I completed this painting a few years back. You may wonder how it relates to our thought today—Habit. For many years it was our annual habit to visit the apple orchard near White Bear Lake, Minnesota to see fall colors and, of course, to pick up some great apple pastries! I’m probably stretching it a bit to imagine that, when God created this planet, he purposely built in the habit of four seasons. Fall is especially colorful here in Minnesota—a.k.a. ‘Many-snows-da’! That’s another color…coming soon!
Habit is automated behavior, we repeat over and over again, in our environment and that runs in our subconscious mind.
We spend 40 to 45% of daily behaviors performed out of habit. Everything from driving the car to taking a shower is performed out of habit. Think about it. You can do either without consciously thinking about what you’re doing. Your mind may be ‘miles away’ working on another thought. How is this possible?
We’re told our brain is about 2% of our body weight, but uses some 20% of our energy supply. Researchers say we work on a ‘habit loop’: Cue, Behavior and Reward. Your ‘Cue’ may be: drive to Costco for gas. Your ‘Behavior’ is getting into the car and driving to your local Costco pump. Your “Reward’ is your brain gets a shot of dopamine—good feeling—‘mission accomplished’. To illustrate…
Assume you recently moved, and this is your first trip to a new Costco. Your ‘Cue’ is: I need the gas tank filled. Your ‘Behavior’ is driving to the new location. Your brain is busy watching for street names and other signs (or following the GPS voice directions from your phone!) you carefully follow if you are to be ‘Rewarded’ with a full gas tank and receive your brain’s dopamine shot—‘mission accomplished’. Weeks pass by.
After you’ve made this journey every week for three months, the trip to your local Costco has become a habit. Whether it’s a one or ten mile trip, you may arrive at the pump and not recall anything about the drive. It’s now a habit. Your brain energy has now been somewhat ‘freed up’, during the drive, to deal with other things on your mental agenda. Why is this true with habits: whether driving the car or taking a shower?
On your first trip to the new Costco location your brain is using all 20% of its energy on the habit loop: Cue, Behavior and Reward. Once the loop has been repeated enough for this to become a habit, your brain doesn’t require as much available energy on this Behavior. As you drive, energy is now available to think about your friend’s Christmas gift, pray, listen to a book or podcast.
A Take Away from this observation
Coaches train individual players until desired Behavior becomes habit. When the Cue is triggered, new Behavior is spontaneous. Reward follows.
For one who desires to be a follower of Jesus, the Holy Spirit of Jesus is the resident coach. Scriptures become the training instruction. Here’s an illustration of how a spiritually formed habit may work:
Training instruction from the coach: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29
CUE: You are in conversation with, or about, an inexperienced person new on the job.
BEHAVIOR: When your coach’s instruction is practiced until it becomes a habit, you automatically respond with helpful talk that benefits everyone.
REWARD: Physical and spiritual dopamine comes to your heart and brain as you have sincerely loved by serving another person.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine [training] and puts them into practice [habit] is like a wise man who built his house on the rock [Reward]. Matthew 7:24
The Apostle Paul said:
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me [training]—put it into practice [habit]. And the God of peace will be with you [Reward]. 1 Timothy 4:7
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” — Aristotle