The Habit Podcast is taking this week off, but next week’s guest will be Justin Whitmel Earley. He’s the author of The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose in an Age of Distraction. We recorded this episode months ago, but I’ve been saving it for the first week of January, when people are thinking and planning for new habits and new beginnings.

In the introduction to The Common Rule, Justin describes a breakdown he experienced a few years ago. After years of diligently pursuing his calling as a lawyer, consumed by the busyness and long hours and ambition that are the norm in that field, he found himself debilitated by anxiety, panic attacks, and insomnia. He writes,

I see now that my body had finally become converted to the anxiety and busyness I’d worshiped through my habits and routines. All the years of a schedule built on going nonstop to try to earn my place in the world had finally rubbed off on my heart. My head said one thing, that God loves me no matter what I do, but my habits said another, that I’d better keep striving in order to stay loved.

In the end, I started to believe my habits–mind, body, and soul.

Earley committed to a new program of habits that evolved into what he calls The Common Rule. “The aim of the program was to try to get my heart to believe the peace that my head professed but my body refused.” 

“I had no idea how much my life was being formed by my habits instead of my hopes,” writes Earley. That’s a really important insight. We think of ourselves as being shaped by our ideas and beliefs and hopes–and, of course, we are—but we grossly underestimate the power of habit in our lives. We aren’t just what we think; we are also what we do.

As you think about your goals and hopes and resolutions for 2022, I hope you’ll think in terms of habits. A resolution is something that happens between your ears. A habit is something that happens in your life. The right kind of habits create healthy grooves that your life can run in—grooves that align with Reality (and, therefore, productivity, joy, peace, rest, etc.). Just as important, the right kind of habits protect you from those who seek to hijack your attention and energies by manipulating your habits (including, but not limited to, app and website developers and creators of mass media).

Good habits, according to Justin Earley, are a trellis for love to grow on. I find that a helpful way to think about it. As part of your new year’s commitments, you might consider establishing some or all of the eight keystone habits that Earley discusses in The Common Rule:

Four Daily Habits

  • Kneeling prayer three times a day
  • One meal with others each day
  • Phone off at least one hour each day
  • Scripture before phone in the morning

Four Weekly Habits

  • One hour of conversation with a friend
  • Curate media to four hours a week
  • Fast from something for 24 hours
  • Sabbath

You can find out more

Happy New Year, friends. Here’s to better habits!

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