Change Happens Best Slowly and Steadily Over Time
"Habit change works best in small sustainable shifts over time."
I heard Rich Roll say this on a podcast and it reminded me of something I wrote about earlier this week called "the aggregation of marginal gains." The point of the post was to highlight how improving just 1% of everything you do can add up to some pretty incredible things. A bunch of small changes spread out and added up over a large area can lead to dramatic gains.
I'm the type of person that when I find something I'm interested in I jump in 100% with both feet. There is a lot of good that can come from this. When I get excited about something I'm on board and I learn everything I can. My wife can always tell what I'm currently passionate about because I get obsessed with it. The problem is real lasting change isn't the result of a new obsession. The downside of my obsession is that once the passion fades it fades fast and suddenly my interest is gone.
Lasting change comes from making small sustainable shifts over a long period of time.
This is why a lot of diets don't work for people. Folks start off passionate and red hot to accomplish their health goals, but they set the target at way too high of a level. They commit to changing an overwhelming amount of things which leads to failure. For most people it is simply not sustainable to completely change your life overnight. So what happens when they fail to meet their goals or maintain their plans is they quit on the whole program.
I see the same thing happening with people in their walk with God. They have a very special spiritual moment and they feel like they are completely transformed. They make huge faith commitments that are very hard to maintain over the long haul. They promise to read their Bibles every day, never miss church, and completely quit every sin in their life. But over time they find all their spiritual promises very hard to accomplish 100% of the time. And because they fail to reach the bar they have set for themselves, they throw in the towel completely, believing the Christian life to be "just too hard."
Setting smaller goals and accomplishing them over time is the foundation for lasting success and growth.
It is better to remove sugar from your diet for a month then to revamp every food you eat. It is better to train for and complete a 5K this month then to sign up for a marathon 12 months from now. It is better to go to sleep five minutes early per week then to immediately change your sleep pattern. These small changes will benefit you much more in the long run, and you'll be a very different person in twelve months.
Your Christian life is no different. You don't need an hour of prayer everyday if you have never prayed before. Just start with a prayer before dinner and a short one before bed. You don't need to read the Bible cover to cover in a month, just read a verse or two a day. Instead of trying to be a whole new person, pick one area of your life and focus in on it, making it the best it can be before moving on to something else (just don't forget to get 1% better everywhere else).