When I first heard Matthew Kelly state, “Our lives change when our habits change,” it rang so true in my heart. In fact, looking back those words rang true in regards to all of my life experiences. In school, if I wanted to get an A on the test, I put in the time studying, made sure I got a good night’s sleep and a solid breakfast. I put in the time learning from professors or classmates to make sure I understood the concepts.
When I wanted to get stronger, crush a physical exam, or lose a little weight, I developed and maintained healthy eating habits, scheduled in a daily workout or two-a-day. I am willing to physically train my body. So if I wanted a spiritual life, if I desired holiness, I realized I needed to form the habits and training schedule that reflected this priority.
Aligning our Priorities with Our Habits
My first priority should be God. After that comes serving or loving others, first my husband, then my children, then the other souls God has placed in my life. Then comes all the other responsibilities, to-dos, and work. But does my day reflect this?
The things or people we prioritize above God become our idols. The thing about idols is they will inevitably fail us and fall short. Whether this is me, thinking I can do it alone, my spouse, children, work, money, physical body image, or social media. These will not meet our needs or lead to lasting joy or fulfillment.
Feeling torn in two is a result of trying to separate our faith from actions: faith from reason, personal from professional, means from the end, mind and body from the soul. This feeling plagues our culture. We must become one, uniting everything we do to our why, our purpose.
I can see this in times when my choices also did not align with my beliefs. When I was tempted to stay up too late, drink too much, not respect my body or self through birth control and sexual indiscretion. My language, my thoughts of jealousy, judgment or self condemnation. All left me fake, lost, and empty.
What is your why, your purpose and how you define success? How we answer these questions will identify our priorities. Do your habits reflect your priorities?
Inviting the Holy Spirit In
When we look at Mark Walhberg or The Missionaries of Charity as directed by Saint Teresa of Calcutta’s schedule, we see their priorities and self-discipline. Galatians 5:22-23 reminds us that a fruit of the Holy Spirit is self-control. We are not looking to do this through our grit and determination but allow the Holy Spirit to renew and strengthen us to develop these virtuous habits.
He does not leave us alone to overcome a lifetime of bad habits. Learning takes time, and relearning can be even a process. But he doesn’t leave us or test us beyond what we can handle. As 1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds us, “No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.”
Overcoming Our Shortcomings Through Virtue
Drew and I see our mission as one that helps bring about transformation in the world by helping to cultivate virtue in others’ lives. We believe that you can have all the gifts and talents in the world, but without character, no one will follow. And when we lack natural talent, it is our character, ultimately our virtue that will overcome our shortcomings. We need virtue to be a leader. But what is virtue practically?
The Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 1803 states, “A virtue is a habitual and firm disposition to do good. It allows the person not only to perform good acts but to give the best of himself. The virtuous person tends towards the good with all his sensory and spiritual powers; he pursues the good and chooses it in concrete actions.”
Those concrete actions are our habits. Decisions form our actions, actions form our habits, habits form our character, character forms our destiny. When habits reflect priorities accurately, we find peace and balance.
St. John Bosco was known to repeat a saying that goes back to the Fathers of the Church, “Laziness is the mother of all vices.” Magnanimity, one of the critical virtues of leadership, is striving for excellence and challenges this very temptation to sloth. So how are you working towards excellence? We will talk about practical tips in Training the Intellect and Having a Growth Mindset, as well as many other videos in this series.
Where to Start?
But where to start first? With a schedule, we want to look at our time and ensure we are purposefully and aligning our priorities. We cannot be disciples of Christ or Christian leaders without prayer.
If we do not have the habit of prayer, this has to be cultivated and multiplied. We need to train our souls to want to praise God every moment to call him into everything we do. But we also need to set aside specific quiet time with scripture to grow in relationship with him.
Do we have a Sacramental life, a commitment to Mass, the Eucharist, Adoration, and Confession? If it is not scheduled, it will not happen. Consistency is the key: consistency in desiring growth, conversion, transformation for ourselves, and others.
It is through these habits that we not only find healing and wholeness but endurance. These articles and videos are designed to encourage the development of virtuous habits leading to awesomeness in your life!
Check out Episode 5: Spiritual Training – Building habits that align with your priorities to learn more!