The Second Key to Good Habits: Motivation

Alarm clock

Last week we discussed how important repetition is in forming a new habit. Just as hours of practicing a pirouette makes it easier to perform one, so lots of practice at a new skill—like getting out of bed at a certain time in the morning—makes it easier to do it. Practice makes permanent. Repetition makes habitual.

But there is another key to forming a new habit, and this key is just as important, if not more so: we must have sufficient reason for wanting to form the new habit. Something or someone has to motivate me, to cause me to want to start getting out of bed at that time!

Making It Worthwhile

Charlotte Mason recognized that fact:

“ ‘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).

You see, ideas are powerful motivators! When the seed of an idea takes root in our minds or our children’s minds, it can produce a bountiful harvest. We begin to imagine what that idea might look like in our own lives, and we feel the stir of emotions as we dream of what the future could hold down that path.

We read a book or a blog on making our homes welcoming sanctuaries of beauty and peace. Our hearts are stirred with the desire to make it so for ourselves, and we begin to imagine what that might look like in our own surroundings. Those thoughts grow into pondering what it would take to make that image a reality. And now we have deep-seated motivation to start making changes and forming a new habit or two in order to live out that idea.

Or our children read a well-written story about a woman who would not be content but kept grasping for more and more until it all vanished, and they ponder that idea the next time they see a toy catalog or create a birthday list. And the habit of contentment starts to grow.

Or they hear a beautiful poem about God’s creation and the enjoyment one can find outdoors, and they begin to desire that enjoyment for themselves and think about how they might spend more time among nature the next day and the next. The habit of outdoor life is taking root.

The fact is that you never know when an idea will nestle in and start to grow, but as Charlotte reminded us, we would be foolish to leave it to chance. “What do parents sow? Ideas” (Vol. 2, p. 29). As parents, we should be sowing those good, loving, and noble ideas into our children’s hearts regularly, intentionally, to motivate them toward good habits.

Next week we will tell you about an exciting new resource to help you do just that: “sow the idea or notion which makes the act worth while.” You won’t want to miss this!

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