When I talk to my patients about meditation or mindfulness, the refrain I repeat as though quoted from some holy book is that consistency is key. It’s important to know that what I DON’T mean by this is that we should set aside an hour each earthly day to see benefits. In fact, I tell my patients I don’t actually want them sitting for any longer than 5, 10 minutes, max! Because in order to keep consistent, to do something near daily, it has to be so absolutely doable. It has to be SO manageable that you’ll actually keep showing up.
We’ve all heard that Repetition is the mother of learning (Zig Ziglar). Of course it’s true that in order to form new brain pathways – especially away from those hard set after years and years of paving – we need repetition. Whether it’s a physical, cognitive, or emotional skill, in the over-and-over of it, new understandings or ways of doing become ingrained.
But when I speak of consistency, I mean something slightly more than repetition.
Recently I’ve been involved in re-integrating some tasks into my life that I once felt I didn’t have time for. When I tried to find space in my schedule, adding an hour or even 30 minutes daily seemed (and pretty well would have been!) a Herculean feat. I thought about adding these items in for 5 or 10 minutes on a more consistent basis, but was quickly discouraged by a thought I’ve had on too many occasions. One that has discouraged many a fine habit. It’s a thought that you, too, may have had when considering such things:
It’s a drop in the bucket. How will I ever reach that goal if I put in so little time?
While in the woods this morning (Nature always bringing truth), at long last the camera zoomed out. It was a vast ocean. Created drop by drop.
It really is the tiny, seemingly inconsequential things that make up the whole of who we are. You want to be a genuinely kind person? It’s much more than one elaborate gesture a year. People know us by all the little things we do or say, collectively. And it’s the same for forming a new way of thinking or of being in the world. Small steps, again and again, this way and that way.
When I speak of consistency, I mean coming to something repeatedly, yes, yet with intention and awareness.
Some skills are indeed built by sheer mindless performance. A new study actually found that distracted runners actually outperformed those focused on running, not only in subjective feelings about the run but also in their objective biometrics. Wild.
What I am arguing here, is that when we’re in the realm of true self development, of creating new ways of being, an otherwise tiny effort yields exponential dividends when we add conscious intention and attention. It’s only five minutes, but you make it matter.
And, hey, five minutes x however many days a week you show up for it is a heck of a lot more progress than never beginning in the first place.
Show up. Be consistent. Start filling your ocean.