consistency | kənˈsistənsē |January 22, 2019
|the achievement of a level of performance that does not vary greatly in quality over time.
I’m not a doctor. Though I reference some who are, I trust that you will remain responsible for your own actions, and that you will do your own research before diving into any of the practices shared. This is my story and these are the resources that work for me and my lifestyle. Please take everything with a grain of salt, but also don’t downplay the flavor one grain of salt can add to your life. Keep it simple - find health - remain satisfied.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” - Aristotle
When Paul and I first brainstormed the Pillars of Strength during our thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail, we labeled the third pillar “Efficiency”. It made sense at the time, walking long miles day after day demanded that we be efficient; but looking back, we became efficient by walking long miles day after day. Our efficiency was a product of experiencing the mountains, everyday, for one hundred and fifty days. Consistent hiking is what made us good at hiking - it’s what made us thru-hikers.
I almost labeled the third pillar Experience because knowing a subject and having the skillset to complete the task is what we’ve always been told is the purpose. It’s what we attempt to share in our resumes. The more experience we have, the better off we’ll tend to be. But then a question came to the forefront - How did I get experience? As far as I knew, I got experience from consistently delving into the material on a regular basis. It all came back to consistency. That was the foundation - Consistency was the third Pillar of Health.
If you’re thinking that consistency sounds a lot like another word for discipline, I would wholeheartedly agree with you. Both terms beget the other. In order to be consistent, you have to be disciplined; and in order to be truly disciplined, you have to be consistent. A well known retired Navy Seal Commander, Jocko Willink, has served as my motivation if lack of discipline begins to interfere with my consistency. His book Discipline Equals Freedom is like a catapult that tirelessly tosses me back onto the wagon - in the event I’ve fallen off.
Sitting down to write this blog post, I was confused at how few resources I had on consistency - it’s just what we do, right? I thought back to the two original ideas for the third Pillar of Health - efficiency and experience. They were a product of showing up day after day. The proof is in the pudding. Wow, I never thought I’d actually use those words in a blog post, but here we are.
A personal example of consistency in action can be seen when you look at my photography. A year ago, during my first winter on Mt. LeConte, I took many photographs. Some were good; some I would still consider favorites. Many were bad (you don’t get to see those). By the end of the season, my photography had drastically improved. This year, not only has the number of five star photographs I’ve created grown, but my ability to visualize an outcome and its settings has drastically improved. I’ve even created a nerdy system to achieve quick and accurate exposures while on the move, running down the trail. Where did I muster enough experience to create my own system for photography?! My answer would be consistency. By showing up each and everyday, I’ve accumulated enough experience, enough understanding, that I can comfortably look at the principles of photography in a different light, so to speak. By showing up everyday, I’ve learned more than any class or workshop could teach me, though those were important for learning the fundamentals. I’ve learned how to perform my photography in a way that’s unique to my needs - further educating me about the craft. All I had to do was show up, everyday.
I can extrapolate the above example to any area of my life. How did I run 100 miles? I trained consistently, period. You can’t sneak away with it at that type of distance. Either you did the work or you didn’t. The answer is consistent across the board. Haha, see what I did there?! But in all seriousness, consistency is such a simple concept that I think we often overlook it in our search for the “answer”. I’m just as guilty as everyone else. The moment I want to learn something new, I jump on Google to research the “best” way; and while there are techniques to improve our skillsets, nothing beats showing up everyday. Nothing beats consistency.
Don’t just take my word for it - watch this short video where Michael Phelps talks about his success. At just over two minutes in, Phelps mentions that he didn’t miss a single day of training for five years. Phelps is labeled as the greatest Olympian of all time. I can’t help but muse at the implications of visiting with the craft, everyday.
In closing, the last thing we have to do in order to get the most out of this Pillar of Health is to direct our energy in the right direction. Goals are a great way to help establish consistent routines; but before we can set goals, we need to narrow down what’s important and what deserves our attention on a consistent basis. For this I highly recommend Greg Mckeown’s book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (here is a short video from Greg)
The answer to what you should consistently focus on is up to you; though, I would nudge and recommend that the other Pillars of Health be on your list. In fact, that is the real reason I created the Pillars for myself. I needed a simple foundational system that I could reference daily to posture for success. By developing good form, real strength, disciplined consistency, and comprehensive nutrition - I can be well on my way…until next week.