The phrase “Consistency Over Perfection” is now my mantra.
This post outlines how I went from discouraged about my fitness progress to pushing through and making real progress in many areas of my life.
Last year, in December, I maxed out at a weight of 198 lbs. This is the most that I’ve ever weighed. Ever.
The problem is that I only looked at setting goals to get back in shape. I know what I have to do and I know that I gained a bunch of weight back. Frankly, this felt overwhelming. Year after year, it felt like I was reporting on what I didn’t accomplish the year before and what I wanted to do going forward to “do better.”
Then I just let it sit for a bit. At first was a bit discouraged as this was my ninth year of “trying to get fit.”
What are values anyway?
In The Confidence Gap, Russ Harris defines values as
Values are “desired qualities of ongoing action.” In other words, your values describe how you want to behave as a human being: how you want to act on an ongoing basis, what you want to stand for in life, the principles you want to live by, the personal qualities and character strengths you want to cultivate.
Values can’t be completed. And as he puts it, “Goals are ‘desired outcomes.’
What changed my perspective was knowing that you can live by your values even if you don’t hit your goals 100% of the time. We aren’t looking for perfection. Consistency is what we strive for.
No matter what your circumstances, living by your values brings fulfillment. That builds momentum, which in turn will fuel achieving your measurable goals. Without defined values, goals are just a to-do list with zero motivation.
My overall fitness value is well-being, which I define as:
To look after one’s own well being, maintain or improve fitness, and mental health.
Instead of focusing on the pounds that I was losing, I decided to focus on my well being. I’m doing this to feel better, live longer, and be able to support those that are in my life for years to come.
When my mood is low and motivation is lacking, I use my fitness value as my North Star. It’s what fuels consistency.
I started out with a small change, eating Paleo / Keto consistently for 21 days, then a month, and week after week since then.
How am I doing so far? In the last 72 days, I’ve lost 28 lbs.
Once I realigned and focused on my fitness value, I was able to push through and make progress that I haven’t experienced in a long time. The awesome thing is that by setting new habits for myself, it’s affecting other areas of my life for the better. Clear values plus tiny wins have kept the momentum going.
I’m excited to keep pushing, creating my Art, and being consistent. It’s something to strive for, and now my values explain why.
Ever feel like your life is on autopilot? Feel stuck, creative block, or like everyone else is passing you by?
Perhaps it’s the habits in your life. Those small efforts over time add up. Good or bad. Let’s dive into how they are formed.
The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg, describes building habits as a three-step process:
First, there is a cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use. Then there is the routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional. Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering for the future…
Duhigg calls this The Habit Loop. Over time, he says, this loop becomes more and more automatic.
Habits are our brain’s way of being more efficient.
As with everything, it’s a balancing act. Our brains have the tendency to put our routine on autopilot. By ignoring the routine or having a blind spot to it, we may not see bad habits holding us back.
It’s the perfect case for practicing mindfulness.
But what is mindfulness? In The Confidence Gap, Russ Harris defines it as:
Mindfulness is a mental state of awareness, openness, and focus. When we are mindful, we are able to engage fully in what we are doing, let go of unhelpful thoughts, and act effectively without being pushed around by our emotions.
By practicing mindfulness and self-awareness, we can pinpoint areas of our lives that we would like to improve. Including changing our habits. Those automatic, mindless tasks that we do. It’s just how we are wired. But by changing the routine, we can change the habit. The cue or trigger that sets off the habit may stay the same. But if we change the routine, we can change the habit.
For example, the cue is boredom, the routine is mindless eating, and the reward is a sense of accomplishment or satisfaction from eating / not being bored. To change the habit, notice the cue of boredom, change the routine to listen to an audiobook, and the reward may still be a sense of accomplishment. To notice the cue, it takes being mindful.
A great way to identify the cue is to journal. Keep a small notebook with you at all times. When you sense being bored, write it down. If you catch yourself mindlessly eating, write it down. If spending is an issue, write down every dollar you spend. Over time, you will notice patterns emerging.
Those routines can create good or bad habits over time. Be mindful to which you are creating.
There are times where I get so focused on the day-to-day mundane tasks that I think to myself, “man my life is boring.” Other times, when things are slow, we can tend to lean towards the same thought of, “I never do anything”. When it’s super busy, our brains will often tell us, “You used to do a ton of fun activities, now there isn’t time for anything.” Etc.
In 2012 I started keeping a notebook; aptly titled “2012 Experiences”. Each month is labeled in bold type with a brief bulleted list of what new experiences I’ve had each month. A recent example:
- Went to the theater after work and saw the movie, Black Panther. 2/15
- Got a new haircut in a different style. 2/16
- Woke up with news that my cousin had a baby boy last night! 2/20
- UX Happy Hour with co-workers. Met new people as well as old friends. 2/21
- Glad that Rachel mentioned OverDrive today. Was able to send library ebooks to my Kindle. 2/27
For those slow moments when the lizard brain just won’t let up, I look back on the previous months and think to myself, “Wow! my life is one adventure after the other.” This pushes me to reflect on the good that has happened recently and look forward to new experiences.
Life is about choices. The routine parts of life can be a bit boring but consistency always wins over time. Making a list creates a feeling of gratitude, points your mind in the right direction, and keeps your outlook positive. It’s been 6 years now since I first started journaling this way. It really made all the difference in the world.
Enjoy the adventures; one at a time. Savor life.
I remember the first time I ever went to MoMa to explore with the intent of leaving inspired. Upon stepping foot into the first exhibit, a flood of emotion hit me. It was everything I could do to not break down and cry.
What could have caused such an unexpected rush?
Searching myself as I wandered down the halls, I came to the realization that I finally felt validated. Those times where I felt misunderstood and isolated in my art were an expected reaction to creating something different. The impact on me of the work of others that embrace the beat of a different drummer was profound, in a very tangible form.
In fact, our whole lives, from school and beyond, are spent being taught to conform. fit in, and all will be well.
Ralph Waldo Emerson in Self-Reliance writes:
“Is it so bad, then, to be misunderstood? Pythagoras was misunderstood, and Socrates, and Jesus, and Luther, and Copernicus, and Galileo, and Newton, and every pure and wise spirit that ever took flesh. To be great is to be misunderstood.”
Those that make an impact disrupt the status quo.
Be misunderstood. Be Weird. Society needs you.
Too many choices can be paralyzing. This really stood out to me in a piece about President Obama by Vanity Fair. They touch on the concept by stating:
“One of my most important tasks,” he’d said, “is making sure I stay open to people, and the meaning of what I’m doing, but not to get so overwhelmed by it that it’s paralyzing. Option one is to go through the motions. That I think is a disaster for a president…”
By making sure the small decisions are taken care of, he can focus on the bigger decisions. It reminds me of the story of Buridan’s donkey:
Buridan’s donkey is standing halfway between a pile of hay and a bucket of water. It keeps looking left and right, trying to decide between hay and water. Unable to decide, it eventually falls over and dies of hunger and thirst.
When one’s willpower gets depleted of the ability to make a quality choice, then we tend to make no choice at all or default to the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, that can result in bad quality choices over the long term. We get paralyzed and simply do nothing.
Make a choice. Adjust your course. Choose again.
Just don’t stop.