Jesus in Everyday Life

Goal Setting Part 3: New Pathways and New Habits



When I was a little girl one of my favorite things was the first “Big Snow!” (4-6”)

Okay, Minnesota Girl here, stick with me.

I would call my friends, and we would gather at our favorite sledding hill. Once there, we would climb the hill, careful to go through the trees on the sides to preserve the pristine snow. I remember how the anticipation would flow through me. How excited I would get looking down at the hill.



Not a single mark or track in sight.

A blank slate.

We could go down the hill any way we wanted.

A blank slate

I remember the first time I got to go down first.

I aligned my sled just so. Making sure to point it in the direction I wanted to go. My friends squealed behind me, half in excitement and half in impatience for their own turns. With their help, pushing the back of my sled, I flew down the hill!!!

The cold air nipped at my cheeks and nose. Icicles formed on my eyelashes. And a grin exploded off my lips as a warriors yell erupted from my throat!

When I hit the bottom and came to a stop, I turned and looked up the hill, taking in my one lonely track. When my eyes reach the top, my friends were jumping up and down cheering and waiting for me to wave—our signal that they can come down. Within seconds, woosh, woosh, woosh, they flew down the hill creating their own tracks.

Then together we would climb the hill, careful not to walk in any one’s tracks, realign our sleds into our tracks and proceeded to race each other for the remainder of the day.

Camron and Drew sledding

Why do you think would we reuse our tracks instead of making new ones?

All of you who grew up with snow covered hills probably know this…

Because you go faster and further each time you used the same track!

The first time you go down there’s a lot of resistance from the snow. But with each pass, the snow compacts more and more, creating a nice, firm, slick base—almost eliminating the resistance. This, in turn, increases your momentum and speed, not to mention the thrill of the ride!

Even when the snow falls again, your track is easy to find and recreate. All you need to do is go down a couple of times and it’s as good as new. Unlike the first time, there’s already a base so the resistance isn’t as significant as before.

However, there were times I had to create new tracks

  • There was a lot of snow and my track got completely wiped out
  • Other kids used my track or went over it cross-ways causing me to go in directions I didn’t want to go
  • The track started to be unsafe
  • Guiding me toward a tree or the playground equipment
  • A large jump was built in the middle of it by the bigger kids

Creating a new track wasn’t impossible, it was just harder than using the old one—at first. See, I had gotten used to the predictability of my other track. I knew when to lean this way or that or when to put my hand out here or there to adjust my course. I had done it so many times, it was automatic. I hardly had to think about it. Now I had to not only create a new track but learn this new one all over again.

Regardless, these are such great memories!

I share this story for 2 reasons,

  1. To help you remember sledding when you were a kid and hopefully uncover some equally wonderful memories
  2. To illustrate neuropathways in our brains

Psalm 139_13-14

Neuropathways that are

  • Habits
  • Patterns of life
  • Behaviors
  • Beliefs
  • Ways of doing things, thinking, responding

When we talk about goal setting we’re talking about creating new neuropathways in our brains to establish new patterns and habits that will help us reach our goals. Because, let’s face it, like some of my old sledding tracks, the ones we’re currently using are no longer viable or safe. Or they are not taking us where we need and want to go.

And the vehicle we ride on while creating these new neuropathways are the neurochemicals in our brain.

God produces hundreds of neurochemicals in our brain every day and scientists have identified a few of them and their role. And what they’ve learned so far is fascinating!

One of the best articles I’ve read on this subject was written by Christopher Bergland, author of The Athlete’s Way, He wrote an article for Psychology Today called The Neurochemicals of Happiness, in it he explained 7 different neurochemicals and their function (in layman’s terms, my favorite) in regards to goals and habit formation. I highly recommend reading the entire piece, but here is a synopsis:

Endocannabinoids: “The Bliss Molecule.”

  • This is more linked to the runner’s high than we realized as it’s responsible for the euphoric “high” that comes in the midst of exercise
  • For me about 1-1.5 miles into my run. It gives me the sense I could go the distance.

Dopamine: “The Reward Molecule.”

  • “Dopamine is responsible for reward-driven behavior and pleasure seeking. Every type of reward seeking behavior that has been studied increases the level of dopamine transmission in the brain. If you want to get a hit of dopamine, set a goal and achieve it.” (emphasis mine)
  • Don’t you love that?!? This is why incorporating rewards into your goal setting process is so important and crucial to our achieving our goals.

Oxytocin: “The Bonding Molecule.”

  • I’ve also heard this called the dating molecule because of it’s correlation with romantic attachment.
  • “Oxytocin is a hormone directly linked to human bonding and increasing trust and loyalty.”
  • This emphasizes the importance of involving other people in your goal.

Endorphins: “The Pain-Killing Molecule”

  • The name says it all.
  • These are released during moderate to strenuous physical activity and help you push through the hard stuff to reach the finish line

GABA: “The Anti-Anxiety Molecule”

  • “GABA is an inhibitory molecule that slows down the firing of neurons and creates a sense of calmness.”
  • This is released when we study and meditate on Scripture or practice yoga or Pilate’s.

Serotonin: “The Confidence Molecule”

  • Seriously, who doesn’t need this in their life?
  • “Ultimately the link between higher serotonin and a lack of rejection sensitivity allows people to put themselves in situations that will bolster self-esteem, increase feelings of worthiness and create a sense of belonging. To increase serotonin, challenge yourself regularly and pursue things that reinforce a sense of purpose, meaning and accomplishment. Being able to say “I did it!” will produce a feedback loop that will reinforce behaviors that build self-esteem and make you less insecure and create an upward spiral of more and more serotonin.” (emphasis mine)

Adrenaline: “The Energy Molecule.”

  • This is connected to our fight-or-flight response to dangerous situations

Proverbs 16_9

Did you know it takes 6-8 weeks of deliberate choices to create and establish a new neuropathway? A new habit? A new behavior?

That’s more than a few passes on my old sledding hill.

This is why we need to grit to tackle our goal—and grace.

Remember at the beginning of this series we brought our goals, hopes, dreams, and desires before God. Trust Him to guide you in this whole process—the dreaming, the goal setting, and the process of achieving it. Let Him establish your steps as you dig in and work hard. You can do it! I believe in you!

Keep praying and asking Him for direction as we go through the next several weeks of breaking things down. Ask Him which paths are right for you in each area. Align your sled. I will help you get started.

Steps to Goal setting


Blessings! xoxoxo



Other posts in this Series:

Goal Setting: Determining Home Base

Goal Setting Part 2: Declaring Your End Point and Needed Resources

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4 thoughts on “Goal Setting Part 3: New Pathways and New Habits”

  1. This is Awesome!! I just love how God Made is!! Our minds are so intricate and beyond our understanding!! This is something we have been talking about in bible study!! Have you read Carolyn Leaf???

  2. Amen, you r so right I need to CONTINUE to
    Ask Him which path He wants me to follow!

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