It must be said that consistency is a natural precursor to success. Perhaps not to the brilliant savants whose precocious genius startles and amazes us. But for the rest of us, there seems no escape from the daily plodding and even-keel pace toward something we can call art.
I don’t, of course, mean “consistency” in the sense that we don’t change. Not at all. But simply that our successes are born more often from our habits than from our bursts of activity or insight.
We’re all familiar with some variant of a much-shared (and much-attributed) quote that runs something like this:
Your thoughts become your words.
Your words become your actions.
Your actions become your habits.
Your habits become your character.
Your character becomes your destiny.
We read this and know it is true, regardless of who first penned it. In fact, it’s natural that we imbue the quote with authority by claiming variously that it was first uttered by Margaret Thatcher, Ghandi, Emmerson, or Lao Tzu. The statement is true enough that any of them could have said it. And perhaps they all said something very much like it.
The simple fact is that most of us cannot succeed without methodically building a character of habits built on that foundation of consistent thoughts, words, and actions.
I am a naturally inconsistent person. I run hot and cold. I fall victim to bursts of passion that pull me away from my daily routines but also burn out before leading to any great accomplishment.
I’ve worked years and years to improve this. But I’m still nowhere close to where I want to be. And if there’s one focus I have for the next decade, its consistency.
This last week was me at my worst. I worked furiously through the week with several 16- and 18-hour days. I didn’t eat right. I didn’t sleep more than a few hours each night. I didn’t read. I didn’t exercise. I didn’t pray. I ignored important daily work processes. And then, from Friday to Saturday, I tried to catch up on all of that.
Friday I spent the day in our central office in Oakland. I compiled, sorted, verified, and audited a whole month’s worth of work. Something that would have taken 5-10 minutes per day took me an entire afternoon because I had let it pile up.
That’s kind of an exaggeration, but I did spend something like 12 hours asleep. Too much.
Feeling groggy, I went to the gym to snap out of it. And I stayed two hours doing everything I could get my body to do. Running. Weights. Cross-fit. Every muscle group. If there had been a cardio hip-hop class, I would have done that. I was trying to do a week’s worth of exercise all in one shot. And it was stupid.
Tonight I’m thinking about the week ahead. It will be busy. It will be demanding. I will surely have long days.
But I’m committed to improving. I’m going to do the things I know bring me joy: sleep enough, wake up early, eat healthy, exercise, play with my kids, read for fun, do some writing, walk my dog, and hit my daily processes at work.
All of that stuff. Every day. Like my success depends on it. Because it does!