Everyone struggles with some habits we would like to change. For this to happen you need to start with the keystone habit. Charles Duhigg defines a keystone habit as follows: “a keystone habit leads to the development of multiple good habits. They start off a chain-effect in your life that produces a number of positive outcomes.” For Mr. Duhigg it was all about that cookie. For king Solomon, the keystone habit was the pursuit of wisdom. By any measure, he started very well with this. He put some powerful wisdom on paper (the Book of Proverbs, the Song of Songs and perhaps even Ecclesiastes). The account of Solomon’s life in Chronicles (2 Chronicles 9:1-31) is a witness that as God’s appointed king in Israel, he received tremendous blessings due the “wisdom which God had put into his mind [heart]” (2 Chronicles 9:23;).
However, somewhere along the way, Solomon got all mixed up in his keystone habit. The other account of his life (duly noted in 2 Chronicles 9:29) speaks of his keystone habit when he “was old” (1 Kings 11:4). Instead of hoarding wisdom, he hoarded stuff. A lot of it. The sad irony is the very source of wisdom for his life, God’s Law, clearly states a king in Israel should never do three things: hoard gold, horses and have many wives (Deuteronomy 17:16-17), the very things Solomon ended up doing. The Bible characterizes Solomon’s habit/addiction this way: “he clung to [his wives] in love” (1 kings 11:2). The word “clinging” is the same word that defines the God-ordained definition of marriage between a man and a woman in Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast [=cling] to his wife, and they become one.” So the man who writes about the blessing of the exclusive love that binds a man and a woman in marriage (read the Song of Songs in the Bible), gets his signal thoroughly mixed up at the end his life (see also Nehemiah 13:26).
A Problem of Priorities
Why? He lost touch with wisdom. He abandoned his keystone habit. The instruction to the king in Deuteronomy 17 also says that as king under God’s Law, he should not only read out of the law “all the days of his life” but he should also “write” a copy of the law for himself (Deuteronomy 17:18-20). In Proverbs 2:10, the promise is clear: “For wisdom will come into your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.” In the end Solomon pursued success instead of wisdom. He took the success that came from wisdom and made that his passion, rather than wisdom itself. He traded a good habit for a bad habit. His changed the keystone habit of his heart.
The apostle Paul tells us the wisdom of the Old Testament serves for us as a warning (1 Corinthians 10). What the example of Solomon tells us is, ‘pay attention to the keystone habit of your heart and don’t ever get all enamored with success if it comes to you. Instead, continue to pursue the very One who has given you success in the first place.
2 Timothy 2:22 shows us the way change our keystone habits: “flee youthful passions.” Instead, “pursue:”
- righteousness” = knowing what is right and wrong, from His Word
- “faith” = trusting in the Lord Jesus alone, not our own success and possessions
- “love” = self-sacrificial love, the opposite of feeding our selfish appetites.
- “peace” = a non-anxious state of mind and heart
Admiral William McRaven in an address gone viral, has his own take on keystone habits:
“If you wanna change the world, start off by making your bed. If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day. It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task… and another… and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed. Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in life matter. If you can’t do the little things right, you’ll never be able to do the big things right. If, by chance, you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that’s made, that you made. And that bed will be an encouragement that tomorrow will be better.”
The lesson for us?
Focus on the keystone habit, the habit of the heart: pursue righteousness, pursue the wisdom that comes from God, found in His Word. So, this week and for the rest of your life: Go make your bed every morning.