We make, on average, 35,000 decisions a day. Exhausting, right? Well, no it doesn't have to be because our Maker designed us with the ability to automate the vast majority of those decisions so that they barely even reach our conscious mind. There's a simple word for this phenomenally complex process; habit. Find out how to use the power of habit to make better decisions for your life...
When we do something out of habit, we barely use any conscious energy at all. We just do it. You already have thousands, if not tens of thousands of habits. Think about how you text on your phone - the way you manoeuvre the handset comfortably into your hand, the way your index finger on the left and thumb on the right dance seamlessness as your open up your text app, the way your eyes receive and process what they see on the screen, the way your brain interprets the symbols, light and colours..... "phew! I'm only texting my friend! I don't think about all that!" That's right, you don't even have to think about it. This is the power of habit.
God knew we would need to make thousands of decisions which would overwhelm and dominate our brains, rendering us pretty much incapable of doing very much at all, let alone enjoying our life. So He created the system of habit. Good habits free us from the strain of consciously making decisions and our minds are then free to think on a higher plane and our hearts are free to feel the emotions that matter.
So, texting without a sweat is covered. But what about the slightly more medium-sized decisions you need to make each day. What to wear. What's for tea. Who to invite. How to get there. Which meeting to go to. When to call the bank. What to do with those leftovers... these decisions cannot be as easily assigned to our automatic habits because they require quite a bit more processing.
There is a whole industry devoted to helping us make these medium-sized decisions into auto-habits so that we can free up more brain space for the biggies; the decisions we know are going to really impact our lives. I've researched a whole bunch of them in the past 3 years as I sought to simplify my life. Here are two of my personal favourites that have worked for me really well:
So, Minimalism comes along and helpfully suggests things like capsule wardrobes... where you severely limited the range of clothes you will wear; a bit like having a personal 'uniform'. It saves time at the shops because you already know what you're going to buy. And it saves a whole bunch of time spent standing in front of your closet feeling torn, bemused and woeful.. because you've already made the decision: black trousers, white blouse. Done. I definitely haven't mastered quite that level of capsule-ness, but I have hugely narrowed down what I wear and I spend a tiny fraction of time and money now on clothes shopping (which may be fun to you - but to me, it's torture!)
And then how about the productivity gurus. They will teach you how to keep your volcano-like inbox at bay with 'zero in-boxing' techniques where you can zip through hundreds of emails a day without breaking a sweat because you've already laid out a plan for how to handle each one: review, forward/file, delete. I am personally a huge fan as it has transformed my productivity at work and let's me get on with far more interesting and exciting projects than just managing the major-crazy of emails.
So it seems to be those middle-ground decisions that can cause the most angst in our everyday lives. No one will particularly want to help you decide what to wear each morning. Neither will anyone be particularly interested in your ping-ponging thoughts about whether to take the motorway or the back roads to the meeting next week or what to eat for dinner. So, oftentimes we're on our own with these middlers - and that can make them stressful. What's the solution? Decide ahead.
By putting in place some decisions ahead of time, we can significantly reduce the pressure we feel at the point of choice. If you've already decided not to party on a school-night - it makes it so much easier to say 'no, thanks' when the invitation comes. Not only have you saved yourself a bleary-eyed morning-after experience but you've also not had the angst of weighing it all up when your friend texts you with a tempting offer!
So how do we apply this to some of our medium-sized decisions and reduce the stress they place on our lives? Here are a few of examples of how we can 'decide ahead' and drastically reduce some of the pain of having to make decisions in the heat of the moment;
Example A - "I'm only going to eat treats on a Saturday". So when the dessert tray is calling your name on a Thursday lunchtime, you at least have a reservoir of willpower to draw upon as you remind yourself 'Nope! Don't go there. Saturday is the day - already decided!'
Example B - "I'm only going to travel for work when it's absolutely necessary because my family are my priority". So next time the boss is looking for volunteers to take a fairly unnecessary trip which may even include a free stay in a plush hotel and a delicious chef-cooked uninterrupted meal where someone else gets to wash-up... (sigh).. you can swiftly say 'No, thanks. I'll pass' and know that in years to come the sacrifices you made will pay off abundantly because you are only in this season with young un's around your feet for such a short time.
Example C - "As a family, we will plan our week's dinner menu ahead each Sunday evening". Everyone gets to choose at least 1 meal that is a favourite and we take the time to think about which days are going to be super-busy and make sure we're planning something simple for that night, and not a full-on roast dinner. This removes untold anguish when writing the shopping list and trying to conjure up meal ideas later in the week because it's already agreed and decided so - less arguments at 5pm when everyone is hungry, a clear plan of action and the right ingredients to hand. It's a game-changer!
Now, these decisions-ahead-of-time are far from flawless. We still have some work to do. But as you set up some personal guidelines like these to help with your Middler decisions, you are hugely reducing the back-office of your mind from peddling furiously and exhausting you - every time you need to decide something.
So now, let's talk briefly about the BIGGIES. These fellas are the mighty decisions that we all face that are life-changing. Should I take that job? Should we move home? Should we start that business? Shall we have another baby? Would our child be happier if we moved him to a different school? Shall I serve in that ministry team? Now, you may find these no problemo if you're a more sanguine personality type but me, Type A over here, oh boy, these are the stuff of nightmares for me and I thank God they are rare moments. Usually these decisions don't come with the same pressure of time as the Middlers which at least gives you a fighting chance to consult with some trusted friends and weigh up all the pros and cons.
But what has this all got to do with our devotional life?
Well, we tend to get a lot of support and encouragement, even people praying with us to help guide us to the right choice, when we're faced with the Biggies. Not so much on the Middlers... which only makes the stress worse.
Can you guess which category of decision your devotional life comes into?
That's right. It's not in the subconscious category because it's a daily choice. Neither is it the Biggie life-changer. [Your FIRST decision to follow Jesus was the Biggie Life Changer] - but now, every single day, the decision to 'follow Jesus' in your everyday walking-around life sits firmly, forever, slap bang in the MIDDLE. And that, my dear friend, is why you and I feel so conflicted.
We know we 'should' spend time with God every day. We know we 'could' switch off the TV or shut down the social media for an hour and read the Bible... but, oh, well, hmmm, oh dear. And over time this can really make us feel like we're flopping out on Jesus. We love Him, so, so much, but we also know He loves us with an everlasting, unchanging love - so if we don't really talk to Him for days and days, or years and years, we already know He has forgiven us and is still right here by our side. He really gets the rough side of the deal from us! Yet, He never condemns or pressurises or piles guilt on us for this.. He just simply, constantly and lovingly calls out to us.
Every day, He calls quietly, welcoming you to come and sit a while at His feet. Come and breathe in. Come and hear of how His love for you is never ending. Come and feel your soul refreshed, filled up and strength come to your very bones as you absorb His live-giving presence.Deciding when, how and what to do as part of your personal devotional time with God is a Middler decision and we all need encouragement, ideas and support. Which is why the She31 Bible Study Group exists.
... by putting in place some decisions ahead of time, we can significantly reduce the pressure we feel at the point of choice..
It is so worth taking time to think about creating some decisions ahead-of-time.. otherwise your devotional life will just peter out through the noise and busyness of life and you'll live in the constant to and fro of 'I should, I really should, no, seriously, I really must spend time with God, I know, I need to, I really do....' and seriously, that's no fun place to be.
...every day, He calls quietly, softly, welcoming you to come and sit a while at His feet. Come and breathe in. Come and hear of how His love for you is never ending. Come and feel your soul refreshed, filled up and free again. Feel strength come to your very bones as you absorb His life-giving presence...
So. Decide ahead-of-time. Every morning, 6:30am, I will rise earlier than my beloveds and I will come Lord, and sit. I will pray to You. I will read. I will reflect on your goodness to me. I will listen.
Or, Decide ahead-of-time. Every Thursday. 8pm-10pm. I will turn off the TV. I will shut down social media. I will go to my quiet place and I will seek you Lord. It's in the diary. It's an unbreakable date with my Jesus. I'll be there, Lord.
It's not about how early you rise. It's not even about making it an every day slot in the diary (although that's a good way to make it non-negotiable!) but it's about deciding ahead-of-time; Lord, I'm not going to sway back and forth on this anymore. I need my devotional life strong to be all that You have made me to be. I need to be hearing Your voice or else I'll just drift.
I want more.
I have decided.
I have decided to follow Jesus.
No turning back. Decision made.
If you're in - comment below and make your own re-commmitment to make regular time with Jesus.
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