Habit stacking – come awake, come awake!

Burny Brothers Bakery ad that appeared in the Southtown Economist March 31, 1954. We lived a little more than a mile from Evergreen Shopping Plaza.

“Habit stacking is . . . coupling a habit that comes easy . . . with a habit that requires a little more discipline. . . .  Habit stacking is designing daily rituals by leveraging everyday activities.”- Mark Batterson

Now when Jesus came to the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, .  . “But who do you say I am?”  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”- Matthew 16:13, 15-16

Sunday mornings in the Henning household followed a predictable routine.  Breakfast began with a coffee cake from Burny Brothers Bakery.  Due to blue laws, dad needed to pick up the treat before their Saturday 6 PM closing.  I especially loved the cream-filled coffee cake.  A luscious half-inch layer of vanilla cream sandwiched between two layers of coffee cake.  Topped with streusel!

While eating breakfast, my parents tuned the kitchen radio to WGN for a program of Christian choral music.  Thus, they chose to go after God with great intentionality.  Then, with stomach and heart nourished, we headed off to 8 AM worship at Ashburn Lutheran Church.  Sunday School followed worship at 9:30.  After our main meal around noon, we enjoyed a family outing.  When possible, I invited a friend to go along.

Writing in his latest book, Win the Day, Mark Batterson discusses habit stacking as an effective means to maximize your morning routine.  Ironically, though, the morning routine actually begins the night before, when you go to bed.  Hence, Pastor Batterson sees a kind of genius in the Jewish clock.  For the Jewish day began at sundown.  Instead of the crack of dawn.  Take note regarding the sequence of each creation day: “There was evening and there was morning.”

Yes, this ancient rhythm is counterclockwise.  Yet, it possesses the potential to revolutionize your life.  Over time, daily habits yield compound interest.  And to sustain daily habits, Mark stresses, you don’t find time.  Rather, you make time.  In addition, rituals not only make the most of your God-given potential, they streamline your life as they save you time and energy.

Certainly, Mark totally gets that some people prefer easing into the day without breaking a sweat.  However, he contends, there’s something to be said for starting the day off with a challenge.  Although it’s often the hardest habit to establish, it pays the biggest dividends.  Like getting up with the chickens!!

Because good habits rarely come as easy as bad habits, Mark suggests that you piggyback bad habits onto ones that come more naturally.  As a result, you soon find both habits more enjoyable – the essence of habit stacking.  And getting in some good God time enables you to hit on all cylinders.  As Eben Pagan comments: “Your first ritual that you do during the day is the highest leveraged ritual, by far, because it has the effect of setting your mind, and setting the context, for the rest of the day.”

In conclusion, Mark addresses resetting your mind as a way to access Jesus, love’s open door:

“We take the rhythm of night and day for granted.  It’s all we’ve ever known.  What if we saw it for what it really is, a gift from God?  We get to start over every day!  Each day is a new creation.  There is a little death when we go to sleep and a little resurrection when we wake up.”

This Lenten and Easter season, consider habit stacking as a unique way to prepare your heart.  Then, with Simon Peter, boldly proclaim your faith in response to Jesus’ question: “But who do you say that I am?”

About the author

Dave Henning


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