For years, every time I went to the dentist, the hygienist would be on my case about not flossing. I honestly don’t understand why I was once a flossing failure, but I do know why I’m now a flossing fanatic. I changed my habits using a simple approach that can work for you, too, whether your new habit is flossing or something even more important.
No Oprah Moments Required
I didn’t have an emotional breakthrough with flossing by recounting a horrible incident in the dental chair when I was a child. I do like talking about the time the dentist hit a nerve while giving me an injection (it was AWFUL!), however talking it out didn’t get me to floss. Oprah is a case study in the lack of relationship between understanding a bad habit and ending it. So are our pets. You can train your dog to stay off the couch without having him recline on one for psychoanalysis, thankfully. You can develop a healthy habit (or change an unhealthy one) without understanding the roots of your behavior.
Quit Looking for Motivation
I didn’t start flossing because my dentist put the fear of gingivitis in me. I do recall being motivated to floss at one time because I hoped for the approval of my hygienist. When she didn’t praise me for my months of flossing and instead criticized my technique, I quit flossing for years. I don’t know why I started again. Maybe I had something stuck in my teeth? The point is, to change many habits, you don’t need a big reason to do so.
Just Do It. A Lot.
For some reason, I flossed several days in a row. Then I thought about not flossing because I didn’t feel like it. Flossing isn’t fun and I do it at the end of a long day when I’m fatigued. But I flossed anyway. I have no idea why. Then I got serious about the potential of not flossing. While I thought about skipping, I would reach for the floss. By the time I had determined I could skip it “just this once,” I was already done. I was on automatic pilot. I’ve been flossing every night for years now and I can’t NOT do it. Reason or no, motivation or no, just do what you know you should do, day after day.
If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it. Genesis 4:7
Rinse & Repeat.
I’ve used this method to change a number of habits. I lock my car with the remote each time to keep from locking my keys in the car. What was once a regular problem hasn’t happened in many years. I also run my dishwasher each night. I can be dead tired, but like it or not, there I am loading, adding soap, and pushing buttons. I am currently using the same method to develop a regular blogging habit. So far, so good!
What habits have you changed with this method or what habits would you like to try it with?
Sometimes when people hear that I homeschool six kids, write, and speak, they tell me I'm a Wonder Woman. I'm not going to disagree, but they don't know the whole story.
In honor of the St. Louis Homeschool Expo where I'll be presenting, I've made the real story behind this Wonder Woman FREE! On March 23rd & 24th, click on the book below and you'll be able to read So You're Not Wonder Woman for free on your Kindle, any Kindle app, or your computer (get free app here) regardless of whether you have Amazon Prime.
I hope you are blessed by the book! If you are, I hope you will bless me in return by leaving a review for the book. I can get my book into the hands of more Wonder Woman wannabes if they read a number of positive reviews.
This week, our friend Gari sent out this great list that he lives by. Not only does Gari live it, but he inspires others to live likewise. He challenged his friends to do 3000 pushups this month (100 a day for 30 days). My husband in turn challenged our kids to participate, offering a financial incentive so good that I had to take the bait, too. Last night when I was finishing my last 20 pushups of 100 for the day very late at night, I was cursing him (sorry, Gari!), but I admire Gari’s attitude and commitment so much. Even if you’re more into faith than fitness, I think you’ll find that these habits translate very well.
1. They don’t think of their fitness as work, but rather a way of life.
It’s kind of like taking a shower; you don’t need one, but you just don’t feel right the rest of the day.
2. They don’t skip workouts.
They take training days as serious as a Dr’s appointment. Appointments and meetings get scheduled around their workout time, not the other way around.
3. They take their rest as seriously as their workouts.
They know that in order to perform at their best and to get the most out of their bodies, they have to give it a rest. Rest days and sleep are as essential as the workouts themselves.
4 They eat to fuel their goals.
Everything they eat serves a purpose. Protein for muscles, carbs for energy, and produce for vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Treats are done, but never over-done.
5 They tune everything out when they workout.
Focus. They know that anything you give your undivided attention to works out better. Being in tune with your body allows them to make tweaks, and know which tweaks to make.
6 They push through frustration.
If you think it’s easy for the super fit to get fit,and stay fit, you’re wrong. They’re highly competitive and always striving to hit new goals. They struggle like everyone else with busy lives. Stress, plateaus, fatigue, and frustration. But there isn’t a thought of giving up, it’s just a matter of finding their answer.
7 They prepare their food in advance.
They know what they’ll be eating the whole day. If they don’t bring their food, they know what they can order off menus and what they can find at a grocery store. Drive-thrus don’t exist in their world.
8 They use their flaws as motivators, not a reason to give up.
They see their flaws (even if you don’t) and despise them like everyone else. But rather then letting their flaws bring them down,,they use them to motivate themselves.
9 They envision the win-goal-finish line every day.
The goal is crystal clear in their mind. The thought of the sculpted body or winning the race always keeps them motivated. Regardless of life’s pressures, they race towards the winner’s tape.
10 Persistence, persistence, persistence.
Yes… they are persistent!
11 There are no excuses.
They learn early that excuses are time-suckers and don’t get you anywhere near your goals. Better to get it done than whine about why you didn’t.
12 There is no giving up.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us – Hebrews 12:1
Which of these habits do you struggle with the most?
I received an email from an unmotivated homeschooler this week and with her permission, I am posting it here in the desire to encourage other home educators who are in the same place and to solicit even more great feedback from you veterans.
I came across your website tonight while doing a google search… yep, I googled, “What if I love the idea of homeschooling, but I’m really not cut out for it?” I’ve been trying to do it for almost 5 school years now. My first son took two years for kindergarten because I got sick (and lazy), my second son is special needs – on the autism spectrum somewhere, and my third school-age child is my first daughter in Kindergarten, and I have a 2 year old.
My point is that I’m at that place where I really think I’m doing an injustice to them by keeping them home. I’m not getting things done, they’re lazy and it’s most likely because they see it in me. There’s a lot that goes into that, but the question remains… how do you DO what you know you need to do? How do you kick yourself in the tuckus so to speak to get the job done? I know what my calling is and what is expected of me, but I’m really struggling in getting it done…thanks for any advice.
An Unmotivated Homeschooler
I had some thoughts, but I took the issue to my Homeschool Homies (HH) and here is what we have to share with her:
- Check your expectations. One of my HHs suggested that if you took two years to do kindergarten, you might be expecting way too much. Kindergarten should be a gentle introduction to math, reading, and learning in general. There are few reasons to hold your child back in kindergarten, though you can continue to work on skills at his level. In other words, are you really lazy, or do you expect to do more than is reasonable? Unreasonable expectations lead to overwhelm which can in turn lead to feeling unable to start.
- Do less. When you feel like you aren’t doing much, this seems like crazy advice, but having less to do helps you do more. One HH swears by taking time to train her children to do household chores like laundry and cooking. When my children were younger, I had a housekeeper come in once every two weeks. Both strategies can free you up to spend more time teaching. Next, simplify your schooling. Set aside time-consuming, activity-heavy curriculums and do the essentials (some Bible, math, reading, and some language arts instruction–maybe some handwriting practice). Subjects like history, science, and geography do not have to be done every day and can be simply reading a great book in that subject area.
- Get accountability. Being a home educator is tough for many reasons, but perhaps the biggest is we have no one overseeing our work and giving us feedback (at least in most states). Ask your husband to hold you accountable, join or start a co-op requiring preparation every week, and/or find an accountability partner. Ask an experienced homeschooler to look over what you hope to accomplish in an average day or week and let her tell you if it’s reasonable. Once you have a reasonable plan, have an accountability check-in each day or week. I use a website called idonethis.com and when I reply to it each evening with a list of accomplishments, I cc my accountability partner. Agree with your partner that if you haven’t met a minimum standard in a certain time period, that you should send your children to school.
- Get support. My HHs agreed that you have a lot to handle at this stage of your homeschooling. If you don’t get together with other homeschoolers in person or online on a regular basis, may I suggest that you do so ASAP? This is a very difficult calling and we need our HHs to cheer us on. I dont know what I would do without the time to talk, laugh, and cry with my HSing pals. I really like the Hip Homeschool Moms FB page for asking questions and getting support. You may also want to consider programs that can support your homeschooling. From enrollment in online schools where all the teaching and grading are done for you to day programs and classes, you will find that you really don’t have to do it all!
I also asked my HHs how they get things done that they’re reluctant to do. Here is what they said:
I just do it. If it has to be done…
That might seem unreasonable, but sometimes we obsess over a task ten times longer than it would take to just do it. Just doing it may be setting a timer and doing it for a minimum time and then being allowed to stop. Your children will respond well to this, too.
I give myself a reward. If we get a lot of school done one day, we might go to the park the next.
One of the biggest reasons we homeschool moms get stuck doing things that aren’t school-focused is we don’t give ourselves guilt-free time. Make sure you have some every single day. Whether your older child plays with the younger while you surf the web for half an hour, you pay a sitter to come give you time away once a week, or your husband takes over at scheduled times, you will find yourself refreshed and ready to homeschool once again.
I pray about it.
Love this one. We are doing something great for the glory of God. Why would we expect it to be easy or to do it alone? God is there to help us and will certainly equip us for the work He has called us to do. My Homeschool Homies and I are praying for you!
for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. – Philippians 2:13
P.S. Treat your homeschooling like a career. Develop habits and a routine (FLYLady is wonderful inspiration) or a schedule (Managers of Their Homes is excellent). Build in break times that coincide with times you’re tired. Give yourself credit for what you DO do, rather than what you don’t.
Be sure to follow me on Pinterest for plenty of motivating ideas.
Do you have any other suggestions for our Unmotivated Homeschooler? Are you an unmotivated homeschooler who needs advice or prayer? Just ask!
I blogged about the book, The House That Cleans Itself, on Wonder Women and the great impact it had on my housekeeping and filing systems. Lately I’ve been wondering if the principles of the book can be applied to homeschool motivation. I think it can!
The most powerful idea in Mindy Starns Clark’s book for me was the idea of working with what is rather than what we wish it were (I love alliteration, don’t you?). This concept enabled me to let go of the idea that I would ever be a meticulous filer. Instead I worked with what I am, which is a file digger. By filing everything in broad categories into large Pendaflex files by time (most recent folders in front), I’ve been able to find things but haven’t had the stress of the massive to-file pile. I then used this notion to help me find a solution to the kids’ bathroom disaster.
My homeschool isn’t teaching itself yet, but I definitely have some ideas that could move it in that direction.
What I Wish
- We were early morning homeschoolers
- We could get all our school done before lunch
- The kids would do more work independently
- I had more energy at certain times than I do
Working With What Is
- We start school later now to accommodate later bedtimes. The bonus is I get more morning time alone which is my optimal work time.
- We do the fun stuff after lunch. The kids bug me to do it which motivates me to keep working into the afternoon.
- I work with the kids on stuff they would otherwise resist on their own (that’s the joy of homeschooling, right?).
- I quit scheduling anything for those times when I know I’ll be too tired and got rid of guilt.
Stop Fighting and Start Flourishing!
Making it Work for You
Start by making a list of the aspects of your school that have been very resistant to change. Next, imagine that those things won’t change (depressing, I know). Finally, decide what you can do to make your homeschool run more smoothly, despite those less-than-optimal students and teacher(s).
It may take a while for you to find satisfactory solutions, but the process will be much easier when you let go of those wishes and start working with what is.
P.S. This process works with personal goals, too! Give it a try and let me know what happens.
I'm on a USTA tennis league and have been for the past 2.5 years. There are many aspects of playing that I enjoy, but the one that has been a particular blessing lately is the opportunity to work on my thinking.
You wouldn't think that I would be nervous on the tennis court, being a speaker who's comfortable with any size crowd. But when I first started the league, my anxiety was crippling. The second I thought about losing the point or double faulting, that's exactly what happened.
I've been reading a variety of books on the mental game of tennis, but this one really convinced me that no matter how far behind I am, I can still win. The author gives many examples of pros who just gave up and lost matches that were theirs for the taking and other examples of players who seemed to come back and win against impossible odds. The key to winning? Believing that you can.
A couple of weeks ago, my partner and I handily won the first set of a match, then fell apart in the second, and finally lost the tie break. Yesterday, we seemed to be repeating that disappointing pattern. We won the first set without much trouble, then soon found ourselves down 5-2! If you know anything about tennis, you know that the other team just needed one more game to win the set.
I could see the discouragement and frustration in my partner and I could feel it developing in me. Then I told her, "We're going to pull a David Freese and win this set." She smiled. When either of us made an error from that point forward, I made a point of saying, "That's okay. We can still win." Many times we were in a David Freese, World Series kind of way by being one point away from losing the set (though not the match). I felt the pressure, but refused to give in. Neither did my partner. We came back to win the set and match 7-5.
The truth of Allen Fox's words became very clear to me on the tennis court, but they've become clear to me in life, too. Maybe you're against impossible odds like:
- You're getting older and you still haven't met "the one."
- You've filled out dozens of job applications and you're still unemployed
- You have a hundred pounds or more to lose
- You've been trying to conceive for months to no avail
- Your house is such a mess that it seems it would take a team months to clean it out
- You've been unhappily married for years and nothing you've tried has worked
- You have an addiction you just can't beat
- You're tens of thousands of dollars in debt
- Your loved one is elderly and still hasn't received Christ
While it's true that the right attitude doesn't guarantee victory, I believe it's also true that no matter how far behind you are, you can still win. I could give you examples of people I know personally who've experienced an unexpected victory in these situations. The key? Believe that you can.
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” (Luke 18:27)