As the new year is in, many are thinking about accomplishing new goals. Though having a goal is better than not having one, consider this: both winners and losers in sports have the same “goal.” What it tells us is that “goal” is not the differentiator of success, but the “system” to accomplish it is. It is where habit comes into play. Many people fail to achieve any goals, not because they are undisciplined, but have not set or eliminated habits. Many Christians struggle in their faith for the same reason.
From our own experience, we assume habit is hard to form and to break. But James Clear, the author of a book named, “Atomic Habits”, says that it is not as hard as we assume. According to him, the best way to control habits is by leveraging friction.
Because the deepest longing of a human being is to be lazy, we naturally end up doing the thing that involves the least amount of friction, not what we believe to be right. (Ok, would you go to the gym or keep watching TV when you are on a sofa?) Then, instead of trying to be more self-disciplined, it is more efficient to try creating an environment where there is less friction for good habits and more friction for bad habits.
For example, last year, I wanted to reduce the time I spend on social media. So what I did was to turn off all social media notification and then moved the social media apps to a folder where they are not visible right away. What I did was introducing more “friction” in using social media. After doing this for a year, I rarely use social media impulsively anymore.
On the other hand, we can also reduce friction in forming good habits. For example, because I wanted to read more, I moved my kindle app to where my thumb is when I unlock my phone. It helped me to read books two times more than I did last year.
But according to the author, the most important shift that has to happen before any habit to stick is “Identity shift.” In other words, as long as we believe the same about ourselves, we are only trying to go against who we believe we are, which cannot last. According to research, those who believe that they are “no longer a smoker” has far better chance of quitting than those who still believe they are “smoker trying to quit smoking.” It is the same for Christians. Christians are not sinners who try not to commit sin. Christians are children of God who try to live right because they believe they have already been made right with God.