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2009-05-18

The Power of Habit--It's a REAL Job! Series #9

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Image by kevindooley

Whew. This past week was one of those weeks. In fact, as I type this post, our family is having one of those days. Ugh. Days when all the planning falls apart, we all feel cranky, and disaster waits around my every turn. (Levi, could you please stop dropping every single alphabet cookie cutter on the floor? Do you know there are 26 letters in the alphabet? That means 26 cookie cutters...)

This is so completely not surprising to me. I've shared with you before that most of my life I've lived in chaos. So, when our family hits a bumpy spot in the road, it's quite easy to see the chaos return. It's been my default mode for so long, I think it feels like the path of least resistance. Although, ultimately, you know...it's not.

But something that has been so encouraging to me over the past year is seeing that when we get derailed as a family and things feel crazy again, the time it takes to recover seems to be getting shorter and shorter!

Want to know why? God has been helping me build a new default mode. He's been graciously teaching me new habits.
Habit: An acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary.
When you build the power of habit into your life, you've got a, well, powerful tool working for you. It used to take me an incredible amount of mental and physical energy to complete laundry, dishes and dinner each day. But because I've been training myself in small habits to get these items done every day, I've amazingly found them easier to do! AND I feel like I have more time for other things as well. I don't really have more time in my day, but since these tasks have begun to be second nature to me, it feels as though I do.

It also doesn't take me as long to recognize when we've gotten off track--where before we might have lived in chaos that grew increasingly worse with passing weeks, now it might only be a day, a few days, or a week at most.

Have you ever heard of Charlotte Mason? If not (and especially if you're a homeschooling parent), you should read up on her. She was completely brilliant in my opinion. She often likened habits to rails. The things we ride upon to get us through life. Here is one of the many things she had to say about habit:
Each of us has in his possession an exceedingly good servant or a very bad master, known as Habit. The heedless, listless person is a servant of habit; the useful, alert person is the master of a valuable habit.
In short, we are all people of habit. The only difference is what habits we've chosen to develop. Let me tell you--if I can begin to learn new habits after being a servant to bad habits, anyone can!

Habits. I now have a set of rails that, for the most part, guide our family through life smoothly most days. Every once in a while we do get derailed. Things get crazy, chaos seems to be reigning again. But when a train gets derailed, the tracks are still there. It can take some extra effort and energy to get back on the tracks--but certainly not the same kind of energy it would take to build an entirely new set of rails!

Once you've got the momentum of habit working for you, it's a beautiful thing. So, try it! What is one new, small habit you can start building today? By His grace, anyone can learn to run on a new set of rails. If He can do such a thing in my life, I believe He can do it in yours, too.

2 comments:

christinnjon said...

Oh I love Charlotte Mason. When I saw your post and then your picture, the very first thing I thought of was "Laying down the Rails", no joke!

I am so much like you!!! That must be why I can't stay away from your blog!!!!

I, too, have been working on habits and have TOO noticed how much easier it has been to get the dishes and laundry done. I am also at a point where I feel uneasy about letting them go, because I know it will reek havoc! I'd rather just spend the 10-15 minutes doing the task real quick, then having to spend double the amount of time doing it later because it piles up. And really, what's 15 minutes? Not much!
I love what you said here:
"But when a train gets derailed, the tracks are still there. It can take some extra effort and energy to get back on the tracks--but certainly not the same kind of energy it would take to build an entirely new set of rails!"

My habit is to read the Bible daily and also read it to my kids daily, rather then sporadically. ((hugs))
P.S. I [finally] emailed you back!

Marissa Breann said...

What a wonderful reminder! I too have been on a journey from chaos to developing good habits. I'd like to recommend to other readers a book that has helped me, "More Hours in my Day" by Emilie Barnes. I found a lot of encouragement in this book.

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