“If you don’t have a consistent goal in life, you can’t live it in a consistent way.”Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, book 11.21
Over the years I have learned that consistency is key to success. And you can apply this to any aspect of your life. Your social life, work, finances, sports, etc. But why is it important and how can we make sure that we are living consistently? That is something I wish to explore with you here.
To make a good start we need to understand what it means to live consistently. Let’s imagine a nice Sunday morning and we are walking through a beautiful forest. The birds are waking up, some rustling in the leaves around us, and the air is fresh. We set off with a relaxing pace, taking in all that nature has to offer. This hike takes us somewhere, leading us past new things and allowing us to explore the world. What it is showing us, is ourselves. Our being is reflected back to us by the world around us. If we are calm, everything seems calm. If we are anxious, then how can even these woods be anything else.
Discover your goal in life
What could disturb this peaceful walk? The weather could turn on us. We could get lost, fall and hurt ourselves. We could get hungry and thirsty or we could get tired. But we want to walk and enjoy ourselves and be calm. How is this possible when all these events could cross our path? And mind you, in the walk we call life, they will.
This is where living consistently can help us. It can show us the road, think of obstacles we can encounter, and prepares us for them. Use the experience from the past to strengthen us. Give us motivation to keep going, because we have a clear aim. And this is where we will start. To discover what we are aiming for in life.
I don’t want to Have to work
Setting a life goal is far from easy. You might have a vague idea or non at all, but it is worth reflecting on. Asking yourself what your aim in life is, might be too big of a question. Yet, for some, that is exactly what they need to ask themselves. This is your first step, figure out what questions to ask yourself. What do I like? When am I at peace? What are my priorities? What are my minimum requirements to live a happy life? These questions are examples, it is up to you to start exploring your mind. Try to come to the essence of who you are. The first principle of what makes you, you. Don’t look for answers, but try to find the right questions. Learn to Know Yourself.
“I don’t want much, I just don’t want to Have to work. I want my freedom of time and place to pursue my passions and live a peaceful life. In doing so I can help the people around me live better lives.”The Stoic Padawan
This is my aim. That first two statements came to me one day. Driving home, not happy with having to spend my entire day doing what other people ask of me. It was one of those moments where you don’t focus and the questions come to. To be honest, I don’t dislike working. But it needs to make sense to me and make me feel like I’m adding some value. That’s how the second part of my aim came from. I want to have freedom. To be free in how I spend my time and where I can spend it. And I take full responsibility to get that freedom.
Living consistently requires discipline
I understand it might not always be to the level I want, but I am going there and will find ways to optimize it. The last part of my aim is something that is rooted deep inside me. Helping other people gives me a good feeling about myself. I did however have to find the right balance between living my life and being there for others.
Once you have a general idea of where you want to go, what follows next will be easier. Living consistently requires discipline and this is helped by motivation. The aim will give us enough motivation to keep going and discipline will keep us on our path. However, if our aim is clear enough, we can allow ourselves to explore new paths if they come up. They might go parallel to the road we are heading on, but give us more in return. If we do so, it is important to keep examining whether we still have our goal in sight.
The world can surprise you
The deeper we go into the forest, the more we have to trust in our goal. For sometimes it is difficult to see the path ahead. At these times we have to believe in ourselves and focus on the moment. Let the aim give us a sense of direction, but forget the results. Forget about how much money you might make, the life you might be able to live, or what you might attribute to society. What is needed from you now requires your attention. Your actions are needed at this moment. Focusing on the outcomes will take your eyes away from the world around you.
And the world around you can surprise you with great opportunities, ones you might not even have thought about. That’s why we shouldn’t make our goal too specific but keep it open for you to use these new insights and still remain steadfast. By going in our direction we have at least one stable factor in our lives. This will help us see the patterns around us, which gives us room to anticipate and identify these new opportunities.
Consistency is key
The more consistent you live your life, the more habits you can create. These habits will keep you on the path and allow you to focus your attention on what nature asks of you. We all have our fixed ways, but whether they add or take away is important to understand. On our way through the forest, putting one foot in front of the other has become a habit that helps us to keep going. Trying every berry or mushroom we see in the bushes will slow us down or might even harm us. The same goes for what we do in our lives. Identify what is beneficial and make that into a habit, while avoiding the harmful ones you are doing now.
Consistency is key. It helps you compound your experiences, helps you grow exponentially, and gives you a solid base to fall back on in times of difficulty. Your social life will become stronger because people will know that they can rely on you and know your value. More importantly, you will have a better understanding of who you are and where you want to add meaning to your life.
Start asking questions
In Stoicism, we learn that nothing external is within your control. Once we understand what is important to us, leading a consistent life will ground us when the external world tries to shake us out of the woods. In those moments, we are prepared and our minds are strong. The realization dawns on us that we don’t need a lot to keep going. We have to keep putting one foot in front of the other, aimed in our direction. And the best thing is that you can set that first step to living consistently, right now. Start asking questions.
If you want to read some excellent suggestions on evening routines based on Stoicism, I highly recommend this post here.