Breaking bad habits is hard, but it’ll be worth it in the end.
Building discipline and self-restraint
Some of the spiritual practices are about stopping or taking a break from things you’re currently doing. Building discipline and self-restraint is like building muscle: it requires effort and creates some short-term discomfort as you get stronger. But if you commit to the effort of adding practices of restraint to the rhythm of your life, they can help you maintain a continual awareness of your dependence on God.
And that’s a good thing because, whether you’re aware of it or not, you are dependent on your heavenly Father. We all are. Making space for that awareness to really permeate all aspects of your life will grow your relationship with God in amazing ways. That’s what the practices of restraint are all about.
Do your research.
Before you dive into a new practice, take a little time to figure out why that new practice will benefit you and what you need to do to get started. Connect with God should make your research easy and quick.
Think marathon, not sprint.
Compared to the practices of engagement, it usually takes longer to see the benefits of the practices of restraint. That’s because they offer fewer short-term rewards. But if you stick with them, they have the power to radically change your view of God, yourself, and the world around you. Just know that you’re probably not experience big changes in your spiritual life after 30 days of these practices.
Give yourself short-term rewards.
Since these practices don’t offer much in the way of short-term reward, it may be a good idea to create your own. As you make progress, find small ways to celebrate your persistence and consistency. Activating the reward centers in your brain can really help make progress in your goals.
Get a buddy.
Whatever practice you choose to add to your life, it’s best if you can find a partner for the journey. You’ll both be more likely to succeed if you encourage and challenge each other.
Be kind to yourself.
There will be missteps along the way. You’ll miss days. You’ll slide back into bad habits. You’ll fail. Don’t beat yourself up, and don’t quit. God loves you and extends his grace to you. Do the same for yourself.
Find your sweet spot.
Remember: the goal here isn’t to add an item to your to-do list. It’s to find a way to integrate spiritual practices into the rhythm of your life so that your relationship with God become a central focus of how you interact in the world. That will take some experimentation. To a certain extent, you’ll need to figure out how a particular practice can fit into your unique rhythms. But you’ll also have to figure out some ways you can change your rhythm in sustainable ways.
Keep in mind that for a practice to work for you long-term, it has to be energizing, sustainable, and focused on growth.