Tag Archive: habits

Conquering Recursion

This guest post is by Dean Zhang author of Bamboo Updates; you can find it here.  He is also a floormate of Tyler and Adam at the University of Illinois where he is studying Computer Science.

We’ve all seen the relapse phenomenon. It’s happened in friends and family. Sometimes it is a joyous thing and other times it is too painful to watch. Whether it be a habit or a serious addiction they always seem to find their way back to us as time passes.

Most of our lives, we’ve been told what not to do. Out of love, our parents tell us not to do certain things in order to be a good person. We listen to this out of good faith in our childhood but eventually, we put most all these properties into question. Perhaps it is at this time that we are told what not to do the most. I remember that in youth group at church, my youth pastor almost spent more time telling me what not to do than my parents did. Which leaves the dangling question: Why? Why is it bad? The most common answers we receive are:

“Because it is/I told you so”

“Because It’s in the bible”

“Because it’s against the law”

While these are legitimate answers for the most part (bar the first response as a default parent answer), they don’t give real basis for not doing any of these things. Being told what not to do doesn’t really prevent people from doing any of those things, they just instill guilt as they carry these actions out. Our hearts have never been seeded with the proper motivation.

Jesus gives us a parable in Mathew 12:43-45

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

This can be applied both literally and figuratively in many cases. We are often tempted to restart bad habits and addictions after we have just let them go but look at the reason: “When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. …” We tidy ourselves up after getting rid of bad things in our lives but we forget to replace the evil. “Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there.” Recursion occurs and things get worse.

So what fits in this house that has been swept clean and put in order? The answer is God’s spirit.  He’s big enough to fill the whole house…if you let him. It is a challenge as it requires transforming our selfish will into His will but everybody has the capability to do this because we were made for this.  God should be our motivation.

Allowing God’s spirit to inhabit all of you is also a frightening decision to make. Many times we find ourselves giving him 50% of the house, leaving the rest for our assets. Often, we don’t even want him to be our all and if it comes to it, do not be afraid to pray to want to want him to inhabit the whole house.

God must not only become the dominant figure in our hearts (house) but the only occupant as he is the pivotal part in permanently ending the recursive cycle.


Rise and SHINE (Part 3)

According to an article titled, Develop a New Habit, written by Steven Aitchison, it takes 21 days to develop a habit. When Aitchison talks about developing a new habit, he says, “don’t tell yourself you are doing it for life, tell yourself (your conscious brain) that you are going to try it for 21 days.” In a way, Aitchison illustrates a story such as talking to your conscious mind. In terms of sleep, if you tell yourself, I am going to wake up early for the rest of my life, your conscious mind might be like, “Woah, I’ve been waking up half past noon for the past 10 years and there isn’t any online blog that will change that!” Instead, if you tell your mind that you want to give waking up early a try for 21 days, your mind will be more willing to cooperate.

The key is, during those 21 days, neural pathways will begin to form with your new routine of waking up early. By the 21st day, your routine of waking up early will be like second nature to you.One technique that you can use to help keep yourself on track is to type up a small calendar. On that calendar, mark your start date and end date. From the first day until the last, write down the time you wake up every day. If you find yourself slowly starting to wake up later and later, you have the power to put yourself back on track. Yes, I said you have the power!

You see, forming habits is not just for waking up early, it is the key to mastering self-discipline. “Discipline is all about cultivating powerful habits that become part of your lifestyle. At one point those habits can become your identity.” – Robin Crow. The habits that you develop within your life-time are the habits that will define you as a person. Let the habits you develop make a positive difference in your life and the lives of others. If this is your first time attempting to start a new habit, congratulations! You have taken a step away from the sidelines and into the game of life. View this as a growing and learning opportunity for yourself. Once you master waking up early, continue to practice your new skill and seek out habits that will shape your identity.

My goal and hope for the Rise and Shine series is to inspire readers to wake up and view everyday day as an opportunity and blessing from God. Do not let your sleeping habits define your lifestyle. Instead, wake up with a so good I can hardly stand it attitude and jump out of bed, ready to change our world!

Consider this…

I am your constant companion.

I am your greatest asset or heaviest burden.

I will push you up to success or down to disappointment.

I am at your command.

Half the things you do might just as well be turned over to me.

For I can do them quickly, correctly and profitably.

I am easily managed; just be firm with me.

Those who are great, I have made great.

Those who are failures, I have made failures.

I am not a machine, though I work with the precision of a

machine and the intelligence of a person.

You can run me for profit, or you can run me for ruin.

Show me how you want it done. Educate me. Train me.

Lead me. Reward me.

And I will then do it automatically.

I am your servant.

Who am I?

I am a habit.

-from Rock Solid Leadership, by Robin Crow

<< Rise and SHINE (Part 1)

Title: The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
Author: Stephen R. Covey, Wikipedia Bio
Topic: Personal Leadership
ISBN-10: 9780671708634
Purchase: Half.com ($2.88), Amazon.com ($5.30)
My Rating: ★★★★★


“We are what we repeatedly do.  Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle

I chose to read 7 Habits because of all the positive reviews it received.  It is a modern classic and I was curious to see what all of the hype was about.  I began reading with the expectation that the book would be excellent.  In my mind, I placed it alongside such works as Jim Collins’ Good to Great, Ken Blanchard’s One Minute Manager, or John Maxwell’s 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.  I believe it surpassed my expectations!  Below is a quick summary of each of the habits and some of my thoughts:

Habit 1: Be Proactive
Habit 1 is about taking initiative and responsibility.  It’s about living out preventive maintenance and solving problems before they become problems.  In my own experience being able to be proactive and know what someone needs before they do is an invaluable skill and earns a lot of points!  As an engineer or designer, being able to predict problems in the design stage can save millions of dollars in redesign and recalls.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
In your own life, where are you going?  If you are the leader of an organization, where are you taking your followers; what is the vision?  Covey also touches on the difference between leadership and management.  The manager asks, how fast can we cut down this forest?  The leader asks, is this the right forest?   Last he talks about what is at the center of our lives.  Covey writes, “Whatever is at the center of our life will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom, and power.”  Have the right thing at the center.

Habit 3: Put First Things First
Goethe says, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”  Covey makes a convicting distinction between what is urgent and what is important.  A telephone ringing is urgent, but the person sitting in your office is much more important.  Covey argues that we spend too much time on things that are urgent but not important.  Do we know what is important in our lives?  What would we miss if it was suddenly gone or, what would we regret not doing if our chance has passed?

Habit 4: Think Win-Win
Covey talks about stubbornly seeking to find solutions that are wins for both parties (like Scott Lang).  This solution is often difficult to see at first and requires cooperation from both sides to find.  I envision it as two people writing the problem on a white board and looking at it together instead of arguing with each other across a table. (great complementary book which expands on these principles titled, Difficult Conversations)

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
For me this was one of the most easily applied chapters.  It is easy to tell if you are trying to impose understanding on someone else before you have understood them.  This chapter talks about our own stories which we fit all of our experiences into.  Many times other people and their stories do not fit!  I have told many of my friends that his habit is a game changer.  Cliche jargon aside, I do believe that this can have an immediate impact on your relationships.  If you can set your story aside, especially if angry, and seek first to see where the other person is coming from, you’d be amazed at the results.  Update: I have written a blog post dedicated to this chapter here: Listening From a Learning Perspective

Habit 6: Synergize
Synergy means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  A team’s capability is greater than the capabilities of each team member separately.  I have studied synergy before but this chapter is one of the most profound resources on the topic I have found so far.  When combined with Win/Win it’s an unstoppable combination.  Covey also makes an interesting point about valuing the differences between people.  Covey writes, “The person who is truly effective has the humility and reverence to recognize his own perceptual limitations and to appreciate the rich resources available through interaction with the hearts and minds of other human beings.  That person values the differences because those differences adds to their knowledge, to their understanding of reality.”

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw
Sharpen the saw is about taking a break once in a while and refueling the tank.  I believe humans were designed to operate like this.  That is why God gave us a sabbath.  Covey encourages taking time to reflect and internalize the happenings of your day/week. 


Don’t get trapped into thinking that because 7 Habits is popular it isn’t good (that’s Twilight).  It’s popular because it contains things worth knowing.

It is just another “self-help” book and should be avoided.  This is an assumed constraint.  I challenge you to try it yourself and then judge if it’s advice is “useless self-help nonsense.”  Also we all need help, sometimes we’re the only ones who can help ourselves!

The book is not worthy of your time because the ideas are common sense.  Covey makes this point throughout the book; the ideas contained in 7 Habits are principles which weave themselves throughout all of history.  Many of them are common sense, but just because they are simple ideas does not mean they are easily practiced.  It will take anyone many years to become proficient at these habits, we can use all the reminders we can get.

Because you’ve read this review (or any) you understand the principles of 7 Habits!  The book was very dense and I had to resist the urge to write down every sentence.  If you’re interested read the whole book not just spark notes!

For a second opinion on 7 Habits check out the highest rated reader review on Amazon.com.