Your life as a mom is a mess and you don’t even know where to start. Has that been you? Is it you right now? Your house is cluttered and the mess overwhelms you daily. No one appreciates the fact you cook every single night. You need to shed a few pounds but you have not exercised in months. You love God but you cannot seem to get to church. You feel guilty about not doing daily devotions so you put it out of your mind. You know your stress affects other peoples’ behavior, but you are not sure how to control it. Before you throw yourself another pity party, please hear me out.
We have all been there if we are not at that place today. We have all struggled with one or more of those things…maybe not all at once…but we have felt overwhelmed the demands of being a mom.
This was on my mind as I read the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
Duhigg shares about Paul O’Neill who took over as the CEO of Alcoa, one of the largest aluminum corporations in 1987. The corporation had been struggling with product quality, effective employees, and a whole host of other issues. When he addressed his investors for the first time at a meet and greet in Manhattan, he began by addressing only one issue: worker safety. He wanted to make Alcoa the safest company in America.
The audience was confused. These meetings usually followed a predictable script: A new CEO would start with an introduction…then promise to boost profits and lower costs. Next would come an excoriation of taxes, business regulations…Finally the speech would end with a blizzard of ‘buzzwords’–‘syngery,’ ‘rightsizing,’ and ‘co-opetition’–at which point everyone could return to their offices, reassured capitalism was safe for another day…O’Neill hadn’t said anything about profits. He didn’t even mention taxes. There was no talk of ‘using alignment to achieve a win-win synergistic market advantage.'” (98)
By the time he retired in 2000, Alcoa’s annual net income was five times larger than before he arrived. By attacking one habit–worker safety–it set off a chain reaction affecting other habits. He believe there are big habits or “keystone habits” that begin a process and can transform everything.
Duhigg says one of those lifestyle habits is exercise. He says:
When people start habitually exercising, even as infrequently as once a week, they start changing other, unrelated patterns in their lives, other unknowingly. Typically, people who exercise start eating better and becoming more productive at work. They smoke less and show more patience with colleagues and family. They use their credit card less frequently and say they feel less stressed. It’s not completely clear why. But for many people, exercise is a keystone habit that triggers widespread change.”
For me personally exercise gives me more energy (even though I have to wake up earlier). I crave fruits and vegetables versus junk. My moods are more stable. I get outside air and feel refreshed. I am more likely to do things with my kids like go to the park, ride bikes, and roller skate.
Some of our moms were told in the 1970’s they can have it all. I see many moms today trying to be it all. While we try, we end up in a mess of “mom” issues. Maybe we don’t need try to clean up the whole mess in one sitting.
Pick a keystone habit. Over time, your life might evolve into something that is not quite so overwhelming. I no longer set vague goals for myself. For instance one year my goal was to chill out and not take my anger out on other people. How can I measure that? All the sudden I yell at my kids for fighting. Did I already fail?
This year I simply set one goal. I am going to read the Bible everyday following a simple Read the Bible in One Year program. It even has an Ipad app. This is one keystone goal that seems simple yet takes discipline and it has been transforming other areas in my life.
Although Duhigg’s book focuses on the psychology of habits and not necessarily on our spiritual lives, we can apply it to our walk with the Lord. If our keystone habit is to focus on God using whatever spiritual discipline we feel called to do (prayer, Bible reading, studying), we can trust that God will lead us in every single area of our life.