Those Leaves

We need 4 hugs a day for survival.
We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance.
We need 12 hugs a day for growth. ~Virginia Satir

It was hard work — I mowed the yard, blew all of the leaves covering the driveway into a pile, and took them away. That driveway was so clean and bare, and I was so proud. “Pride cometh before the fall,” I’ve heard, and it was true in this case. Within a matter of moments, the wind blew a new batch of leaves onto the driveway, and you really would never have known what a good job I had done. Following Satir’s words, we must choose if we simply want to survive, maintain, or grow. Not raking or blowing the leaves might seem like survival, though the mess is unsightly after a bit. Maintaining the clean driveway would mean blowing the leaves again and again. Growth? Maybe an invention to magically remove the leaves as they fall.

Why can’t things be ‘one and done’?

Why does getting from here to there require me to continue pressing forward?

Why isn’t learning it once good enough?

When I was a young girl, my mother gave me the job of dusting — every Friday. Why in the world do I need to do it every week? I wondered. By the next week, though, there was dust on the furniture again. I finally figured out that was why I had to do the job every week, like so many other chores in my life. Maybe it’s happened in your life — you work hard to change your eating habits, to build muscles, to learn a new skill — then you move on to the next task. When you move on, junk food returns, the muscles disappear, and you might get a little rusty on that skill. To maintain what you’ve learned, you’re going to need more than 8 hugs a day. You need to be consistent.

In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear asks us to think of the type of person who would be able to do things like learn a new language, run a successful startup company, lose 40 pounds, or write a book. His answer? A consistent person. Knowing that, we can go from focusing on the thing we want to do to the type of person we want to be (consistent). Becoming this type of person will mean we can accomplish many things.

Most of us want to be more consistent, I want to be consistent.

How do we do it?

How do we make a successful shift?

Reaching out to friends (who seem to have mastered the focus I sometimes lack) for suggestions on habits and success with being consistent, I’ve decided that some of us will just have to work harder. I’m easily distracted — definitely fitting in the latter category. Research agrees, based on several reports offered in Science Direct, with terms I didn’t quite understand, that people who are easily distracted tend to be more creative (there I am!). That’s not a pass, though. We just need to work harder.

Willpower? Are you thinking that you just need more willpower to be consistent? No, that’s not it. Studies show it isn’t our lack of willpower that keeps us from succeeding in developing our new consistent habits. You can stop beating yourself up about that.

What is it then? Why do some people accomplish and achieve so much, while others come to the end of the day or year unsure of whether they’ve accomplished much of anything?

Begin by putting things in place that will help you become the type of person you want to be (the one you’ve envisioned), and that person is the kind of person who can do _______.  Create your own system that includes a routine (forcing yourself to do it whether you want to or not), a list of things you want to accomplish, a friend or family member to help keep you accountable, and good old fashioned perseverance.

Just do it. There is no easy, magical way to be who you want to be if you aren’t willing to push yourself to do the things that person would do. These are things you want to do, not things someone is forcing upon you. There is no way outside of being consistent.

I wanted to be a writer, and I love to write, but it wasn’t until I had a regular deadline that I became consistent in my writing. Maybe you want to be a great musician, golfer, tennis player, actor, or coding specialist. Taking lessons is great, but if you don’t practice outside of class or if you quit practicing once the lessons are over, you’ll not be very accomplished for long. There are things you do every day because you’ve always done them every day (like brushing your teeth). This is no different with developing your consistency. You just do it.

  • Sign up for a class to keep yourself educated in your area of expertise and all that is changing in the industry.
  • Pull weeds every morning or evening for 10 minutes.
  • Put away clean dishes each morning, run the dishwasher at night
  • Floss your teeth before you brush each day.
  • Write notes to people each Thursday.

You get the idea. Think of things you can be doing that will help you be the person, the employee, the spouse, the friend, the parent, the homeowner, the child that you want to be. No one else gets a say in deciding who you are, so take time to picture yourself as the person you want to be and begin to develop yourself into that person, instead of picking goals to achieve and leave behind. Don’t give up on it, and don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day of doing what you need to do. Do more than survive, take all of the hugs — you’ll need them.

 

 

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