Why You Can’t Maintain Good Habits!

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In the last post, I indicated that we really need to take a hard look at ourselves in a holistic way and start setting goals that make us healthier. I proposed we set goals that help us take better care of our bodies, our minds, emotions, relationships, and spiritual lives. This is the best approach to healthy living because each of these five spheres of human life encompasses much of who we are and are completely integrated with each other. If you take care of your mind, your body becomes more healthy and if you take care of your emotions you can think more clearly, etc., you get the idea. That means you should set at least five goals, or at least be mindful of five important practices related to your physical health, your emotional life, your mental life, your relationships, and your spiritual life. That might mean you set the proverbial weight loss goal but you should also attempt to spend quality time with each of your family members throughout the week. Perhaps you can enjoy dinner out with your spouse, playing cards with your children, or taking time to call a friend you haven’t talked with for some time. When you focus on all five of these areas you’re looking at your life holistically and each goal and habit you start for each area will help you in the others.

One of the toughest things about setting goals and developing habits is we seldom follow through with them. We feel inspired to lose that 10 pounds but after about five days we start ignoring the diet, the exercise, and the new gym equipment we got for Christmas. Other goals and habits are just as easily ignored. I know a number of my friends who got tablets for Christmas because they were going to start reading more ebooks this year… Mostly they are binging Netflix shows on them and haven’t even purchased their first ebook. Why is it so hard to get started on building new healthy habits? Being healthy is important to me so why can’t I do it!

The main reason you can’t maintain (or start) good habits and complete your goals is that they have no connection to what you believe your meaning and purpose in life is. Even worse, you may not know what your purpose in life might be! You may be one of those kind souls drifting from one thing to another, functioning well enough, enjoying parts of your life, but not living life with purpose. When you either have no purpose or can’t connect your goals and habits to that purpose, you fail. What we do has to matter and I mean “really” matter. If it doesn’t connect to what you believe is your purpose, it just won’t matter. In fact, you may simply be adopting a goal or habit because it just seems like something people ought to do. Remember, something you ought to do is not something you will pursue with any real energy and is almost as bad as something you should do or need to do from a motivational perspective. You want your habits and goals to be something you do because it allows you to fulfill your life’s purpose. For example, I hate to eat right and I hate to exercise. I would love it if I could maintain a decent looking midsection while eating cake and reading my favorite book. Sugar and reading are two of my greatest addictions! The problem is when I do that I look fat and can’t keep up with my family who likes to travel, hike, and do so many physically exerting activities. Yet, even though I hate these things, I eat fairly well, limiting my sugar and I exercise at least three to five times a week. How is it I can consistently participate in something I hate? First, it’s important to me to be a father who can participate in all my family’s activities. I want to make memories with my family and to do that I have to be able to travel with them and participate in all the activities they enjoy. Secondly, I’m a college professor and speaker. I’m frequently in front of groups of people which means my physical appearance is part of my message. Nothing will distract more from my teaching than a physical appearance that doesn’t reflect healthy living and temperance that I speak about as an essential part of living well. I can’t let my addiction to sugar and sedentary activity keep me from fulfilling my purpose which is to help empower people to be the best they can be. Because of that, I exercise and watch my food intake so that I can fulfill my life purpose.

What I want all of you to do as you start thinking about your next set of goals and habits is to ask yourself, “Does this really help me accomplish my life mission? Will this help me fulfill my purpose?” If it doesn’t, don’t pretend you’re going to continue pursuing that activity, it will fall short. If you really think it’s important, you need to connect it to that life mission if it’s going to be something you do consistently. If you don’t know what your life mission or purpose is, stay tuned, next week we will look at how to develop that. See you then!

Starting A New Healthy Life – A Holistic Approach

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We walk around life in a haze. We have ignored what matters most in life in order to walk around in our own world of illusions. We like to think we’re okay, but we’re not. We think we’re in good physical shape but most of us are overweight, taking more medication than we should, and eat like teenagers at a county fair. Our bodies are screaming for us to stop abusing them, but we just keep hurting ourselves and mask that abuse with medications, treatments, and a multitude of other distractions. Most of us are embracing death more than life by killing ourselves slowly through food and immobility. Sigmund Freud believed human beings have a “thanatos drive” which in layman’s terms is a type of death wish. There are many times I think he was on to something. It’s not just our bodies we’re killing, most of us have become lazy thinkers as well. We tell ourselves that we’re thoughtful and deep thinkers, but we can barely spend more than three minutes looking at a social media post. We like to think we spend time learning new and important things and we’re staying informed but most of our time is consumed with irrelevant junk food for the mind. If we’re honest with ourselves we might actually find we’re more likely succumbing to the psychological traps of group think, confirmation bias, and feeding our minds with news stories that support what we already believe. We’re comfortable with what we know and we seldom challenge our beliefs in order to grow.


So, we continue to fool ourselves by believing we’re physically okay and that we’re much more thoughtful than we really are. We’re lazy thinkers and afraid to challenge our opinions and knowledge by engaging different opinions and new ideas. It doesn’t stop there, however, because we’re also emotionally lazy. We choose to be emotionally numb instead of engage our emotions and the emotional lives of others. We’re afraid to let others see us cry, be saddened by the tragedies we see on television, and we keep ourselves from becoming angry at the daily injustice we see people experience. We aren’t comfortable feeling our emotions and we’re unable to talk about them with even the closest people in our lives. We ignore the emotions of other people we meet every day and avoid celebrating with them or being a comforting voice they need while they suffer. We have indeed become emotionally lazy and numb.


When we don’t take care of our emotional lives and ignore our physical well-being, we also negatively impact our relationships with other people. Too often we take our relationships for granted or only see them in utilitarian ways. We ask what the relationship does for us instead of how we can help and be of service to the people in our lives. We need to ask ourselves, “How can I love this person in the way they need me to love them instead of the way I want to love them?” We’re lazy with our relationships and when that happens, we isolate ourselves which isn’t good for our mental or physical well-being.


A final part of our lives we’ve grown lazy in is our spiritual life. We’re so caught up in the material aspects of life that we forget we’re a transcendent creature who is not merely a body or merely a spirit in a body, but a human being with a body and spirit meant to live within the physical world with a transcendent sense of reality. For most of us spirituality is that convenient experience we have when we want to pray to get something from the divine or to ease our anxiety about death, tragedy, and daily inconveniences. Your spiritual life must be bigger than that. It has to embrace a larger meaning and purpose that guides your everyday life.


If you have a better understanding of who you are, you can begin to see the many places where you’re functioning in a way that keeps you from living a fully human life. People ignore the different dimensions of human life, overemphasize some, or have a completely skewed understanding of how they interact with one another. They might be really into physical fitness but then find themselves completely ignoring their spiritual life. They may be hyper-spiritual people but end up ignoring their physical well-being. They may think that the things they believe have little to no impact on how they develop relationships with other people. I have encountered some people who see relationships in purely utilitarian terms and so they live for what others can do for them. The opposite is true as well, some people have no boundaries and expend themselves in service to others to the point of exhaustion. We must understand, to be truly healthy and live well is to live well holistically. We need to live with bodies in the best physical condition our situation allows, minds as sharp as we can make them, a level of emotional intelligence that allows us to know how we and others feel, in balanced relationships that have healthy boundaries, and with a spiritual sense that allows us to infuse life with meaning and purpose. It’s my hope I can help you achieve these results so please, check back with us and let me know your thoughts and how I can serve you.

Building Healthy Communities

Sometimes, when the world looks like it’s falling apart, our first impulse is to pull away from it. We feel as if we’re exiles in a world filled with people from another planet. We see people rioting, ignoring basic common sense and forgetting how to interact with one another at a most basic courteous human level. We need to appeal to the “Better angels of our human nature” as Abraham Lincoln once stated when trying to find a way for a war-torn nation to reunite.

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Our experience of exile is not unique; it can also be found in the Jewish Babylonian exile experience in the Judeo-christian bible. God asked the Jews to respond in a particular way to their exile and it’s in this Jewish response we can learn how to respond to our own contemporary situation. Remember the Jews experienced a tremendous loss of everything after their defeat by the Babylonians. Their kingdom was destroyed, and they were carted off to live in a foreign land. I bet their first impulse was not very different from our own. They most likely just wanted to pull back, become disengaged, and protect themselves. God, speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, gives them a different mandate (Jeremiah 29:4-7):

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have set you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.”

This is a powerful lesson to consider when reflecting on how to build healthy communities regarless if you’re religious or not. The Jewish people saw themseves as living icons of the divine presence in a fallen world. God gave them a law they believed made them a holy people set apart for God’s purposes allowing him to dwell among them in a transformative way. Through the prophet Jeremiah God tells the exiles he wants them to be set apart but exist within a foreign city as leaven and light making it a better place for everyone. God tells them, “I want you to live there, flourish there, and prosper but not simply for your own benefit, for the benefit of the city as well. By being active agents of prosperity and goodness, you too will flourish.” Basically, God is saying by being the presence of the living God these exiles will cause this foreign city to be a special place. When the city flourishes, they will be blessed, and everyone will know the God of the Jews is a powerful God. This self understanding of the ancient Jews drove them to be something transformative in the communities they ocupied. It’s this vision of being a positive force in your community that I want you to think about.

Over the next few posts I want to help you develop into a powerful icon of what is good and beneficial for your community. There is an interesting paradox surrounding the focus on service to others and volunteering in a community setting. The more we focus on service to others the less we focus on our own fears and problems. We find meaning and purpose in our service to others and this meaning and purpose gives us a huge psychological boost. Serving our community is the best thing we can do for ourselves.

So how can we become an icon of what is good and beneficial for our community? In this series of articles, I will explore the following topics: 1) Becoming other focused through gratitude 2) Maximizing relationships in your community 3) Why compromise isn’t a bad word, and 4) How we forgive one another and restore our relationships.

I look forward to engaging you in this journey. Remember, if the communities we live in don’t flourish, we can’t either. However, to fix what’s wrong in our communities really starts with one or two people willingly engaging one another and envisioning a better future. Let me help equip you to do that very thing.

(This series was originally posted on the website A Race to Healing)