English: An aerial view of Mount Everest.

Image via Wikipedia

One of my favourite stories from my Senior Minister Mark Conner is the story of a church youth group leader who wants to encourage his youth group to read the bible more.

He starts by challenging each of them to touch their bible once a day for a week.

“But don’t open it, or you’ll be kicked out of this youth group,” he warns.

Of course, to touch their bible, they need to know where it is, a challenge for most teenagers, especially considering the state of their rooms.

The following week, he issues an additional challenge.

“Now I want you to open your bibles every day.  But don’t read a word, or you’ll be kicked out of the youth group!” he sternly says.

Now parents are ringing the pastor to complain about this renegade youth group leader who doesn’t allow teenagers to read their bibles.

The following week, the leader challenges them to read one verse from their bibles every day.

“But just one verse, or you’ll be kicked out of the youth group,” he reminds them.

The following week, he encourages them to read two verses every day.

Of course by now, they are in the habit of picking up their bibles and reading from them.

If he had told his youth group to read their bible every day in week one, most probably wouldn’t have even bothered trying, but by setting the bar to a low and achievable level and building it up as the weeks progressed, he helped them to start a useful habit.

This also utilises the principle that it takes between 21 and 42 days to establish a habit.  By breaking such a timeframe down into weekly sections, the participants are more likely to stay on track until the new behaviour becomes ingrained.

I don’t know what your goals are or what habits you want to create for your life.

What I do know is that by starting with bite-sized chunks, you can build momentum that will create a useful habit that will hold you in good stead for the future.

Do you want to run a marathon?

Don’t try to run 42 kilometres tomorrow, try ambling around the block first.  And then do it again, and again, gradually building as you go.

Do you want to save for your retirement?

Don’t try to put aside half of next week’s pay packet, try writing a budget and put aside what you can afford.  And then do it again, and again, gradually building as you go.

Do you want to climb Mt. Everest?

Don’t book your ticket to Nepal just yet, try building up your fitness and climbing skills on more realistic mountains first.  And then do it again, and again, gradually building as you go.

It’s great to have big goals, but remember that they start with small steps.

What new habit do you want to establish in your life and how can this concept help you?

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