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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Craig Groeschel » Craig Groeschel - The Power to Change Your Habits, Identity Drives Behavior

Craig Groeschel - The Power to Change Your Habits, Identity Drives Behavior

Craig Groeschel - The Power to Change Your Habits, Identity Drives Behavior
Craig Groeschel - The Power to Change Your Habits, Identity Drives Behavior
TOPICS: Leadership Podcast, Habits, Identity

Hey, it's great to have you back for another episode of the "Craig Groeschel Leadership Podcast" where I believe it is absolutely my calling to help you become a leader that people love to follow. If you're new to our audience, we drop a new teaching on the first Thursday of every month. But wait, this isn't a Thursday. We're doing something we've never done before. We are releasing an episode on Tuesday, and this is a special day for me and I want you to be a part of it. Today is the official release day for my brand new book called "The Power to Change: Mastering the Habits That Matter Most". I believe this book is gonna be a game changer for so many people and hopefully you as well, because if you're anything like me, you know that there's almost nothing more frustrating than wanting to change something about your life but not actually being able to change it.

You know this in your leadership. You want to be more empowering but you're not more empowering. You want to delegate, but you don't delegate. You want to trust people, but you don't trust people. You wanna be more organized, but you're not organized. Well, in my new book, "The Power to Change," what I do is share very practical principles that will help you identify why you do what you do, and then learn how to change what you do and really help you grow in your leadership. And so my goal, honestly, is to equip you, my leadership community and family, with very practical content that will help you grow. And to be super clear about the book, our podcast is for leaders of every kind, but this book is written very clearly from a Christian perspective. So I just want you to know that. And no matter what you're facing in your leadership, I absolutely know that there are powerful truths and practical application in the book that will help you lead better.

So today what I wanna do is I wanna give you a free section from the book, and this excerpt from the audio book will start by asking some hard questions like, "Why do I do what I do? Why have I failed again? Where do I start? Am I even capable of change"? And then we'll dive into some good news and that is that we can learn to change. Motivation and willpower is a part of the story, but we're gonna find even a greater power that will help us change, because I promise you, you can master the habits that matter most and you can experience lasting change. So now let's go. Let's grow in our leadership and we're gonna go to "The Power to Change," and I'll be back at the end with a few additional thoughts.

There are few things in life more frustrating than knowing you need to change, wanting to change, and trying to change, but not actually changing. How do I know? Because I've tried so hard so many times to change, only to hit the same brick wall of failure time and time again. Before I started learning to master the habits I'm sharing with you in this book, that was my life. One example, knowing my eating patterns weren't healthy and wanting to do better, I repeatedly tried to change my diet. I made commitments to eat only healthy food and I would succeed all day long. But by evening, my motivation withered and my willpower waned. I would end my successful day of eating right with a little bedtime-reward snack of brownies and something salty, maybe chips and salsa, and a little ice cream.

The next morning, I'd wake up feeling guilty and do the walk of shame to the kitchen to see the evidence in the sink and in the trash. Determined to do better, I would eat a healthy breakfast followed by a nutritious lunch and dinner, but then a bedtime snack of cookies, and chips, and cheesecake. Finally, I would feel defeated and quit trying. It seemed I had the desire to change, but not the power to change. You've been there, right? You've tried to change too, and it hasn't worked for you either, but why? We want change. We want to change. We want life to be different. We long for more. Sound familiar? But honestly, we get tired, exhausted, whether physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or all of the above, change is hard. Trying to change is draining. Our problem is a deficit of power. Add to the exhaustion, our sense of shame because we keep settling for less.

We feel frustrated, like I would during my morning-after walks into the kitchen. We begin to despise our desire to change and our apparent inability to do so. Here are some common behaviors so many of us desire to change. First, there are what I'll call the starts. We wanna start something as in I'm going to start to grow in contentment, or I'm going to lose 20 pounds. I want to feel closer to God. I want to breathe new life into my marriage. I wanna get out of debt. I wanna start to be consistent in reading my Bible, or escape a toxic relationship, or begin to exercise regularly. Then they're all the stops, as in, that's it, I'm done with, whatever. I wanna stop stressing out, or stop showing frustration, or stop being impatient, or stop being late. I wanna stop overeating. I definitely need to stop drinking to excess, or stop procrastinating, or I need to finally stop thinking negatively.

Whether or not I listed any of your starts and stops, you know your problem. You've wanted that something, whatever it is, to change for years but you can't seem to find the silver bullet. If you journal, maybe you've looked back on what you wrote years ago and realized you're still writing the same thing today. Or maybe you've been going to a counselor for quite a while, but you feel you aren't progressing like you hoped when you began the visits. You're struggling with the same old issues, still hoping for that elusive change to come. What makes all this so much worse is that you've tried, like you've tried really hard. You haven't just sat around doing nothing. Over the years, you've made a bunch of decisions, and commitments, and maybe New Year's resolutions, and attempts to set goals.

Actually, the same decisions, and commitments, and resolutions, and goals, because, again, you know what needs to change. You've decided to finally do something about the issue over and over and over. Yet, so far, nothing has worked. There's a good chance you hate that about yourself. It's embarrassing, honestly, right? And it creates regret. Each time you try to change and you fail, you feel worse about yourself. You look in the mirror and say, "You suck". But you manage to shake it off and go back to your uncomfortably comfortable, same old life. Then, you get fed up with your problem again and decide to change again. Eventually, you fail again. This time you're not just mad at yourself, you're ashamed and internalized the failure. Rather than thinking, "I failed at changing". You think, "I am a failure, I failed at life". You've mixed an emotional cocktail of self-hatred and shame.

Here's a question that's hard to hear. What if you're in the same place years from now, wanting to change but still doing the same things, living the same life? I know this sounds depressing, but if you haven't seen the transformation you've wanted in recent years, why assume you will in the future? How will something change if nothing changes? Tragically, this is where many people give up. They say to themselves, "I can't change, so I'll just stop trying. I guess this is just who I am and how I am". Does all this mean you're incapable of change? Does it mean God doesn't answer your prayers? Does it mean you're trapped with the same annoying problems for the rest of your life? Not at all. You can change, I promise you can. More important, God has promised that change is possible for you, just as I learned it was possible for me, but there is a reason that change doesn't come easy. Scratch that.

There are reasons, as in plural with an S. Bad news, we don't experience lasting change because we try to change in the wrong way. Great news, we're gonna learn how, together in this book, to change. We're going to access the power to change by mastering the habits that matter most. Here's the plan I've laid out for you to accomplish change. Each chapter contains a foundational concept to bring about and build upon change, supported by personal experiences, stories, examples, teaching, and scripture. Each chapter contains a practical exercise for you to engage with and apply the truths I've given you, as well as a guiding principle to encourage and inspire you toward change, and, of course, a Bible verse from the Father's heart.

In part one, here's what we're gonna do. You're gonna evaluate how you think of yourself, your view of God, and the future you. In part two, you'll learn the value of training over just trying harder. In part three, you'll discover how hope doesn't change our lives, but habits do. In part four, you'll see how the reap-sow principle can change the trajectory of your future. And in part five, you'll grasp how God's power can become the catalyst for lasting change in your life. Now for you to master the habits that matter most, I'm offering you a clear path to get where you've always wanted to go, the same one I've followed for many years, if you're ready to start living the life you've been hoping for and dreaming about. Let's uncover the first mistake we make in trying to change. Then I'll offer our first solution. Are you ready? To experience change that lasts, focus on who, not do.

Principle one, to experience change that lasts, focus on who, not do. Isaiah 43:19 says, "For I'm about to do something new. See, I have already begun. Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland". Part one, who, not do. Why do you do what you do? Here's a truth you need to embrace if you're ever going to change. You do what you do because of what you think of you. Don't confuse this with why you think you do what you do. You may think you make decisions based solely on weighing the pros and cons, or what makes you happy, or what's best for you and your family. Nope, you do what you do because of what you think of you. Let me explain, starting with a story. Exhibit A, the church parking lot fight. I was a relatively young pastor and our church was still fairly new, and we had just become the proud renters of a small office building. Perhaps we shouldn't have been proud. It was only just big enough to provide space for our staff's offices and for meetings.

The conditions of the office building were somewhere between the sets of "The Office" and the "Bates Motel". The neighborhood was, well, rather questionable, but we'd started our church in a garage and had services in a rented space, and so, yes, we were proud to finally have a real office building, even if everything about it was unimpressive. Until the day we heard, "Fight, fight"! Pastor Robert and I were working one weekday afternoon, yes, pastors work on days other than Sunday, when we noticed cars suddenly streaming into our parking lot. Our first thought was maybe it was a surprise pastor-appreciation party. Second thought was there's no way this was a surprise pastor-appreciation party. The people who were pouring out of a couple dozen cars were all teenagers who were making this circle with guys in the middle, and those guys started taking their shirts off.

Oh, fight. Turns out, our parking lot was a designated spot for high schoolers to gather off campus when someone said, "We are meeting after school and it's on". This was our first fight since we took over the office building and it was about to go down. I don't remember what I was working on. Probably parsing Greek verbs, because that's all pastors do on weekdays. I'm not sure what Robert had been doing, probably parsing Greek verbs too. But the idea of getting to watch a fight felt way more exciting than whatever we were doing, so we ran out the front door yelling, "Fight, fight". Even though we were pastors, we were still young males, so I'm not gonna lie, we wanted to watch the fight. But when we got to the parking lot, we looked at each other and both knew we couldn't.

We couldn't watch the fight because of who we were. We were Christians, pastors, peacemakers. No matter what we wanted to do, we had to be true to who we were. So we went from, "Fight, fight," to, "Break it up, break it up". You do what you do because of what you think of you. Exhibit B, the Bible. In Proverbs 23:7, God says, "For as he thinks within himself, so he is". What does for as he thinks within himself mean? We choose the story we believe. Two people who've experienced nearly identical circumstances can come to very different self identities. For example, if they've been through a lot, the story one might tell ourself is, "I'm a victim. Bad things always happen to me". The other might live with a different identity. "I'm an overcomer. No matter what life throws at me, I kick it in the tail and I keep moving forward". The Bible says, "For as he thinks within himself, so he is".

What does so he is mean? Who we are, our character, shapes our thoughts about ourselves and others. What we think is a reflection of who we are. That then shapes our lives. We have no choice but to live out who we think we are. What we think within ourselves, we are. We make decisions based on our self-identification. Exhibit C, psychology. Psychologists and other social scientists have repeatedly confirmed what I experienced in the parking lot and what God told us all those years ago in Proverbs 23, that you do what you do because of what you think of you. James March, a professor at Stanford University, called this the identity model of decision making. Research shows that when making a choice, we essentially and subconsciously ask ourselves three questions. Number one, "Who am I"? Number two, "What kind of situation is this"? And number three, "What would someone like me do in this situation"?

Your identity is a primary reason that you make decisions. For example, if you work more than is healthy, you might drink two glasses of wine when you come home stressed out from work. Or you might work out a couple of hours a day, but not find time to read your Bible. Or you might play video games for hours on end, but not find time to work out. Or you yell at your kids for petty things. You do what you do because of what you think of you. Often, our identities are an undetected undercurrent, pulling us into decisions and behaviors. Sometimes, though, we do sense the current influencing us and then even blame our influence for poor choices.

Why does your friend keep going from loser boyfriend to loser boyfriend? Ask her. She'll tell you she doesn't want to do it. It's just who she is. She's always been that way. She wants a guy but always seems to attract the wrong ones. Why does your other friend always struggle with money? Ask him. He'll explain he's just not good with money. He wants to be good with money but he always spends too much. He's always been in debt. It's just who he is. No, that's not the truth about your friends. But if they continue to believe that to be true of them, it will impact their lives as if it were true. Their behavior is being driven not by their true God-given identities, but by their self identities. You do what you do because of what you think of you.

Principle two, you do what you do because of what you think of you. Mark 10:27, "Jesus looked at them intently and said, 'Humanly speaking, it's impossible, but not with God. Everything is possible with God.'" 1.2, stagnation through behavior modification. "I'm going to start reading my Bible every day. I'm gonna stop watching so much TV. I'm breaking up with my boyfriend for real this time. I won't yell at my kids anymore. I'm going to quit smoking. I'm going to stop hitting snooze so I can start getting to work five minutes early instead of five minutes late". Why do we make these declarations and then fail to follow through? Could it be we've tried to change what we do and haven't changed what we think of ourselves? If so, this is a formula for failure. We cannot put do before who, but we do. I know I sound like Dr. Seuss. We do it all the time. We decide to change what we do.

The problem with trying to change our do is that this is behavior modification, and behavior modification never works. Why? Because behaviors never exist in a vacuum. There's a reason you do what you do. Attacking behavior makes sense because that's what you see and find so frustrating. But if you target the behavior, you're going after the wrong thing. If you try to change your behavior without changing your identity, you're pulling up a weed without getting to the root. We've all done that, right? We've seen some huge, annoying weeds towering over the grass, gone over and ripped it up with the fury of a Marvel villain. It feels great to get rid of a handful of nasty vegetation, except we didn't get rid of it, not unless we dug and got all of the root out of the ground.

To ensure a weed doesn't come back, you have to reach down and pull out what is not visible on the surface. It's like treating an illness. You can't deal with the symptom and ignore the real problem causing the symptom. In a similar way, someone who promises to never watch pornography again may avoid looking at it for a few days, but will they get caught up in pornography again? Yes, probably so, why? Because they dealt with the symptom and ignored the real problem causing them to look at pornography. Or let's say you decide you're gonna get up early and pray every morning. You do for a couple of weeks, and then you don't. What happened? Did you stop wanting to pray daily? No. Did you decide to end your commitment? No. So why didn't you continue living out the change you wanted? Because you didn't reach deep down and pull out the root.

You grabbed what you could see but not the real problem under the surface. You didn't address the reason you weren't praying more. Motivation and willpower are both limited resources that you'll deplete quickly. Behavior modification does not equip you with the power to change. Are you beginning to see it now? The reason you haven't experienced lasting change is because you've tried to alter what you do and haven't changed what you think of you. James Clear, a guru on change and the author of "Atomic Habits" says, "It's hard to change your habits if you never change the underlying belief that led you to your past behavior".

You have a new goal and a new plan but you haven't changed who you are. Scientists who use cybernetics theory say there are two ways we can try to change. First, there's what they call first-order change, which is behavior modification. We commit to starting or stopping a specific action. First-order change can have some instant results, but the change will never last. The second approach, according to cybernetic theory, is second-order change, which is conceptual. The focus is not on acting different, but on thinking different, especially about yourself. A cybernetic researcher will tell you that second-order change is the only kind that lasts.

Romans 12 verses 1 and 2 is one of the most popular passages from Paul's letters, because the living sacrifice reference gets a lot of attention. But in verse 2, the apostle shares the key to transformation, real, lasting, eternal change. He says, "Don't copy the behaviors and customs of this world. Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think". Paul says, "You'll experience transformation, not by changing what you do, but by changing the way you think". Boom. Why would cybernetic-theory researchers agree with the apostle Paul? Because you do what you do because of what you think of you. So to change what you do, you need to first change what you think of you.

Principle three, to change what you do, you need to first change what you think of you. Romans 12:2 says, "Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think". Well, I hope that you enjoyed that excerpt from the book "The Power to Change: Mastering the Habits That Matter Most". And I just wanna say to you all, thank you, like, sincerely, thank you. It means so much to me that you take a little bit of time each month or maybe a couple of times a month just to be a part of our community. My goal is to work really, really hard to create content that helps you grow in your leadership, because what you do matters so much.

And so let's apply a little bit of what we heard in the excerpt, and I'll leave you with a question to think about this. And that is what do you think about you? Why do you do what you do? You do what you do because of what you think of you. And so if you wanna change what you do, you need to change what you think about you. I know it sounds like Dr. Seuss, but we covered a section in the book that's called "Who Not Do," and before we can make a lasting change in what we do externally, we need to change how we see ourselves internally.

And so I wanna say to you, I hope that you see that you're a very capable leader. What is leadership? Leadership is influence, and you have influence. So believe in what God put in you. There's more in you. You can love people well. You can create systems, you can cast vision. You can use the resources that you have around you to make a big difference in this world. There is more in you. Now if you wanna explore more content in the book that I know will be helpful to your leadership, the good news is it's out today everywhere that books are sold. I hope that you'll get a copy. You might get one for a friend.

And then I wanna tell you we're gonna be back on the first Thursday in March. Back on Thursday, the world will align again. It will be on a Thursday, and we're gonna finish our series called "Mastering Your Leadership Habits". We're gonna look at the final habits out of the eight habits that the great leaders have in common, and then we're gonna apply them to our lives. We're gonna grow in our leadership and make a big difference. I wanna say, if this content is helpful to you, it would mean the world to me if you would rate it wherever you consume it, or write a review, that'll help give it more exposure. Also, post on social media and tag me, someone on my team or I might repost you.

And then, the "Leader Guide," listen to me, I promise you, if you're not getting the "Leader Guide," it's free, go to and we'll send that to you with the release of every single episode. There's all sorts of additional content. There's questions to go over with your team. I promise you it's helpful. Now, what are we gonna do? We're gonna grow. We're gonna get better. I'm cheering you on. I believe in you. I hope you believe in you. Let's continue to grow and get better because we know that everyone wins when the leader gets better.
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