3 Little Words for Habit Training: Persistence

Hiking step by step

A year ago I had never heard of C2C. Then my friend Crystal told me her dream: she wanted to walk across England. The entire country. From coast to coast (thus, C2C).

This past August she and her husband Ethan fulfilled that dream. They walked all 192 miles in just sixteen days.

Thanks to Instagram and Wainwright’s little handwritten book, A Coast to Coast Walk, I was able to follow their adventure day by day from this side of the pond—sometimes ambling through breathtakingly-beautiful scenery, other times plodding beside dreary field after field after field; sometimes basking in glorious sunshine, other times battered by driving wind and rain; sometimes enjoying smooth and levels paths, other times navigating rocky and steep climbs.

When I asked Crystal how she managed to accomplish such a feat, her answer was significant: “One step and one day at a time.”


Crystal’s C2C journey is a vivid example of the power of persistence, “firm continuance despite obstacles or opposition.”

Persistence is an important quality for anyone who is hiking across a country. It’s also an important quality for anyone who is habit training, according to Charlotte Mason:

“Tact, watchfulness, and persistence are the qualities she must cultivate in herself; and, with these, she will be astonished at the readiness with which the child picks up the new habit” (Vol. 1, p. 122).

Since habits are formed by repetition, it’s completely logical that persistence is a necessary part of habit training. But it can also be the hardest part.

Many of us start out with great hopes and dreams in our hearts, and we work faithfully at the task for a while; but when we hit an obstacle or have to deal with resistance, we falter and eventually give up.

Sure, you want Junior’s room to be orderly; but after dealing with dirty clothes on the floor for the fifteenth time this week, it’s easy to get discouraged and think it’s no use, so why even try.

Of course you want to use a kind tone of voice with your children; but when you lose your temper repeatedly in one day, it kind of takes the wind out of your sails.

Persistence is paramount.

Perhaps some practical tips from Crystal’s C2C experience will also encourage us to be more persistent in our day-to-day habit-training adventures. Here are six ideas that helped Crystal keep putting one foot in front of the other.

  1. Keep the end in mind.

    Never lose sight of what you want to accomplish. Keep that picture firmly fixed in your mind and heart, even when others give up. Crystal put it this way: “I knew I wanted to do it. I knew I could do it. I hate the idea of ever quitting. Never, never, never give up. So I just kept going . . . Even after I heard of other hikers taking bus rides, renting cars, or boat rides. I set out to walk 192 miles so I knew if I got a lift for even a few of those miles I would not have met my goal. I just needed to prove to myself I could do it.”

  2. Set smaller goals to get there.

    Crystal and Ethan focused on shorter routes between towns and inns. They didn’t try to go coast to coast all at once. It helped to set “manageable little goals” and see each of those smaller goals accomplished.

    Do the same with habit training. You probably can’t expect your child to suddenly be orderly in his school work, his library books, his room, his dresser drawers, his closet, and his dirty laundry all at once. Set “manageable little goals” that will take you closer to that ultimate goal, and focus on accomplishing them one at a time. Each smaller achievement will keep you motivated as you get closer and closer to the end goal.

  3. Step out in faith.

    Crystal’s body has a hard time absorbing the B-12 vitamin, so she needs regular injections to keep her energy level where it should be. She knew she was scheduled to have one of those injections during her time in England,—that, in fact, it would be crucial with all her hiking,—but she couldn’t figure out exactly how to make it happen. She pursued multiple options, but none seemed to be the perfect solution. However, she didn’t let the uncertainty stop her from moving forward. She went on the hike, inquiring at towns and villages as she passed through, and finally she discovered that one of the other walkers was the answer. “God had ordained for Ann, a nurse, to become one of my hiking friends along the way. She gave me the shot on the exact day it was due.”

    By definition, persistence will encounter obstacles. You may not know what obstacles lie ahead, but don’t let that uncertainty stop you from ever starting out. Yes, it might be harder than you expect; but it might be easier than you expect. Set out. Move forward even if you don’t have the answers to everything. Though you cannot always see the solution to obstacles in your path, you can rely on God and His perfect timing. He is your constant helper.

  4. Surround yourself with encouragement.

    Just as you would hesitate to set out on a coast-to-coast hike by yourself, so it is a good idea to arrange for support and encouragement to help you persist in habit training. Crystal explained how “knowing we had friends and family cheering us on was encouraging and nourishing.” Her biggest fan was her husband: “my faithful guide and companion, Ethan, was just so encouraging and positive!” People who can encourage you along the way are vital.

    But also look for events and actions that will keep your spirit strong and nourished. Crystal’s journey was highlighted by plenty of scrumptious teas, hot baths, and meaningful sightseeing. Maybe you would be refreshed by some time reading or knitting or painting or walking or baking or singing or playing. Whatever will keep you cheered on your path, do all you can to keep some of those refreshing actions in your weekly routine.

  5. Live in the moment.

    One of the things that helped Crystal continue on the journey was “pausing and living in the moment.” Yes, a difficult climb might be on the path tomorrow, but today—right now—she chose to focus on the beauty of the piece of ground she was standing on.

    Rather than looking at all you have left to accomplish, look for opportunities to be grateful now. As we mentioned last week, watch for small successes and celebrate them!

  6. Rest when needed.

    Crystal and Ethan scheduled some rest days into their journey, and they made sure they got enough sleep at night.

    Make sure you are getting enough sleep and opportunities to rest. Rest affects your mind and emotional well-being in so many ways! It may seem hard to believe that the amount of sleep that Mom gets can have a profound effect on the success or failure of instilling good habits in the children. But it stands to reason that you will find it easier to display patience, kindness, and tact—and to keep displaying it over the long haul—when you are well-rested.

May you too cultivate firm continuance despite obstacles or opposition. Habit training requires it!


  1. Thank you, thank you! Yes, There are areas where I am discouraged and have given up. Thanks for helping me see that. Number 4 is, “Surround yourself with encouragement.” Your blog is part of that in my life. Thank you!

  2. Such Lovely and supportive words Sonya, thank you. It gives me encouragement in my work as a Mother.

  3. I was just sitting here feeling discouraged about all the things I start but don’t finish…..then I came across this post. Thank you for the tools to help me get back on track. This was such practical (and much needed) encouragement. I believe I can run on a little longer!

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