Years ago, Erica Douglass posted a tweet at 11:11, asking what her followers were doing at that moment. 11:11 is a time that she noted, and used as a moment of mindfulness. I liked the idea enough that I set an alarm for 11:11, and started a journal to track what I, too, was doing during that minute. A while later, I started tracking 20:11, which changed to 20:12, 20:13 and 20:14 as the years progressed.
As 2014 ended, I finished my multi-year 11:11/20:14 tracking journal. I start a new one today. With that new journal, as with most new things, I have the excitement of the beginning: everything is fresh, the page is blank, I haven’t made any mistakes, hope is high, yes, this, THIS is going to be my year.
That’s how beginnings are for me: moments of perfection with imagined, grandiose plans that haven’t faltered, haven’t been marred by reality, haven’t hit the grind-it-out point where the only thing that can be done is to clench my teeth, put my head down and work through it.
Beginnings are wonderful, exciting, short-lived, euphoric, and dangerous. Dangerous, because it’s not the beginning that makes the goal worthwhile, it’s the middle where the work is done on the way to the end.
So, as excited as I am about this new journal, it’s the filled journal that shows me how far I’ve come.
I can look back through this completed 11:11 journal and see my life unfold. I see the months with 11:00 standup meetings. I see the weekend hikes. I see the birthday parties. I see the conferences I went to. I see joys I had. I see the heartaches I endured. I see the new friends I met. I see the old friends I visited and the walks we took. I see the growth I had.
This small act of noting 11:11 provides me a large history. It reminds me that the excitement of a beginning wears off, leaving habits and consistent effort to carry me to the end.
And consistency is the key in all of this.
Consistency is the small effort that happens every day, that only in looking back do we see the effort that created something big, something great, something meaningful.
Consistency is lacing up the skates and skating up and down the rink for hours after school for months, until skating backwards is as easy as forward and both are as automatic as breathing.
Consistency is making 100 throws a day to an empty field, throwing, gathering the frisbees, and throwing again, until the hucks are easy and the low release is mastered.
Consistency is doing one push-up a day, just one. It’s easy, and while you’re down there, might as well do another 59, your muscles are already warm.
Consistency is putting on your running shoes and walking outside. And, really, once you’re out there, might as well go for a run, too.
Consistency is writing one more functional test before committing the code change, not knowing if your future-self will ever need it.
Consistency is updating the internal documentation when you find it incomplete, knowing your future-self will need it.
Consistency is automating one more part of your workflow, so that the next person on the project won’t need to do that work by hand.
Consistency is solving the next Project Euler problem, in a new programming language, because only by using a language can you master it.
Consistency is opening your book file in the editor daily, and since it’s open, why not write 500 words.
Big goals are achieved with small, consistent steps. I can’t cheat my way to mastery. I can’t cram for fitness. I can’t cram for life. And would I want to? The beginning is exciting, but the middle is where life is. The middle is where I can make consistent movement, small though it may feel sometimes, toward the big goals that are worth the effort.
The middle is where I pull out the journal, and note, “Writing about consistency for The Pastry Box” at 11:11, while looking forward to a great new year.