Holy Habit Tip #3: Focus on Little Habits, NOT on Big Changes.

Far too often in the spiritual life, we think that we must make big changes in order to become holier. But this will often lead to frustration and discouragement.

James Clear says that it is far better to focus on little habits, what he calls “atomic habits” because these habits, just like atoms, have the ability to become mighty when they have been repeated hundreds of times.

“Rome wasn’t build in a day, but they were laying bricks every hour. You don’t have to build everything you want today, just lay a brick” (James Clear).

Since habits are “the compound interest of self-improvement”, improving 1% each day results in becoming 37 times better by year-end! Although you won’t feel that these little habits are making a difference on any given day, trust that, by God’s grace, they can deliver enormous results in the long-term.

For example, St. Therese “acquired the habit of smiling every time when, at work, she was disturbed by a Sister who came with or without reason, to ask her for some service. She noted this with humor in her last manuscript. She was ready for annoyance: “I want it; I count on it … so I am always happy” (quoted in Dubay’s Deep Conversion Deep Prayer, 62).

St. Basil the Great also affirmed the importance of “atomic habits” when he wrote:

“Don’t try to be extremely disciplined right away. Above everything beware of your own confidence, lest you fall from a height of discipline because of lack of training. It is better to move ahead a little at a time. So then, withdraw from the pleasures of life little by little. Gradually destroy all your evil habits, lest you bring on yourself a mass of temptation by stirring up all your passions at once. When you have mastered one passion, then begin waging war against another. And before long you will get the better of them all.”

Here are 2 Catholic examples of how you can make this work in real life.

#1: Visit an adoration chapel for 1 minute.

If you want to develop an entirely new habit of doing a holy hour of Eucharistic Adoration, start out by visiting an Adoration chapel for at least 1 minute every day. If you’re able to be faithful to this for a week, try at least 5 minutes the next week.

#2: Only 1 page of spiritual reading.

If you want to develop the habit of daily spiritual reading, start out by reading 1 page per day after one of your meal times. Slowly build up this habit. If you’re able to be faithful to this for a week, try at least 2 pages the next week.

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