Take the Stairs
October 13, 2021
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Take the Stairs
“And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you.” -Matthew 5:40-42 (ESV)
Take the stairs. I mean that literally and figuratively. Yes, the elevator is easier. But the path of least resistance won’t get you where you want to go. When given the choice, don’t take the easy way out. It’s a mindset and a metaphor. When presented with the option of an elevator or the stairs, you make a predecision to take the stairs. Why? Harder is better! The stairs and the elevator will get you to the same place, but you’ll be in better shape having taken the stairs.
Taking the stairs is all about adding more resistance, but that doesn’t mean it has to be less fun. A few years ago, Volkswagen Sweden staged a public intervention aimed at better health. They employed something called the fun theory: “Fun is the easiest way to change people’s behavior for the better.” The masterminds behind this intervention installed a piano staircase next to an escalator at a subway station in Stockholm. The stairs looked like and functioned like keys on a piano. That interactive staircase resulted in a 66 percent rise in use!
The moral of the study? Along with adding resistance, add an element of fun. “A major criterion for judging the anxiety level of any society,” said Edwin Friedman, “is the loss of its capacity to be playful.” All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy!
Habit formation is serious business, but you have to have fun along the way. Self-deprecating humor allows you to learn from your mistakes by laughing at them. My advice? Take God seriously, but take yourself less seriously. Habit formation is hard enough as it is!
“If anyone forces you to go one mile,” Jesus said, “go with them two miles.” In other words, go the extra mile. Make it your mantra, your mission, your MO. A Roman soldier was allowed to commandeer a Jewish citizen for a thousand paces. The first mile was required, but Jesus upped the ante. He challenged His followers to exceed expectations by going above and beyond. It’s the road less traveled, but there aren’t any traffic jams.
When I exercise, I listen to podcasts and playlists. It’s one way I habit stack. I exercise my mind while I exercise my body. A few of my favorite podcasts are Radiolab, 99% Invisible, Freakonomics Radio, and Revisionist History. Why do I do it? Podcasts are one way I cross-pollinate my mind by learning from a wide variety of disciplines. Plus, they distract me from the pain I’m putting myself through!
I also love worshipping while I’m running. How can I not after God healed my lungs? I often listen to one of my worship playlists. That said, when I need to push my limits, I go old school. I put the Rocky IV soundtrack on repeat. Welcome to my world! When I listen to the training montage, I picture Rocky doing inverted sit-ups in an old barn, shoulder pressing an oxcart, and doing lunges in the Siberian snow. I also hear his trainer yelling, “No pain, no pain, no pain!”
That is a growth mindset. It’s the old axiom No pain, no gain. That’s how you make and break habits. And harder is better.
Take the stairs!
Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC. NCC also owns and operates Ebenezers Coffeehouse, The Miracle Theatre, and the DC Dream Center. Mark holds a doctor of ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 17 books, including The Circle Maker, Chase the Lion, and Whisper. Mark and his wife, Lora, have three children and live on Capitol Hill.