Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor,
serving the Lord. Romans 12:11
Kids come into the world with a unique combination of strengths and weaknesses, yet all kids need to develop key character qualities as they mature. Erin MacPherson classifies these character qualities as “the fifteen factors” in her latest Christian Mama’s Guide to the First Years of School. Today I want to address one of these factors, a strong work ethic, which in and of itself will forge the development of many of the other factors such as resiliency, responsibility, focus, self motivation, to name a few. Erin knows firsthand the value of hard work; it defines who she is. Erin is my oldest daughter and she began life in full throttle from the day she was born.
Erin does nothing half way – or slowly.
She learned to run before she could walk by applying Newtonian mechanics – the laws of momentum – to this endeavor. She discovered that if she focused on speed, she could make it to the next piece of furniture before her lack of balance caused her to tumble. (Any scientist reading this is probably cringing right now!) In middle school she organized a project with the intention of providing coats to one needy family. Instead her project turned into a school wide event with truck loads of donations for numerous families. She finds satisfaction in producing, creating, in being industrious, and in helping others! She is the first to volunteer in the church nursery; the first to make a meal for a family in need; the first to organize an event; the first to say “let’s get this done!”
When Erin was a child, I found it exasperating, at times, to deal with her full-throttle approach to life. There’s a weak side to this strength: acting without thinking, stubborn determination to have her way, taking on too much, impatience leading to emotional outbursts. As she got older, I began to see the fruit of her full throttleness however. I have always desired to write a book. She, as a young mom, has already authored four, contributed to several others and in addition ghost writes for others. She reminds me that “later” usually becomes “never.” Erin prefers the pain of discipline over the pain of regret and while her goals are not easy to accomplish, they wind up being worth it in the end. Just this week she had the privilege of being interviewed by Dr. Dobson. (He happened to be our go to-parenting-expert in raising our three kids.) Her daughter, Kate, got to watch the interviews which will be aired later this spring on his radio program. Kate is learning first hand about work ethic by watching her mommy!
Erin’s success in writing has not come without hard work however.
Today she writes almost effortlessly, but I know first hand, the endless hours she invested into writing as a student. I know that she worked diligently to perfect her skills and as an adult found opportunities to adapt them to the internet world. She continues to grow her abilities as an online editor today. Knowing how difficult it is to get a book deal, she helps other writers find their way as well. Even with strong skills in place, writing books remains a very difficult endeavor, especially as a mother of three active young children. It’s her work ethic that pulls her through the challenging times.
In contrast, I see a generation of kids today who believe that they can obtain success in ease, accomplish great things with little effort; reach their dreams with minimal sweat equity of their own. They expect success and feel entitled to it, regardless of what they put into the process. Studies report that American students are obtaining higher and higher GPAs while putting in increasingly fewer hours of homework. A recent study found that most honors classes are honors in name only (a mere 18%) without the rigor necessary to gain mastery at a true honors level. The results of the most recent international testing reflects the work ethic of US students as a whole; our students no longer compare favorably with other top-tier nations.
When work ethic is devalued, so is the opportunity to grow character.
When success comes with ease, it is often accompanied with a weak disposition. When “greatness” is easily obtained, lost are the lessons that come by way of challenge. Mastering challenges leads to confidence, resiliency, and courage. Many young people prefer pretense however finding victory and “greatness” in the virtual world rather than the real world and/or cheating and plagiarizing to maintain an image of success. Short cuts rarely lead to true success however. “He who works his land will have abundant food, but the one who chases fantasies will have his fill of poverty.” Proverbs 28:19
To give partial effort is no part of God’s design. We get out of what we do as much as we are willing to put into it. Half-hearted effort establishes lazy habits, which bring on drudgery and eventually any desire to be industrious goes away. “Later” becomes “never” because doors close and opportunities pass by. “When opportunity knocks – it’s too late to prepare.” (Coach John Wooden)
Today, I am grateful for a daughter who has chosen the path of hard work, applying a full throttle to her endeavors and plans that God has in mind for her and her family.
Next week: what parents can do to instill a work ethic in their children!
Carpe diem! Rejoice while you are alive; enjoy the day; live life to the fullest; make the most of what you have. It is later than you think. Horace
We must dare to be great; and we must realize that greatness is the fruit of toil and sacrifice and high courage. Theodore Roosevelt
“Tears will get you sympathy, sweat will get you results.” Anonymous