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My friend Ruth is 61. She is an exuberant veteran homeschooler who has graduated three and spends her days encouraging other homeschool students and parents. She also recently lost 120 pounds.
When I asked Ruth to tell me her story, she related how she had grown tired of feeling miserable in her overweight body. She knew her health was declining; she knew her blood pressure was high. She also knew more grandchildren were on the way, and she wanted to be around to see them. She wanted to be healthy again.
So one day she drove to a weight-loss center and learned what new habits she needed to instill in her life to reach that goal. Then she got to work.
Ruth is my living example of the truth of Charlotte’s words: “It is pleasant to know that, even in mature life, it is possible by a little persistent effort to acquire a desirable habit” (Vol. 1, p. 135).
Even in Mature Life
Whether your desire is to regain your health, to keep a calm demeanor and voice around your children, or to remember to recharge your cell phone every night, the steps are the same. It all starts with an idea.
“We entertain the idea which gives birth to the act and the act repeated again and again becomes the habit; ‘Sow an act,’ we are told, ‘reap a habit.’ ‘Sow a habit, reap a character.’ But we must go a step further back, we must sow the idea or notion which makes the act worth while” (Vol. 6, p. 102).
An attractive idea—one that seizes your imagination and spotlights your goal—is crucial to your success at forming a new habit. Just having someone tell you what you should do is not the same as having an idea grip you. That compelling idea is what will make the necessary actions worthwhile.
If you can surround yourself with other motivating factors, your path will be all the smoother. Charlotte talked about gaining motivation from living examples, natural consequences, and expectant encouragement.
Ruth found that true in her experience. Every time someone told her, “You look great!” it filled her emotional bucket and encouraged her to keep going. And she discovered a positive natural consequence: as her clothing size dropped, she enjoyed shopping again.
Surround yourself with people who expect you to succeed at the new habit, who will encourage you along the way. Look for natural consequences—both good and bad—that will reinforce the new actions you are striving to make a habit.
Yes, these are the same steps we use when helping our children form habits. They are the universal process to forming new pathways in our brains, no matter how old we are.
And that is what both Charlotte and Ruth wanted to make sure you understand: new habits are not just for children. Don’t let your age become either an insurmountable wall or a flimsy excuse.
In Ruth’s words, “There is hope! You can do it; it is possible!”
In Charlotte’s words, “It is pleasant to know that, even in mature life, it is possible by a little persistent effort to acquire a desirable habit.”