As Chet writes in today’s BBTL book entry, “We don’t change old habits…we wire up better ones.”
Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, defines the “Habit Loop” as Cue—Routine—Reward. The cue is the trigger that starts a behavior. The routine is the behavior itself. And the reward is what the behavior gives us. Better habits, therefore, come from better routines. And better routines come from better rituals.
So, how do we build better rituals?
In the book, Atomic Habits, another habit guru named James Clear draws the distinction between “outcome-based habits” and “identity-based habits.” With outcome-based habits, the focus is on what you want to achieve. With identity-based habits, the focus is on who you wish to become. Identity-based habits speak to your CORE. Identity, after all, is the second element of a strong BTL CORE: Worldview, Identity, Principles, Passion, Purpose, Process
Among other things, I identify as a practicing Christian and a practicing BTL Builder, which means I aim to study, learn and apply my faith and my focus. But my study of both was always inconsistent. I did it, but only in fits and starts. It was never an everyday discipline — never a habit.
Then, in late 2020, Chet gave us all a gift – his book, Becoming Built to Lead.
When BBTL was first published, I told myself I would read it daily, along with my Bible. This would be a daily habit, I told myself.
It didn’t happen. I had no good excuse. I’d found an easy-peasy Bible reading plan AND I now had Chet‘s book, designed specifically as a one-a-day, small bite of BTL. Still, I didn’t stick with it. My day would begin, I’d put it off, life would heat up, and this well-intended habit never took hold. “Pathetic,” I thought. But true, nonetheless.
So, intent on wiring up a better habit, I took a hard look at my schedule and asked, “Is there a daily cue that would trigger this reading ritual EVERY day. What everyday activity could I tie this to?” Ideally, something in the morning, before my day took off. Sure, the obvious answer was to wake up 30 minutes early to do this reading. Tried that. Didn’t work. At least not consistently. Not EVERY day.
“Come on! What do I do every day?” Then it hit me. I drive Matthew to school every morning. 20 minutes there, 20 minutes back. 40 minutes, uninterrupted (my autistic son is a man of few words).
There it was. A better ritual — Fr. Mike Schmitz’s Bible in a Year podcast (I highly recommend), Today’s Catholic Mass Readings podcast, and Chet’s BBTL audiobook. 23 minutes + 5 minutes + 11 minutes. 39 minutes. Perfect.
And so it began, in mid-February of last year, my most consistent and perhaps most valuable habit. Before I push play on Kornheiser, Cowherd or the Cubs, it’s Father Mike, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Chet who are the first voices to fill my head. Every day. I have not missed a day in fourteen months and counting… I’ve wired up a better habit.
Cue: Start the car
Routine: Start Matthew’s music, pop in an earbud, and soak in the wisdom
Reward: Priceless! These magnificent morning messages set my compass and remind me who I am, whose I am, and why I’m here. Whatever the day may bring, good or bad, I receive it with my head on straight, reminded of and armed with my deepest held beliefs.
Want a better habit? Start by making it identity-based, not outcome-based (this is HUGE). Next, recognize the cue. Then, build a better ritual and routine around that cue. Rewards will surely follow.