My brother tells a story that brought inspiration to the power of habit. He tells of standing in a sports' complex, having a conversation with a man, when out of nowhere a ball came careening toward them. My brother's response to the unexpected projectile was to flail his arms in a panicked attempt to cover his head. His friend's response was very different.
My brother's friend had spent the bulk of his elementary, middle & high school years playing soccer. He'd gone to college on a soccer scholarship. (Or "football," to every other human on the planet outside of the U.S.A.) When the unexpected came at my unprepared brother, comedic chaos ensued. To the trained soccer player it was second nature to smoothly lift his ankle and easily bat the ball back to the amateurs who'd sent it eskew to begin with.
I've played soccer.
Even after an afternoon of balls being pelted at me, on purpose, with me fully aware they were coming, I still couldn't resist my eyes blinking as if I were experiencing some kind of horror and impending doom. My body couldn't help it's instinct to duck and cover!
It's possible to get past that instinctual defense mechanism, however. Through a daily practice, one become the relaxed, no-worries bystander, and react to surprise without the slightest bit of panic of the unknown. And truly, this freedom from the fear-instinct is necessary to be a good athlete. An athlete doesn't train in these ways to be good in practice, but to be ready for the big game.
This "training" can occur spiritually, emotionally, and mentally as well. I've written in my blogs about my creation of a "Happy Habit." After a traumatic experience in life, which had caused me to create habits of grieving and negativity, it took some WORK to get my behavior out of the gutter. Daily I felt hopeless and faithless. Going to work was nearly impossible. Spending time with my children was rare as I was in bed most of their waking hours.
After reading a book called, "Happy For No Reason," (a title that amped my bitterness, as I WANTED a reason to be happy again) I saw some physical behaviors I could adopt that might make breathing easier. Anxiety is a heavy weight on one's chest, and it takes deliberate action to relieve oneself of it.
I set alarms on my phone for the top of every hour, from 9am, to 2pm. Every hour I'd smile, stand from my desk, close my door and do some type of exercise, like touching my toes, or push-ups. After a while, I even brought a hula hoop into work with me. I also would say out loud some things I was thankful for. After a five minute exercise, I'd say a word of prayer. That prayer eventually grew from always being about myself (it's not selfish to pray for yourself. Your family, friends, and whoever else God has given you to minister to need you to pray for yourself.) Then I'd sit back down at my desk and resume work. I found discreet ways to accomplish this "Happy Habit," even with other people around.
It's been around five years at this point, and I do not perform this ritual every hour anymore. My phone's calendar is still set to alert me every hour, but it turns out I perform these tasks all day, every day. If you follow me on social media you'll discover this to be true. I don't sit around conjuring positive things to write. I don't have to wrack my brain to dig out thoughts and feelings of goodness. Goodness is naturally my first response now.
I've learned through this re-training of myself how important the spoken word is. I am much more careful with my words these days. When I feel a negative emotion, I've learned to be still and quiet and evaluate if it's a legitimate cause for concern, or if it's simply someone's unplanned "ball" that's gone askew into my life. I've learned to distinguish the differences between a real game, and practice.
This is vital knowledge for the health and well-being of our lives, as well as the lives of those around us. When we've delevooed habits of thanksgiving and humility, we can properly respond to whatever comes our way.
If we live a lifestyle of thanksgiving, then when projectiles shoot our direction that knock down something we cherish, we will respond quite naturally with an eye to find what is about us that we can still be thankful for. If we live a life of humility, then when something amazing comes our way that raises us up, we will respond to the blessing with meekness.
King Hezekiah's response to blessing is to be noted;
“About that time Hezekiah became deathly ill. He prayed to the LORD, who healed him and gave him a miraculous sign. But Hezekiah did not respond appropriately to the kindness shown him, and he became proud. So the LORD’s anger came against him and against Judah and Jerusalem.”
2 Chronicles 32:24-25 NLT
Aarrogance was Hezekiah's response to God's hand of mercy. It cost him and those all around him dearly.
Good and bad are going to come into our lives. Whether the good and bad is from God, Satan, or repercussions of those around us, the events have nothing to do with the long term outcome. But, our RESPONSE to the bad or good determines everything.
In the bad, stay thankful.
In the good, stay humble.
Create these habits during the mundane, nothing-ever-happens days. Practice every day for your response during the big game.