We all want to succeed, craving some version of life that we have imagined for ourselves. What is your philosophy for arriving at this imagined destination? Do you reach out and take what you want? Do you slowly cultivate this life from within? Do you wait for inspiration or act quickly and ask questions later? Are you satisfied? Should you wait for things to line up or make it happen by yourself? Should you be rushing alone or acting as part of a team?
These questions are nothing new to those who desire a life filled with meaning and purpose (which I suspect is all of us). Some find purpose in simple tasks and others in grand design; yet, whatever kind of life we are hoping to create, something often missing from our collective strategy is consistency. As we get closer to the SATTVA cleanse in May, I attended the info session on what to expect. As we worked through a series of asanas meant to clear and activate the mind and body, our instructor spoke the word "consistency" into the room and I felt a familiar stab in my heart—the signal that something is hitting close to home. To commit to anything with success, we first require commitment to consistency. In all spheres of life, we are subservient to the daily repeating of hours, days, weeks, months, years, seasons—repeating ages of joy and loss. Habit is built into our very solar system as our earth beats the same track around the sun and, while change is inevitable and everywhere, there is also an eternal repeating of things that works its way into our lives. We are habitual, for better or worse.
While many of our habits are beautiful, our society carries some negative ones that bar us from consistency. First, we allow technology to interrupt the flow of our lives and pull us aside from the necessary work that needs to be done in our day: emotional work, work on our passions, work with our bodies. Additionally, we tend to focus on quantity over quality with how we use our time, giving a little time to too many things rather than spending quality time pursuing few select interests. We have learned that our happiness is the primary goal and struggle to work at things that do not provide satisfaction quickly; and so, naturally, we get bored. Maybe this is the fault of media, which taught us to crave sensory stimulation over and over, or maybe we had parents whose vocabulary didn’t include the words “structure” or “bed-time”. Regardless of the why, we are left responding to the challenge of living in a vacuum of discipline.
For myself, this looks like being distracted by too many goals. I find my life so full of interests and passions that I am not left with enough time to commit consistently to anything. I would love to be an excellent yogi, runner, rock-climber, foodie, blogger, artist, spouse, friend, faith-seeker, and plant-mother, who works a meaningful part time job to support it all. I want to get a beagle who I name Charlie and I think it would be really cool to do triathlons. Needless to say, I can’t do it all. This is the part where we could go on a tangent about priorities but I'll give you some credit and assume you know what those are and have the wherewithal to select the most healthy and necessary goals for yourself that build on your strengths (adulting level-up); however, once you have chosen these priorities, consistency becomes the real battleground for long-term growth.
Relationships are a great example of this; if you love someone, you tend to make time for them. Continuously maintain time (and effort) and your relationships tend to grow but stop putting in time and we all know what happens. While we understand this principle in human relationships, we rarely think about it when we are building a picture of the life we want, creating a habit of high expectations before the habit of consistency. To me, consistency means many things. It means the ability to be resilient, even when you fail, and step back up to the task at hand. It means loving yourself enough to provide time for your passions. It means that even though life comes with to-do lists, technological distractions, and people unexpectedly showing up at your door, you stick to your priorities as best you can and sometimes, for the sake of consistency, we also learn to give things up. Naming things to give up is surprisingly easy: checking our phone 50 times a day, obsessing over Instagram feeds, Netflix until 2 AM, and the food that distracts us from making healthy choices, to name a few. Consistency looks like little sacrifices and little gains over a long period of time. Personally, it looks like getting up at the same time every morning so that I can start my day with some reading and calm before the rush, laying out my clothes the night before, and doing little things to set myself up for success.
Consistency does not mean that you act perfectly every single day; it means that you continuously try, respecting that change takes time and effort, while being willing to let go of things that were never really necessary. For the next month, I will be taking on the SATTVA cleanse to improve my relationship with food and build some better habits within my current fiasco of a meal-prep system. I'm excited and a little nervous for the challenge but, mostly, I'm trying to view it as an opportunity to work on stability in my life. Instead of viewing this as one month of restrictions followed by a return to old habits, I'm choosing a small step in my growing process, a way to give my body a rest from digesting inflammatory and processed food, and an opportunity for some self-reflection.
I believe that we are all capable of consistency. For some, it’s a personality trait that gets lofty titles like “steadfast” and “even-keeled”, but for most of us it will take a little work and a lot of time. My point is, that it’s possible and, more importantly, necessary in the achievement of our goals. The thesis is simply this: if you are chasing dreams, seek consistency; if you are seeking consistency, choose to do less and you will have time to do it better. If there is no room for a single thing to be removed from your life and your daily struggle is more to minimize the whirlwind of stress that you find yourself in, do your best to get through this patch with as much self-care as possible; however, if it's not just a patch but your entire life, I hope you will take the time to take a step back and see if the your expectations need to change, if there are people who could share your load, and if what you're chasing are really worth it.