The First Key to Good Habits: Repetition


A couple of evenings ago, my daughter and I enjoyed watching two ballet dancers, a husband and wife, perform to one of my favorite Beethoven pieces. Their movements were absolutely beautiful! We knew they were stretching and stressing their muscles to the fullest, and yet they made everything look so graceful and even easy.

Afterward, during an interview, we learned that they practice seven or eight hours per day. In a way it’s not surprising. We all expect that repetition of physical movements will make those actions easier to perform. If we didn’t believe that fact, there would be no soccer moms.

But what we often miss is the fact that what is true in the sports world is also true in the everyday habit world.

Habits Come By Practice

As Charlotte Mason explained:

“We know this well enough as it applies to skating, hockey, and the like. We say we want practice, or, are out of practice, and must get some practice; but we do not realise that, in all the affairs of our life, the same thing holds good. What we have practice in doing we can do with ease, while we bungle over that in which we have little practice.

“This is the law of habit, which holds good as much in doing kindnesses as in playing the piano. Both habits come by practice” (Vol. 4, Book 1, p. 208).

So the first key to forming a good habit is to repeat that action as often as possible. God made our brains to form neuron paths for each action. The more often we repeat an action, the more permanent becomes that neuron path until, eventually, it fires without our conscious effort—it becomes a habit.

Just as performing certain actions on the volleyball court can become second nature to a child, so can opening the door for his mother and sisters or obeying his parents the first time they speak. Practice makes permanent. Repetition makes habitual.

See that your children have lots of opportunities to repeat the habit your family is focusing on for a full six to eight weeks and you will start to see the results of good practice.

“And this is a delightful thing to remember, every time we do a thing helps to form the habit of doing it; and to do a thing a hundred times without missing a chance, makes the rest easy” (Vol. 4, Book 1, pp. 208, 209).

Next time we’ll look at the second key to forming good habits.

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