An oil change can just never be an oil change.
As our family vehicle approaches 90,000 miles I know that every 7,000 mile visit to the mechanic means I am going to get a list of what we need to fix to keep the car in good shape.
Since we only have one vehicle I usually concede to the repairs.
Except with the alignment. I’m not really sure why I keep skipping over that repair.
It wasn’t expensive (relatively speaking). It just was added time to the oil change, so maybe that was it. I didn’t want to spend the extra time on it.
But at the last visit I couldn’t avoid it. The mechanic told me that the misalignment was causing our front tires to wear down unevenly and was dangerous. I consented to the repair (and to the two new front tires we needed).
The next day as my wife was driving the car she looked over at me and said, “The car feels so weird to drive. I don’t like it.”
When Right Feels Wrong
We spent months driving the car with a bad alignment and as a result were used to compensating by constantly pulling the steering wheel the other direction. Now that the alignment was fixed, we didn’t have to do that. The car drove like it was supposed to drive.
But it didn’t feel right… even though it was. We were so used to driving with the issue that we didn’t like the correction.
There is always an “adjustment” period out of “misalignments” in our lives. Whether it is bad habits or sin, doing the right thing sometimes feels wrong. Usually the first 20-28 days are the most difficult. If you can move through that first month, you are close to being used to your new routine.
But a lot of people make a critical mistake – they don’t think the change will be hard. Instead, they think about how eating healthy will just come easy or being active will be something they fall into. They may not admit this because it would sound really arrogant, but we all think it.
And it seems unfair when it doesn’t work out. Why is it so hard to do the right thing?
Because we are used to the wrong things.
That is why people backslide into unhealthy or sinful habits. They realize it is wrong – even that it is destroying them – but the old habit is easier.
It is easier to keep eating crappy food.
It is easier to stay in the relationship that is destructive.
It is easier to sleep in.
When we do the wrong thing for so long, the right thing doesn’t feel like the right thing. We think that because we “fix our alignment” by getting the personal trainer, ditching the bad relationship, or getting right with God everything will fix itself.
But it doesn’t. The challenge isn’t making the choice to be better – the challenge is living out that choice.
And it happens in the first 20 days with consistent effort that acknowledges, “This feels weird. I don’t know if I like this. Wait, that’s because I’m used to the wrong way. This is the right way. I need to get used to the right way.”
Saying it isn’t enough – we need to do three things to get used to our new alignment:
1) Embrace the Suck.
I started CrossFit a year ago and after one week was so sore I could barely move. I texted Matt Regitz, a friend of mine and CrossFit trainer, and told him about the pain I was in. He simply responded, “Embrace the suck.” We think change of any kind, whether physical or spiritual, is going to be met with a big celebration from our family, friends, and strangers on the street.
It isn’t. It is met with work. It happens when our friends don’t understand our conversion or our spouse doesn’t get our new diet.
And we don’t like pain or hard work, so we try to run from it. But we need to lean into it. Instead of running, remind yourself that the “suck” only lasts a month. You just need to get through one month. Lean into it.
2) One Day at a Time.
Even 28 days can become daunting. Forming a habit happens one day at a time. When you start to look at how many days you have left to go it can become really disappointing when the days don’t move fast enough. Instead of looking at how many days you have left to go, focus on the day ahead of you.
I started a 54-day novena over 100 days ago. Do that math. I had to start over four times. The goal of the prayer routine is to pray for 54 consecutive days. If you miss a day, you start over. I missed my first day after 40 consecutive days. I missed my next day after 28 days. I missed my third day after 8 days. As of this writing, I am on day 46.
When I had to start over the first time I was really discouraged. I failed. Instead of getting upset and focusing on the past or how much time I had ahead of me (again), I just focused on each new day. I wanted to accomplish my goal for that day and leave tomorrow for tomorrow.
3) Learn From Failure.
When I failed at my consecutive prayer streak the first time I was upset. After the second time, I wanted to give up. By the third time, I felt like an idiot. After that third time I decided to look at the common factors to my failure. All the days that I missed my prayers were days I put the novena off until the evening and were days I was traveling. Waiting until the end of the day when I’ve been in the air all day is a recipe to forget my commitments.
To counter that trap, I started praying on the morning of travel at the airport before my flight. That became my routine. Suddenly, it wasn’t hard to keep up on travel days. By examining the places I failed, I was able to find success.
Join the Conversation: What do you do to keep yourself stuck on a new habit?