Thursday, November 06, 2014

Habit #3 of Holy Catholic Families

A few years ago a wonderful priest and friend of the family gave our boys a very expensive and complicated Lego set.  It wasn't your typical fire station or airplane.  This was a large Lamborghini Gallardo Police Car.  We don't have those where I am from, maybe you do.  The boys were so excited.  They'd never seen anything like it before in their short lives, neither had I.  As soon as Father had drove to the end of our drive, they were upstairs in a flash preparing for the work at hand.

We had not yet started teaching them the 7 Habits but they knew a few by intuition.  They were very proactive as evidenced by the race to their room to begin.  They were beginning with the end in mind by propping the box up on a table so they could continually glance at it to see if they were reaching their goal.

However, they did not know about the 3rd habit - Put First Things First.  So, it wasn't long until they came to me, nearly in tears, because they couldn't find a particularly important piece.  I soothed them and calmed them and gently walked them back to their room, something I'd been dying to do before Father got to the end of the drive.  In their room I found a pile of little empty bags with numbers on them sitting beside a pile of various Lego pieces.  For those of you who are uninitiated in the ways of Lego, let me explain.  Lego "kits" are packaged with instructions that are broken down into what we could call chapters.  Each chapter has a corresponding bag of pieces.  Simply put, you grab bag #1, use all the pieces in bag #1 according to instructions and then open bag #2 and so on.  My children had opened every bag and mixed all 800+ pieces.  What should have been a fun adventure in building, turned into a torturous 3D jigsaw puzzle that was never finished.


Habit #3 - Put First Things First

With Habit #2 - Begin with the End in Mind, we set goals and made plans.  We learned that there are steps that we must take in order to achieve the goals we've set and the end we have in mind.  With Habit #3 we see that having a goal and making plans are not enough.  In order to achieve those goals, we have to prioritize.  There is an order of importance.  In the case of the Lego car, the frame needed to be built long before the stickers were applied.  The wheels needed to be attached before it could go careening down the hallway.

Prioritization means not only that we are putting things in order, but that we are saying "yes" to some things and "no" to others.  When we are teaching the habits to our kids we are not only focusing in on helping them to achieve but also to consider what is important and what is not.  Anyone who says, "I don't have time for X" is really saying "X is not a priority for me."  It's our hope that as we teach these habits, we are teaching the kids to fill that X with the right things.

To help our children get into this habit we've been encouraging them to take a moment and write down all that they want to do during that particular day.  After they've brainstormed about their day, we help them prioritize the items based on their goals.  In this image you can see that we just took a day in general, brainstormed, and prioritized.  This could be a good habit to practice daily or even weekly.

Memory Device - PWP

Using the memory device PWP is a simple reminder to our kids and ourselves to stop and prioritize.  PWP mean Pray, Work, Play.  Whenever, we or they are getting off track from their day or goals someone shouts out PWP or writes it on the board.  It's a great reminder that we first have to keep God in mind in all that we do.  He comes first.  It's also a great reminder that work must come next and play after that.

As I've mentioned before, we aren't perfect at this practice and we are continually growing in the 7 Habits.  However, I think the boys are starting to see the value of the PWP mentality.  No one wants to stop playing dodgeball, a great opportunity to pound your brother, to sweep the floor, clean the bathroom, or do another chore.  They are getting better and better at PWP.

Faith Connection - Jesus Prioritized

As I am writing this post we are nearing the end of Ordinary time and the readings certainly reflect that attitude of putting First Things First in preparation for the coming of the Lord both on the Feast of Christ the King and Christmas.  Over and over in the Gospel Jesus spells out priorities.  He heals on the Sabbath to show that charity is a priority.  He talks about rescuing lost sheep to show that salvation of sinners is a priority.  Jesus tells parables about those who refused to come to a banquet to show that the Kingdom of God should be a priority.  PWP - Pray as though it all depends on God. Work as though it all depends on you, and Play as though the Father is filled with great joy at your joy!

Sacrament Connection - The Anointing of the Sick

To many, it may seem a mismatch choosing this sacrament as an illustration of this third habit.  A quote from the catechism will shed light on this choice.

Illness can lead to anguish, self-absorption, sometimes even despair and revolt against God. It can also make a person more mature, helping him discern in his life what is not essential so that he can turn toward that which is. Very often illness provokes a search for God and a return to him. CCC - 1501  (Underline emphasis mine)

Often, when things are going well for us, we do lose sight of what is important.  Our fallen human nature begins to love the creations and forget the Creator.  Meditating on the Anointing of the Sick helps us to put our life in order.  It helps us re-focus on what our priority should be - Heaven.

Virtue / Vice Connection - Humility / Pride

"True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less." - C.S. Lews
Humility is the perfect virtue for the habit of Putting First things First because it is the virtue that places God above all things.  It helps us recognize that everything we have and everything we are is but a loan from God.  This virtue helps us to prioritize by putting God first, others second, and ourselves last.  The opposite vice, pride, would readily reverse that order.

5 Practical Steps


  1. Discuss what things are important to your family (dinner, quality time, sports, worshiping together, one-on-one time, board games)
  2. Discuss how those things can be planned into your day/week/month as a priority.
  3. Commit to make special family days a priority.
  4. Review Habits #1 & #2 and discuss how Habit #3 is the culmination and combination of the first two.
  5. Find Habits 1-3 in the readings for Sunday and discuss over donuts, fruit, or while building Lego!
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