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God requires us to change and to become a better person.  We need to be able to manipulate ourselves and that is difficult due to our hardwired inherited genetic tendencies.  We can't repent until we learn how to overcome ourselves. What can we do?  Old habits are tough to beat and even with gargantuan efforts, backsliding is awfully easy, isn't it?  For example, a diet is easy for the first week or two and then it is back to the old ways. We’ve all done that. So what if we really want to change?  Repentance can be done through God's Spirit, and a realistic strategy.

Let's be real, one of the biggest problems is that we want instant change, but there is no such thing.  We in essence try to turn around too fast. A large ship can make a 180 turn, but not instantly.  It takes a bit of time to permanently change directions. Change doesn't come in one hour or in one week.  Change that is that "instant" is usually not real and it only wastes your time.  A little patience is necessary for any kind of real change.  Setting your mind and having patience will help hold you steady through the backsets. You might say, “Oh no, making changes is going to be miserable!” But that kind of thinking is wrong. Now, as far as repentance of sin, you have to recognize where you are messing up...you have to "examine yourself."  That is the start. We must confess our sins to ourselves before we can know to confess them to God and be forgiven.  Then we need to turn around and go in a better direction.  To repent is to turn away from sin.  To repent is to change.

As far as dealing with small problems like bad habits, here are some secrets to help us change those as well.  First, you need a goal.  It will aim you in the right direction...help you take control of the changes you want to make in your life.  Why have goals?  Remember, you can’t hit a target if you don’t aim for it.  Not having a goal is like going on a trip without a map...and not knowing where you are going in the first place!  Make a list like Benjamin Franklin of the specific attributes you want to develop or the things you want to accomplish. For example, if you want to be more frugal, you could start cutting off lights if you are not using them, you could stop wasting food, you could drive at a more steady pace to save gas, etc.  If you want to lose weight, just eat one small plate for dinner and a small dessert.  Notice I said have a dessert??? Don't make your goal a "punishment" or it will fail.   Follow your plan. 

Positive reward is vital in achieving permanent change.  I’m about to tell you a procedure that professional animal trainers use. If you know it, you can train whales, horses, dogs, birds…and even yourself. This is how trainers at Sea World teach killer whales to make those big spectacular jumps that cause the crowd to go crazy. As you know, whales don’t just naturally come to Sea World knowing how to do those neat tricks. They have to be trained to do it every time on cue, show after show. So how do they get an animal to co-operate? (And by the way, you can apply the broad concept to your kids, to yourself or to others.)  Here’s their basic technique.

They bring a whale in from the wild and they lay a piece of rope on the bottom of the tank. The whale swims over it, they give him a treat. He does that a few times, and each time he gets a treat. After a while, they raise the rope a little higher and they keep giving the treat. They raise the rope higher and higher until it is far over the water, the whale jumps over it to get the treat.  Pretty soon, the rope is unnecessary, but, as long as the treat is given continuously as a reward, the whale will maintain the good behavior. That’s how it is done.  But, with people, the “reward” does not need to be food.  It can be many other things, even something as simple as a checkmark in a notebook.  For example, Benjamin Franklin kept a list of attributes he wanted to develop. When he did something that was consistent with one of his goals, he made a checkmark in a notebook. He carried this small book with him everywhere he went. It always had 15 or 20 goals he was working on. He would deal with one goal per week. The next week he would start the next goal. When he finally reached the end of the list, he started all over again.

In a nutshell, reward the behavior you want to repeat in yourself.  Repeat the behavior and repeat the reward many times. You are making a new "folder" in your brain and you need to add as much as possible to it.  Get a notebook and start a list of changes you want to begin.  The thing you choose to be your reward is not that important. Anything will work.  The most important thing is to hook the reward to the new behavior. Even if it is only making a checkmark in a notebook like Franklin, or giving yourself a mental high 5, you get the point.  Be consistent and patient, always keeping your goal in front of you.  You can pray about your goal too, concentrate and meditate on it.  Now, go write your goals down in a notebook and start changing today.  Don't forget to keep raising the rope a little.  I'm sure God wants us to be better than our genetics dictate, whether it applies to big things like repenting of breaking God's law or to small things like changing bad habits.


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