The present is a product of all the “todays” before now. The future will be made of todays, and the only day you can live in is today. Well, would you look at that, it’s today again. As adults, we understand that our actions today will change, in a small way, the future, for the better or worse.
Everything you do matters. Some things more than others, but everything has a consequence. Are you building habits that will make a better tomorrow, or a harder tomorrow? What kind of habits are your kids building?
Long-term goals are great, and important. So are short-term goals. But the only place in which we can act is right here, right now. That’s how both types of goals are obtained. This is important in finances, but also in pretty much every other area of life.
Why does it seem like we always start new positive habits on a Monday, or at minimum, tomorrow. The battle against procrastination is won in the small, daily choices.
Small Choices are Everything
A piece of candy or a piece of fruit. That’s a small choice. It’s a quick choice. But what happens the next time you have that choice? If you repeatedly choose the fruit over the candy for a few years, you’re going to be in a much different place than if you had chose the candy.
Imagine how many books you would have read by now if you committed to reading five pages a day a year ago. That’s eight or nine standard books. Now imagine if you had started this habit 10 years ago. I’m not trying to make you feel guilty, I’m merely stressing the importance of small, daily habits.
“Ok, just this one time.” That’s a phrase you may have said to your kids. You’ve told yourself the same thing. “I’ll skip my workout today.” “I’ll just have this one piece of candy.” “I’ll start reading tomorrow.” Each time, you missed one opportunity to make a decision that helps you get better.
Skipping one workout, eating one piece of candy, or starting a reading habit tomorrow all are inconsequential in the moment, but what habits are you building? There’s nothing wrong with a small decision like that when it’s actually the small decision, ad not an ongoing pattern. More often than not, it turns into a pattern.
Fighting Procrastination in Our Kids
When it comes to procrastination, it’s all about the small choices.
It’s easy to put something off for an hour, or a day. But every time you do, you’re building a habit of procrastination.
Instant gratification has run its course on our current generation. Delayed gratification is less tapped, and many don’t even realize the benefits of it. Delaying gratification builds self-discipline, which is the foundation of better habits, and a better you… and most importantly, a better mindset for your kids than what society is teaching.
We can’t rely on motivation to beat procrastination. Motivation is fleeting. Habits depend on action, and action is built out of discipline.
Procrastination can start at a very young age. That’s also the best place to fight it: at a very young age. If you let your kids procrastinate, it will only get worse. Any time the opportunity to procrastinate or take action comes up—which is often minute-by-minute—you have to help your kids make the choice to act.
A habit of action is built over time, slowly, easily, and naturally.
How Habits are Built
Habits that stick are built slowly, and easily. A daily running habit is best built by starting with one to five minutes a day. After a few months, if you stick with the habit, you’ll have a regular 30-60 minute, daily running habit.
Negative habits are built in the same fashion.
Waiting until tomorrow to start choosing healthier options is fine. Wait until tomorrow, for a year, and you’ll be several pounds farther away from your goal.
They say habits take 21 days to form, or 66, or longer… studies have mostly shown that we don’t know how long it takes to form a habit, but we do know that different types of habits take longer to build. And if you stick with it, you’ll build the habit, regardless of how long it takes.
To build a new habit, start small and easy. Gradually build the habit. For someone who wants to start exercising, the habit of going to the gym is a start… even if they don’t do anything. Going to the gym could be step one, which leads into working out for five minutes, which eventually turns into going to the gym, five days a week, for an hour each time.
We all know that if we start by doing too much, we’re going to fail. The overweight person decides it’s time to make a change, so they get a gym membership and start going seven days a week. At the same time, they’ve taken up a crash diet, which is over a thousand calories less than they’re used to consuming. A week later, they can’t keep either habit up, and they’re back to eating junk and living in inactivity. They’re probably eating even more now, because they starved their body for a week.
It goes back to motivation. It’s not a good source of fuel to rely on.
If I went into the entire psychology on habits, we’d be here all day. I do highly suggest looking into it though. James Clear has an amazing guide on building habits (see it here). But for this brief article, let’s look into instilling the “action habit” in your kids…
Build the “Action Habit” in Your Kids
What is the action habit? It’s a mindset.
Break the habit of putting things off before it starts… or right when it starts. Putting things off (i.e. procrastination) leads to putting more things off, and that doesn’t lead to the life we want for our kids. This isn’t synonymous with, but it’s similar to grit.
The action habit starts where everything else does: in the beginning. Teach your kids to put their energy into the first step. Make it easy. Of course, if it’s easy to do, it’s just as easy to not do, so there has to be some disciplined action taken, but when you start super small—tiny—it’s so easy to do that they can actually use motivation. Motivation will push you a little, which is why we start small.
I’ll be writing more on the concept of “tiny habits” soon, but for now, just know that you, and your kids, must start small and build from there.
When you break procrastination, and instill a habit of action in your kids, it will become second nature. That’s the goal.
Whenever that task comes up, and your child tries to put if off, explain the importance of doing it now. Explain how this is a ripple effect, for the positive or negative, that will affect them for the rest of their life.
Let’s teach our kids to build positive habits. Just like with finances, if we teach our kids to build positive habits now, they won’t have to learn how to dig their way out of debt or negative habits later. Teach the importance of self-discipline. And most importantly, let’s teach our kids to live a life of action.
Further Book Reading
- The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
- Atomic Habits by James Clear
- No Excuses! by Brian Tracy
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Over to You!
- Do your kids struggle with procrastination?
- Do you strive to build self-discipline in your kids?