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The Nature of Habits

Jun 13, 2022

This post is by Courtney Cohen.


Habits are funny things – full of potential to shape our life’s course, yet often viewed as deplorable doldrums we must endure to “adult” successfully. But Scripture overflows with positive and purposeful repetition which is anything but dull – it’s vibrant with life and is expressive of our worship of God. Sabbath, feasts, festivals, prayers, gathering with other believers – all habits that serve us well.

 While who we are is defined by God alone, what we do is an expression of that deeper identity. As we consider worthwhile habits to keep and implement, consider the nature of a habit.

 A good habit serves the person; the person does not serve the habit.

 One habit I’ve mastered is the habit of planning. I plan my year out with curricula for our homeschool. I plan out my weeks considering our routines with church, work, family, and friends. I plan out my day to remind myself amidst the shuffle of activity what I must accomplish. And, when I overestimate my capacity, I may even plan out my minutes to get those necessary tasks done. But, this habit must find balance with what truly matters in a day, a week, a year for it to serve me well, because having margin for the unexpected or the spontaneous matters too! Otherwise, what began as a tool to serve my life becomes a master to rule over me.

 A good habit is built upon another good habit.

 What is something you already do that serves you well? For years, I struggled to remember to take my vitamins and supplements each day. But once I put into practice “piggybacking a habit” I finally found success. Each morning, as soon as I leave my bedroom, I make my morning tea. Nearly two years ago, I began to piggyback off this established habit to find success with taking my supplements. I realized that my teapot took a few minutes to warm up – plenty of time to take my vitamins. Finally! Success in building a habit that contributes to my wellness.

 A good habit develops through rhythm.

 An average day will find me homeschooling my three children. Throughout the decade that this has been my primary occupation, our daily schedule (complete with exact timing) has evolved into a much more achievable daily rhythm. Our schedule used to specify that snack time would begin at 10am, school time would wrap up at 2pm, and so forth. But our daily rhythm allows for flexibility within days that come along with necessary interruptions, behavioral lessons, family emergencies, or a chance to go to the park with friends. Free of time constraints, we have a rhythm, a pattern, of simply what comes next. First, breakfast; then chores; then school time, rest, playtime, and dinner. There exists an opportunity to have a day begin a bit messy, but still end with success.

 A good habit can overtake a bad one.

 What bad habits have you had? Biting your nails? Sleeping in too late? Focusing on the negative aspects of life? Making excuses not to exercise? One bad habit I have, thankfully, worked through a great deal is the matter of focusing on the negative. The only way I was able to shift out of this habitual mindset was to intentionally think of positive things. If I’d only focused on how disappointed I was in myself, how terrible it was that I still struggled in this area, I would remain stuck in negativity. But, shifting my focus instead to the very things the apostle Paul calls us to in Philippians 4:8 – those things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy – that’s when true change began, and a new habit found solid ground.

 Who we are determines what we do, and what we do determines the way we go. Each step of a hike takes us towards or away from our hoped-for destination. Each habit we build towards the identity God has imparted to us as His image-bearers on this planet takes us towards lives that bear His image well.

 Who will you be and where will you go? What habits can you nurture to help get you there?


For Courtney Cohen, everything comes down to two questions: Who is God? And who has He designed us to be? Whether she’s writing, speaking, or homeschooling her children, these questions propel her forward. Author of multiple books including The Sacred Shadow and Refining Identity, Courtney passionately helps people encounter the reality and nearness of God in everyday life. Courtney is married to Steve, her most radical supporter, who also keeps her real. Together, they co-founded and serve at Now Found Ministries. Living in Texas, Courtney and Steve have three children who, simultaneously, bless her socks off and keep her on her toes. Stay in touch with Courtney at NowFound.org.

Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash


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