One of the things I have the most trouble with is consistency. With feelings, routines, people. It’s something that I think would make my life easier, but also more predictable.
I often berate myself for being so erratic my routines. I strive to understand why I am obsessive about the cleanliness of my apartment one week and then will let my dishes sit in the sink for 3 days. Why I think about things to write every day but will wait 4 until I put them on paper. Why the most consistent thing I do is break my word to myself.
So what is it about consistency that’s so hard for me? Am I getting it mixed up with commitment? Am I being too hard on myself or am I not being disciplined enough? Is there a benefit to consistency or is the idea of it something that I find more alluring than the actual act of it? Does consistency coincide with routine?
There must be a reason that I’m so hung up on creating routines as much as there must be a reason I can’t stick to one.
A few weeks ago I was having a conversation with my mom about why it was so hard for her to stay on track with working out. She wants to be in shape, she’s hired a personal trainer and would diligently track her meals and work out 3 times a week. She was happier and healthier during these times but couldn’t pin-point when or why she fell off the wagon. Maybe a hangover left her debilitated and she missed a work out and it spun out from there. I had the same misgivings. I could stay on track longer, rarely went a week without at least one work out but also felt like this half-assed effort I was giving didn’t mean very much. I would motivated myself to work-out 3-5 times a week, drink enough water, go to bed at a decent time, use my agenda and then somewhere a few weeks in would just let it slip and then congratulate myself later when I got back on the bandwagon instead of working that little bit harder to just stay on it.
I get stuck in thinking that this is the best it will be. I won’t reach a higher zenith so instead of trying to aim for that I just keep letting myself re-experience the same “glory” of congratulating myself for my meagre attempts at creating routine and then being consistent in it. And it is glorified – consistency that is anyway. At least that’s what I tell myself as I’ve been navigating the relationship between consistency, routine, and discipline.
Routine is the things you do, consistency is when you keep doing them, discipline is the ability to make yourself do them. I started thinking about why it was hard to be so consistent in my routines and the answer is simple: It stops feeling good. It takes 21 days to make a habit out of something, and quite frankly I don’t want to do the same goddamn thing for 3 straight weeks; even if I do enjoy it, I don’t enjoy it every fucking day.
The most important thing is that I like the things I’m consistently doing. If I’m forcing myself to do something because I am under the impression that the more I do it the more I will like it all I end up doing is wasting time doing something that doesn’t make me happy and resenting that I didn’t do something that does. My consistency is something that is defined more by effort put forth than by what I am putting that effort towards. I may know I need to write an article but will instead start drafting a painting I’ve been imagining and spend 4 hours of my evening wrapped up in ink and forget that I was supposed to vacuum. But I feel more fulfilled.
It has taken me almost a month to finish writing this, and not for lack of wanting. But in consciously being aware of my “inconsistency” I’ve learned something valuable.
Being consistent isn’t doing the “right” things at the “right” intervals. It isn’t all about creating a routine and sticking to it. It’s about consistently trying to do what feels good. By not letting what I’ve predetermined what I want for myself to interrupt what I need to do for myself. For not letting guilt be the most consistent thing I feel.
Intuitively we all know what we need – that’s why we don’t feel good about doing something that seems important or necessary when we have that instinct to be doing something else. It is realizing that falling off the bandwagon isn’t a low point, and jumping back on won’t bring you any higher either.
Sure, there’s something to be said for discipline and being able to make yourself do the things you don’t want to or that you find difficult – making yourself go to work every morning, getting your laundry done when you have no clean undies left, pushing yourself to do those last 5 sit-ups. But there’s also something to be said about not letting your discipline dictate what intuition is trying to tell you, too. Like most things, it becomes a compromise.
Consistency isn’t always logical – it isn’t a linear line, it’s about our well-being not how well we are being.
Art by: ebriosity.tumblr.com