character of someone with Godly habits & systems. Reform the way you think about your identity & transform your life.


  1. Start Socially

What are the social norms of the group you often hang around? We are all influenced by our social surroundings – we participate in social contracts all the time. Craig Groeschel has put it this way: What your group expects is often the most powerful form of accountability.

Romans 68:6  Says that God puts the lonely in families. That’s all of us. We’d all be lonely without a social family, the question is, are you choosing to be around people who expect Godly character? Who expect you to work toward spiritual health? That makes a huge difference on the priority you put on it as an individual.


Establishing these habits will build a system of spiritual self-care. And when life comes at you quick, you may fall to the level of your systems – but those systems will keep you on track to be healthy both spiritually and, in turn, mentally.


How have you built these habits in your own life?


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