For a long time, I never really understood why people ‘made’ their beds. I mean, you’re literally going to be right back in it before the day is out! It’ll just get rumpled again. And all those pillows! Don’t get me started on the pillows…
But a few years ago, I had a bit of an epiphany. I’m not even sure what motivated me to do it, but one morning I made the decision that I was going to make the bed. Every day. And almost without fail, for years now, I take two minutes or so each morning to smooth out the covers, arrange the pillows, and get things looking great. Not only does it make everything neat and clean and tidy (and I do love things to be neat and clean and tidy!), but I have found that pursuing that discipline, no matter how silly and simple it might seem, has been a catalyst for practicing other disciplines in my life.
Now I know it could be that I’m just more retentive than most and I like the thought of a clean house and a ‘made’ bed. And while that may be true, I have also found that I view myself and my day differently because I took those couple of minutes to do that one task that I didn’t want to do and that I otherwise could have ignored. In doing that mundane chore, in some way I see myself as a disciplined person, as someone with the ability to choose, and to choose well.
I know…kinda weird…
Except that, recently, after making the bed each morning for years, I read about something called, ‘keystone habits.’ It’s a phrase coined by author Charles Duhigg in his book, “The Power of Habit.” Duhigg says that some habits are just more important than others, that they influence or motivate other good habits in our lives.
A classic example of a keystone habit would be someone who starts to exerce regularly might also then become more conscientious about what they eat. The keystone habit of exercise can motivate other healthy habits. And, believe it or not, Duhigg also gave credit to what I had already discovered: People who make their bed every morning are usually more productive, have a greater sense of well-being, are more likely to enjoy their job, own a home, exercise regularly, and feel well-rested. Who knew?!
While none of this can be proven to have a direct cause-and-effect relationship, Duhigg says that keystone habits create “chain reactions that help other good habits take hold.”
So what does this have to do with your spiritual life? Well, maybe nothing…or maybe something pretty important.
It seems like over and over again, when I talk with people about their lagging relationship with God, when they are dealing with issues related to being distant from God, virtually all of them have told me that they have not been intentional about spending daily time in personal prayer and/or Bible reading. In finding that out I’ve strongly encouraged them to do whatever it takes to develop that habit of spending time with God. It’s the keystone habit of all habits!
Spending time with God each day, learning, listening, reading, pouring out your heart… It affects every other part of your life, spiritual and otherwise!
We see Jesus quietly practicing this habit in the Gospels – “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:16) If Jesus needed to take time ‘often’ to connect with God, how much more do we need to!?
It takes discipline. It helps to schedule it. It’s good to have a plan or a routine. But when you make the decision that regular, daily time with God will be an essential part of your life, it will spark so many other good things!
- You’ll sense God’s direction in your life;
- You’ll be open to practicing other spiritual disciplines;
- You’ll have a deep peace and won’t get as stressed out by the circumstances of life;
- You’ll be drawn to worship more;
- You’ll be more in tune to God’s leading throughout the day;
- You’ll have a greater sense of purpose;
I mean, if making the bed every day can change my life, taking time for prayer and reading the Bible can certainly change yours!
I’d love to hear more about ‘keystone habits’ you have in your life, spiritual or otherwise, and how they’ve been instrumental in shaping other disciplines and habits…