Michelle Martin

Habit forming

May 1, 2024

I slept later than I meant to today, and when I did get up, I was facing a full slate of Things That Must Be Done.

So, of course, my oldest daughter asked if I wanted to go to the gym.

And I said yes.

I said yes not because I love going to the gym, although, if I’m honest, I do kind of enjoy it. I’m not going because I want to lose weight, either. I go because I’ve reached the age that I realize it’s going to take some work to keep my joints and muscles functional for as long as possible.

Having my daughter ask me to join her makes me more likely to go, and my going makes her more likely to follow through on gym plans as well. It’s similar to when my husband and I were dating, 35 years ago now: He would pick me up at my apartment in the morning and drive me to the university gym, where I would work out upstairs and he would swim, then we would get breakfast before I went to class.

I had to get up and go; otherwise, in the days before cell phones, he’d be sitting in his car wondering what happened to me.

Making plans with someone else to go to the gym is one way to hold yourself accountable, to make sure you keep doing it until it turns into a habit that’s just part of your day, something you’ll miss if it doesn’t happen. It helps develop consistency.

Consistency, it turns out, is the key ingredient in making any kind of lifestyle change work. What’s the best workout routine? The one that you’ll actually do.

Building a deeper, more robust spiritual life works the same way. If you want to be a person who prays, then you have to (spoiler alert) actually pray. If you want to feel a connection to the Eucharist at Mass, you have to go to Mass.

You have to do it even when you don’t feel the connection, or when you don’t expect to; sometimes it can surprise you. You have to do it when it’s inconvenient, or when you have too many other things to do. Make it a habit; make it something you miss if it’s not there.

That doesn’t mean your habits will never change. They will, whether because of changing life circumstances or because you get tired of them. But you’ll miss what they give you, and find new ways to make it part of your life.

Sunday morning Mass too early for you? Plenty of parishes offer Masses late Sunday afternoons as well as Saturday afternoons. Don’t want to get up early to pray the rosary while you run anymore? Pray it while you’re in traffic. Bonus: That could make you a more patient driver, too.

Just make it a priority. And be consistent.


  • family life