SPACES TO THINK NO. 9

We are all mere creatures of habit.

We think our accustomed thoughts,

make our usual small talk,

go through the trivial round,

the common task,

without any self-determining effort of will at all.

If it were not so––if we had to think, to deliberate, about each operation of the bath or the table––life would not be worth having; the perpetually repeated effort of decision would wear us out…

What we can do for [our children] is to secure that they have habits which shall lead them in ways of order, propriety, and virtue, instead of leaving their wheel of life to make ugly ruts in miry places.

When we first hear of Mason’s Habit Formation, it perhaps seems to us some new, exciting external apparatus or tool to apply to our lives. We ask, what new habit should I try to obtain? What new habits do my children need?

This way of setting about things can make life very difficult and discouraging!

Instead, I think we must remember, as Mason tells us, that we are “all mere creatures of habit.” All is habit! Some of our habits are good, some are unhelpful. A better approach than trying to add new habits (like new resolutions) might be to think on how we can actually change our current habits into good or better ones.


We want to “secure that [our children] have habits which shall lead them in ways of order, propriety, and virtue, instead of leaving their wheel of life to make ugly ruts in miry places.” (Volume 1 p.111)

Last week was the half way point of our term and I was sick. It seemed best to just call it Fall Break, I was doing such a poor job of keeping up with things. Sick and tired all our efforts seemed “ugly ruts in miry places.”


So what to do?

I headed with baby to a coffee shop and a notebook to brainstorm how to climb out of the miry place! Well, I knew I wanted to fix things, but how? First, I needed encouragement, because I felt none. What was going well? What was working? What were our good habits? I made a list that grew and grew…it surprised me! Things weren’t so bad, after all.

  • We were starting school on time…
  • The new time-table was a delightful feast…
  • Combining my children into one booklist, rather than 4 different levels was bringing so many good fruits…

On and On…


With that encouragement I faced the ugly ruts and made a second list…

What wasn’t going well? What wasn’t working? What bad habits had we established?

  • The messy table at the end of the school day…
  • Burning out by lunch time and not feeling like doing “afternoon occupations”…
  • Scrambling to make dinner each night…

On and on…

And then a second cup of tea, a cinnamon scone and a third list…solutions!

When it was all set out like that I could see clearly our current habits and the way to move forward. We had habits, some needed tweaking, some needed to be paced differently, some needed help.

I could also see what “problems” were anomalies due to my not feeling well and lack of sleep and would fix themselves in due time and other problems that could become the new normal, if I didn’t set a new course.

Taking the “space to think” about how it was all going made such a difference. So, for your “space to think” this week, I encourage you to try thinking about how your day is going with your children.

“…whether you choose or no to take any trouble about the formation of habits, it is habit all the same which will govern ninety-nine one hundredths of [your] life…” p. 110


This post is part of our Friday series: “Spaces to Think” You can read the others here.

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