We make learning harder than it should be. We favor difficult curriculum over what we perceive as easy.
We value grit.
The ability to tolerate adversity and thrive in spite of it is a good life skill. However, I wouldn’t try to inculcate it in my children through daily drudgery.
The Best Advice
My son was staring down at three workbooks yesterday. (He has recently decided to work at night so he has the day for more play.) He was beginning to get that overwhelmed look that said, “I’m not going to get anything done because I’m going to wish myself away and then cry because I’m not getting anything done.”
So I gave him the best advice I could: “Do the easy stuff.”
He stared at me.
“Do the easy stuff first,” I repeated. “Then tackle what seems hard.”
There is a time for grit and learning to do hard things, but usually the way to it is through the easy things. Sometimes, the key to grit is simply through momentum.
Working toward difficulties
When it comes to homeschooling, I often hear there are two extremes – 1. life is drudgery, get started now (grow up!) or 2. you’re a child (stay one!) and just do what I tell you.
You can sidestep both these extremes by just doing easy things until you have built up enough momentum to tackle hard things.
Dave Ramsey, debt guru & author of Total Money Makeover says to begin paying down debt by paying off the smallest debt first and building momentum. Michael Hyatt, author of Living Forward, simply fills in the titles of chapters as a first step to writing a book.
Easy, basic stuff first seems to be the key to success.
The best piece of advice I got for tackling my to-do list was simply 1. make a list of things I needed done, then 2. pick the easiest one to do.
Doing this enough times gets it all done.
Element of play
The reason this strategy works is because it brings the element of play into our everyday lives. Play includes a range of voluntary, intrinsically motivated activities normally associated with recreational pleasure and enjoyment.
Sometimes, in our attempt to teach grit, we forget to teach (and learn) play. Play is every bit as important to adults as it is to children.
In Grinding It Out: The Making of McDonald’s, Ray Kroc says: “…for me, work was play. I got as much pleasure out of it as playing baseball.”
Play and gamification as concepts have exploded in recent years. You can find tons of apps to do chores or exercise more often.
The simplest way to gamify life however is just to begin with the easy stuff.
So if you want to do big monumental things today, don’t get overwhelmed. Remember to begin with the easy stuff. Teach your kids to do the same. Before you know it, you’ll be scaling those mountains.