New research by Dr. BJ Fogg at Stanford University suggests that it is emotion, not repetition, that creates lasting habits (TIME, December 30, 2019). It all has to do with motivation. “There is a direct connection between what you feel when you do a behavior and the likelihood that you will repeat the behavior in the future.” According to Dr. Fogg, “In my own research, I found that habits can form very quickly, often in just a few days, as long as people have a strong positive emotion connected to the new behavior. In fact, some habits seem to get wired in immediately: You do the behavior once, and then you don’t consider other options again.” He sums up his conclusions in three words: “Emotions create habits.” The other part of the equation is, as Dr. Fogg emphasizes, we can choose the emotional response we want to have toward a behavior or habit.
So, what does this research mean for Christians, and how can this understanding help us build godly habits? The Bible records an important fact in Deuteronomy 4:29. God told ancient Israel that they would surely find Him “if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” The context of this verse clearly shows that seeking God with all one’s heart and soul involves obeying Him, keeping His laws and statutes. Seeking God includes daily Bible study and prayer—two behaviors that are easy to make into habits if we pursue them wholeheartedly. And according to Dr. Fogg’s research, the emotional satisfaction we experience when we achieve something we’ve pursued wholeheartedly can play a powerful role in solidifying those newly formed godly habits. For more information and assistance in seeking God with your whole heart, be sure to read or listen to “Do You Seek God?”