“You don’t rise to your goals; you fall to the level of your systems.”
James Clear, author of Atomic Habits
I’m a big believer in goals, but you’re not going to have success in reaching your goals or achieving your calling without a system of habits and routines. Goals are achieved when they come with structure. Emotion, energy or even just trying real hard are not enough.
As James Clear in his seminal work Atomic Habits says, improvement doesn’t come through giant leaps but through incremental, small changes over time. According to him, 1% improvement each day over a year will result in 37x improvement over a year. This is an amazing statistic to think about.
To use a financial term, habits are the compound interest of self-improvement.
And, as I mention in the podcast this week and in my book on Thanksgiving in the Psalms, habits and routine dominate our lives. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’d admit that our life is dominated by habit. We might not recognize it, but our entire life is dominated by routine.
- We eat at roughly the same time.
- We go to bed at the same time, even if it isn’t early enough.
- We wake up at around the same time, again—sometimes not early enough
- Husbands come home at the same time.
- Kids want to go outside at the same time.
And, on and on, we live by a routine even if we did not consciously steer our day. We are like ships on the water. We float. Our lives have to be steered in some direction or go with the current. It is just the way things work! No boat or ship on the water will ever stay still.
We will always move in the direction of what is important to us.
Therefore, the first step after setting a goal is to actively and consciously control as much as you can control and set up the incremental steps to achieve your goal. Put another way, you put together the structure.
Again, here is what the structure looks like:
-Calling (The Big Why)
-Benchmark Goals (how do you know you are on the right track)
-Control (you bring as much under your control as you can)
-Everyday (construct daily habits and routines that lead to your calling)
It takes discipline to construct this system and stay committed. This is why I define discipline as moving forward in the calling God has given you.
Some people describe discipline as a strict and rigid structure to your day, but this sort of discipline means nothing unless it moves you toward your calling. Sometimes having fun is discipline, especially if it means pushing all the stresses out of your mind to develop a relationship that makes it easier to shepherd the heart of your children.
So, about three weeks ago, we talked about thriving through subtraction.
This is what I am talking about…
You need to be active, and quite frankly brutal, in pushing everything out of your life that does not lead to your calling.
What is your calling?…
Well, your calling is to bring your children to Christ. Therefore, every choice and routine needs to be considered with this calling in mind. To move forward in this calling, you must build structure. You need to ruthlessly grab back control of what you can control and set up everyday habits that give you traction toward your calling.
If you’re not active in setting up your system, it will be forced on you just by the current of the day.
But, sometimes taking back control of everything is difficult. It’s hard to structure every hour and stay with it. This is why I brought up incremental changes. To see a massive shift does not take an earthquake or revolution. Consistent incremental changes over time will make a huge difference.