I have to admit that writing on busyness made me reflect a lot about how I spent my time. I wanted to change, but at the problem was, I didn’t know just how to. So I sat down with a colleague of mine who was gifted in strategizing and analyzing data. I laid out all the set commitments I had, and all the tasks I wanted to include in the week.
At the end of it, not only did I gain a saner mind when it came to managing my time, the exercise also allowed me to get a picture of the things I could do to improve other parts of my life. Charles Duhigg in “The Power of Habit” describes these as a keystone habit. If you fix that one keystone habit, then this dominoes into fixing the other habits tied to it. The key is to figure out what they are in your life.
I found another interesting thing at the end of the exercise: these habits weren’t some of those latest fads that assure you magical results if you keep to it. Rather, these were habits that I learned as early as a kindergarten, but eventually took on different forms when I grew up. And, it turns out, that if I fixed these habits, then I have improved on a big part of my life. These were my results:
When I was a kid, I called it reading. Today, I call it consuming.
I remember my mom buying an encyclopedia set when I was little. For those who are too young to remember, these sets became a child’s mini-library at home that covered topics from science to sports to entertainment. They were all the range at keeping oneself updated with general knowledge.
But today, with just a swipe of a finger, we could access information that what used to be sought out in bookshelves and libraries. Which begs the question, in the modern day of fast and instantaneous access to the Internet, what kind of information are you consuming? Or is it the opposite, are they consuming you?
Whether we like it or not, whatever it is that we consume becomes a part of us. If we aren’t careful of what we take in, they could very well hijack your mind to a direction you don’t want to go.
Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
When I was a kid, I called it writing. Today, I call it communicating.
I spent the early years of my life studying in a Chinese school. We had a class that taught us how to write Chinese characters by tracing each characters’ strokes in black ink. With just a glance, the teacher (the Chinese word is pronounced as “lao-sher”) could already tell if you did not follow the proper order of strokes by the way a word would look in the end. What’s worse, if you missed out on some strokes, the meaning of the word could completely change.
Sometimes it is possible to have the right intentions, but wrong delivery of the message. Sometimes it is possible to have the right delivery, but wrong spirit when delivering a message. Then there are times when everything is just all-out wrong. When we lack one, both, or all of the above, even the best of messages can be misunderstood—or worse, unused at all.
How do you communicate with others? Do you pray and give much thought to crucial conversations, or just say whatever’s in your head? Do you consider the other person’s point of view first, or do you cling to your own agenda?
Whoever guards his mouth preserves his life; he who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
At the Heart of It
Consuming and communicating. Both habits are intertwined, and simultaneously influencing one other and what’s more our life. And while it’s great to know this, the real motivation behind understanding and reshaping these habits is none other this verse:
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20
Yes, I understand that this verse is usually cited in the context of sexual immortality, but I want us to draw our attention to the lines you were bought with a price. At the heart of why we would want to consume healthy content and communicate in a God honoring way is because of the Gospel.
If we believe that God made us, and, by Jesus’ blood, purchased for us the forgiveness of sins and eternal life, then that means that we do not anymore own ourselves.
“Change might not be fast and it isn’t always easy. But with time and effort, almost any habit can be reshaped,” says Duhigg. As I write this, I can’t help but think of certain habits that I never thought I would be able to change… but have been reshaped gradually. In the same breath, I am already listing down the habits I want to still form in me. What made the difference between those good and bad habits?
Jesus entered the picture.