In the aviation world, they have a rule called the 1 in 60 rule. Maybe you’re familiar with this rule. I know nothing about flying airplanes (or, “large choo-choos,” as I called them when I was a wee lad), so this rule is new to me. The 1 in 60 rule says that for every one degree a plane goes off-course, that plane will miss its target by one mile for every 60 miles it travels. That means, for example, if I board a big choo-choo in Birmingham headed for, say, NYC, and my plane is one degree off course, we will miss our target by 16 miles. My plane would end up parked in the Atlantic rather than La Guardia, in other words.
Now, maybe you aren’t an engineer like me and don’t share my affinity for numbers – I geeked out on these calculations for an hour – but you should. One degree of change is a small, minuscule, infinitesimal change. But, over time, this small, minuscule, infinitesimal change creates a large change. A change that is hard to notice becomes one that makes international news.
The same is true with life. Every day, we make decisions that steer our life one way or another. One degree shifts that guide our life towards a destination. No one wakes up one day and realizes their marriage is on the rocks. Whether a marriage thrives or dies depends on small decisions that occur over a long period of time.
Don’t like that example? Here’s another. Does a persistent anxiety (not the clinical kind, but the unrest, uneasiness kind) hover over your life? Where did it come from? You didn’t used to feel like this? What’s wrong?
Think small. When you wake up, how do you start your day? Do you grab that electronic box and scroll social media or read the latest news? Seems like a small thing, right? You only look for a minute, maybe two. But, over time, you’re sending a signal to your medulla oblengata, a signal that’s rooted in fear and scarcity. A drop every day, and eventually the buckets overflows. You see what I’m saying?
I call these small decisions microhabits. I didn’t come up with that term. I’m merely hijacking it (aviation pun not intended, I promise). Microhabits are like compounding interest. You do them for a long period of time, with no tangible change. Then, like an explosion, change happens.
Microhabits can be good or bad. You have them right now, lots of them, and these small habits shape your life. In fact, I believe your life is the sum of your microhabits.
I want to talk about some microhabits that can transform your life. These are small, insignificant decisions that could alter the trajectory of your life. If you keep at these for days and weeks and months, you will transform your life. You will find yourself becoming the person you always thought you could be.
Here are 9 microhabits that will transform your spiritual life.
1. Read one Bible verse and meditate on it.
Too often, reading Scripture is another item to mark off our to-do list. Read three chapters of Matthew. Done. Scripture has no effect on our lives when we approach it this way. If the Bible is the inspired word of God, then we need to breathe in each and every word we read.
Take Matthew 22:37, for example.
“Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’
There’s enough meat on them bones to feast for weeks. What does it mean to love the Lord with all your heart? Stop. Close your eyes. Really think. What is the state of your heart? Do you feel shame? Why? Is there some area of your heart where you’ve refused to let God in? What might it look like to give ALL of your heart to God?
You can make excuses for not reading three or four chapters. But you can’t make an excuse for not reading one.
2. No technology for 30 minutes after you wake up.
I should say an hour, but this is a post about microhabits, so we’ll set the bar low.
A study from IDC research said 80% of smart phone users check their phone within 15 minutes of waking up. This is too high.
If you check your phone as soon as you wake up, you allow the opinions and agendas of other people to dictate your day. You alert stress hormones in your brain. You prime your brain for distraction.
What you do in the first moments of your day lay the foundation for that day. Start with a strong foundation. Be pro-active.
Here’s a shortlist of things you can do instead of check your phone:
Go for a walk.
Talk to your spouse.
Listen to a podcast or audiobook.
Take a long shower.
3. Before you go to sleep, focus on one positive experience for at least 15 seconds.
You have the power, just by focusing your thoughts, not only to change the chemistry in your brain, but to alter your DNA.
God designed the brain this way. But change doesn’t come easily. Our brains have a built-in negativity bias, so if you want a positive experience to transform your brain, you must focus on it for an extended period of time (at least 15 seconds). And you need uninterrupted silence.
I find the best time to do this is right before I go to sleep. I close my eyes, think about one positive experience from the day, and allow that experience to sink deep into my bones. I tie that experience to an emotion (like gratitude) and let that emotion flow through every limb and organ.
This is a short, simple exercise that will transform your life.
4. Entertain one new thought or idea.
In a world where everyone lives in a self-erected echo chamber, empathy dies. And without empathy, humanity has no chance. I once heard someone say that humans can never call into question more than 1 percent of their current worldview (thoughts about themselves, political views, theology, etc.). That’s part of the problem with deconstruction. It’s a firehose of new ideas all at once, which causes the existing structure to crumble to the ground, leaving you disoriented and cynical.
But you can listen to one opposing view on one part of your worldview every day. This isn’t about deconstructing faulty beliefs. This is about listening to someone else’s story. This is about recognizing our shared humanity, that we’re all part of the larger Story.
This is about nurturing empathy, the oxygen of love, the bedrock of human connection and flourishing.
5. Exercise for 5 minutes.
Exercise is essential to health, which means it’s essential to spiritual well-being. How we take care of our bodies reveals what we believe about God. Exercise is one way we take care of our bodies.
Exercise improves mood, boosts energy, reduces the risk of almost every disease known to man, and promotes better sleep. In my own life, I’ve found that exercise, even in short bursts, connects me with God by untangling the web of thoughts and emotions that build throughout the day. It re-centers me. It grounds me.
To receive the benefits of exercise, you don’t need to run a marathon. Five minutes of walking will do just fine.
6. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier.
Or 15 minutes. Just go to bed earlier than you do right now. This isn’t a self-help exercise. Sleep is a spiritual exercise. And our lack of it reveals our inability to trust God.
I love this verse in Psalm 127:2. “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves.”
These words remind me that I’m not in control, that sleep reflects trust in God. It says I don’t have to do it all, know it all, solve every problem. I can rest.
We don’t get enough sleep, and our lack of sleep is eroding our health. Study after study proves this. More than anything, though, making the decision to go to bed earlier shows that you believe God is in control.
7. Do one thing for someone other than yourself.
When I was healing from a chronic illness, one of the core components of healing was to find ways to help other people. That’s crazy, right? How can helping others heal a chronic illness?
Studies prove that serving can reduce chronic pain and increase happiness. It can even help you live longer. Why? Helping others connects you with a larger purpose. It reminds you that you exist for something more than meeting your own needs. It fosters a mindset of abundance, not scarcity. It connects you with humanity and with creation and with God.
Start small. Pick up a piece of trash on the side of the road. Put up the dishes. Donate to a charity. Do one thing every day. And your life will improve.
8. Make your bed.
Now, some might think I’m stretching it with this habit, and maybe I am. But I don’t think so.
Again, I’ll refer to my own experience. As I began to heal from years of chronic illness, making the bed was one of the first habits I implemented.
Here’s why. Making your bed sends a signal to your brain that you are in control of your day, not the voices and opinions of others. That you believe in the power of focusing on the small, insignificant matters in your day. That you will live this day with intention. That you will be thoughtful and responsible. That God gave you this day, which means you have a purpose.
It’s a small thing that can have a huge impact on your life.
9. Tell one person that you love them.
Do you tell your spouse you love him or her? Your kids? Your parents and friends? You should. Everyday. So, today, and every day moving forward, make sure you say, ”I love you” to at least one person. Shoot them a quick text.
This is a habit about living without regret and recognizing that everyday is a gift from God, and being loved is the greatest of all gifts.
Microhabits are the key to capital-l Life. If you don’t like these, find your own. The number of microhabits you can implement outnumber the sand grains in the Sahara. Find the ones that make you a better, more loving person. And start them today.
Grace and peace, friends.