Oh, how I wish I’d learned a better work ethic at a younger age. I feel like maybe if I had learned earlier it wouldn’t be such a struggle now. Now, I feel like an old dog trying to learn a new trick, and it feels very much like an uphill battle. In fact, it has me determined to make sure I try to teach my kids this lesson from early on…
Life is Work
And Americans are lazy.
Or maybe just people, in general, are lazy?!
At the very least, I’m lazy, but I’m also pretty sure I’m not the only one!
My mom did her best raising me alone, and I’m so grateful for all that she taught me, but I still grew up lazy. I didn’t learn work ethic. I didn’t learn that life itself is work. Rather, I waited for everything to come to me. I never cleaned my room because I was happy to live in my own mess, I didn’t have to put in much effort to excel at school, and I didn’t even bother trying to get in shape though I was overweight from a pretty young age. In other words, I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, and played all the time, and never did anything that required effort unless I was literally forced into it.
EVERYTHING is Work
Now I’m grown, and I’m no longer happy with messes, but I am often too lazy to do anything about them because – well, because it’s work! And it’s not just a little work here and there, like when I was little and cleaned my room once every few month (yes, I know, lucky me – you probably had to clean every week). No, it’s not just a now-and-then thing; it’s a daily effort.
I never exercised as a kid, despite being unhappy with my body. I never played sports, either. I just played with my friends once in a while and basically did what I wanted to do without worrying about whether I was active or not. And I didn’t know – that is, it never even occurred to me – that such a lifestyle wouldn’t be sufficient for my body. Even as a teenager, when I started to realize that some people may need to exercise to control their weight, I thought it was a last-ditch attempt, only to be really considered if dieting alone couldn’t fix the problem. I really thought I could continue my whole life this way! But God didn’t make our bodies to sit around inside all day on the computer! I believe He made our bodies to work and to play, and as our work becomes less and less active, we have to make an effort to exercise in order to stay healthy. Because it’s GOOD for us. It’s not a punishment, as I once believed. It’s not something you do because you have to in order to control your weight. It’s just a good, healthy habit that happens to require daily effort.
When I was younger, food was very much an instant gratification kind of thing. My single, working mother rarely had time to prepare a meal from scratch, so we ate a lot of frozen pizza, instant macaroni and cheese, and other such things. Now, I’m ashamed of all the junk I’ve put into my body for over 20 years, but at the same time I realize that in order to eat well, I have to intentionally work at it! And not just once in a while, but every day! I have to think about what I’m eating as well and when and why I’m eating it, and I have to take time out of my day to prepare it.
Even my relationships take work! Who would have thought? In grade school, if you’re in my generation, you called your friends when you were bored, and you were allowed to talk, to maybe one of you would visit the other’s house – simple. The only potential problem was having one or the other set of parents say no for some reason. But as a grown-up, it’s not so simple any more. Friends all come with their own problems, and to have a good relationship, you can’t just call them when you’re bored; you have to be there for them when they need you. And sometimes you have to learn how to love people in spite of their flaws, or in spite of distance, or in spite of lack of time to “hang out!”
And the same is true for a relationship with God! As a child, my mom prayed with me before bed and before meals, and I went to Sunday school. As a teenager, I started to understand that it required more than that, and I started to try harder, but I still thought that it would be easy. Only now am I beginning to understand how much daily work has to be put into that relationship to keep it really strong.
Skills, and the maintaining of them, is the same way. Oy with the work already!
Teaching Work Ethic
How will I (eventually) teach my kids about work? How will I get them to understand good work ethic?
- Well, I guess the first step is learning it myself. And I’m trying to – really, I am. For the past few months, I’ve been working on building one good habit each month so that I learn to do the things that are good for me. 🙂
- And I think another part of it will be building good habits in them when they’re young. (I always thought that if I’d been made to play a sport when I was a kid, I would have had a much easier time learning a habit of daily exercise.) I can see it now… my kids will probably hate me for making them do things, and I will wish they could see how I’m doing it for their own good… and it’s probably going to be way harder than I anticipate. But hopefully I can help a little by teaching them healthy habits.
- Finally, if I can teach them what my friends and I learned in our study of Ecclesiastes last year. All is vanity. Too much work is no good, but neither is too much play. BALANCE is important. So, have one hand of toil and one hand of rest. I think I can help to teach my kids a healthy work ethic by helping them rest and enjoy play- and rest-time.
Just some thoughts…
Think about what goes into your body. Think about exercise. Think about your relationships. By not allowing play time to be all day, every day, it becomes more precious to me when I do get that time, and my quiet times are more able to fuel me for the work I know I must do for the rest of the time.
And the best part is that work doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Work is rewarding! And when I’m feeling lazy, that’s exactly what I try to remind myself of! lol
(An example of rewarding work: Me with my first-ever homemade bread!)