Replacement is my new watchword. It’s my key to changing anything I don’t like about my life. This may seem simplistic and even intuitive but let’s see how well we measure up with this little quiz.
The Vacuum of Habit
If you answered true to any of these questions, you probably haven’t been very successful changing unwanted behaviors, characteristics, or sin in your life. That’s because change, by its very nature, is dynamic, not static.
Sure we can temporarily alter a negative behavior by stopping it. But unless we replace the unwanted action with a behavior we do want, the vacuum of habit will suck us right back to our default responses.
The key is understanding we can’t simply subtract something. We have to replace it. It seems so basic, so “duh”, but most often we don’t do it because it takes a strategy, concerted effort and deliberate practice.
Strategy for Change
Once you decide you want to change that thorn in your side—for me, it’s being fearful—you have to do more than just stop the behavior. You have to strategize.
I think I hold the world record of mentally blazing from wealth to poverty. Yes, I can visualize my life sliding from comfort (a warm, dry bed with food in the fridge) to destitution (living in a cardboard box and eating out of a dumpster) in .7 seconds. It’s terrifying.
But if I want to stop fear from paralyzing me on a regular basis, I have to strategize and replace it with the opposite—faith. I replace fearful thoughts with these: Even when my husband and I separated and his business failed, God made a way for me to stay in my house and keep food on the table.
When my autistic 3-year-old son needed special—expensive—therapy in another state, God provided $36,000 from the Orange County coffers when it purchased a 2’ X 8’ sliver of our property for public road upgrades.
I have powerful tools to replace my slippery, fearful thoughts—positive memories of God intervening to keep my feet firmly planted, but I need to make a concerted effort to recall those memories to the forefront of my mind.
Shawn Achor, founder of GoodThink, Inc. and his wife Michelle Gielan, author of Broadcasting Happiness, suggest daily gratitude activities to keep positive thoughts readily available. One of these daily activities is to write down three things you are thankful for. Sounds easy, right? But you can’t write the same thing down every day.
This activity forces me to expand my gratitude radar and consciously note things to be grateful for all day long—an available parking space in front of the grocery store, my children making their bed without being asked, and the miracle of an uninterrupted internet connection during a thunderstorm.
Only when I make the effort on a consistent basis do I even have a chance of changing my unwanted behaviors. This leads to what psychologists and professional athletes call deliberate practice.
In its simplest form, deliberate practice is focusing on the parts of an activity that are hard for us. Athletes, musicians, and craftsman do it to perfect their craft. It involves stepping outside our comfort zone and doing things that don’t come natural or easy.
If overcoming fear was easy for me, I wouldn’t feel enslaved to it or ashamed of it. But I am and I do. So I have to diligently and deliberately replace fear with faith.
It’s hard. I need to memorize scriptures like Deuteronomy 30:6-8 and Matthew 28:20 to remind myself that God won’t abandon me. I need to read books about mastering fear. I have to meditate on past “defeats” that God turned into victories. And I need to seek inspiration from others’ triumphant stories.
Power of Replacement
Let’s replace those earlier True/False statements with something that will produce results:
The Power of Replacement is not a new concept. The Apostle Paul stated it two centuries ago in Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” But it is one for which we need constant reminders.
So let’s strategize.
- Create this simple diagram.
- In the left, write one area you want to change.
- In the middle, write the opposite (Caution: The opposite may be different than what you think. Make a concerted effort and do a little research.)
- On the right, write down the actual activities (deliberate practice) you will commit to. Remember, the only way you will see change is if these activities are outside your comfort zone.
This week my area of change is replacing my fear of conflict or rejection by speaking the truth in love as Paul says in Ephesians 4:15. Then I’m going to practice it deliberately by correcting myself each time I say what I think people want to hear. If I don’t do it in the moment, I’ll have to go back to the person, apologize for lying, and tell them what I really think. Let’s hope I learn this really fast!
What about you? What bad habit or sin are you going to replace this week?