When You’re Middle-Aged and Struggle with Consistency

There are some things I just assumed would come with age: wisdom, a clear sense of self, the penchant for choosing shoes with velcro closures, understanding how to cook steaks to the right internal temperature. Those things felt “adult” to me and I just assumed that after the age of 40 ticked by on my own personal calendar, I would naturally, instinctually, acquire those skills. Imagine my surprise at now, being well over the threshold of 40, and appearing to either have not acquired these skills or to be somehow regressing in them, particularly in consistency. What an utter disaster right now.

I am not one to pine for the silver-tongued salad days* of my high school youth–I literally never do that. But, in retrospect, I do look back to that time period and wonder how I spun up the amount of rigor and discipline I had and the consistency to accomplish those two things. I remember homework notebooks looking like what I imagine military strategic plans of life would be with color coding, checkboxes, and rating systems. I think I might have even calculated my GPA hourly. Okay, I do see now that that’s maybe a little obsessive. But frankly 1) it worked and 2) it did exist as a mode of life for me. So how do I get to this moment in my life now at which point I’m tracking the most basic things–like walking–and can’t maintain a commitment for more than 2 days. It’s infuriating.

Where There’s a Will…

What I’m realizing is that consistency is a product of will. If I believe in what I’m doing 100%, being consistent is a natural byproduct. I’ve built up enough gumption to show up and execute every day because I believe in the mission or the end of the work. In the meantime, I also know that if I consider something unimportant, unnecessary, or dumb, then I’m not likely to follow through. I run into this with work every. damn. day.

So I suppose I should get curious about a couple things:

  1. Why do I have such a hard time with consistency on some of the lifestyle changes I’m trying to make that are objectively good for me? Per my previous logic, are they not important or meaningful to me or is there something else blocking my way?
  2. What DO I consider important, meaningful, and worth showing up for every day?

Curiosity Killed the Kat(ie)

While I plan to get to the bottom of some of those questions for real, I think I have a theory as to what’s happening and it’s more complex than just deciding a task is important and checking it off the list. When I think about those high school days, I was driven by a particular goal that appeared then singularly important and, thus, I was able to rise to the challenge. I’ve never struggled in that regard. But the challenge wasn’t life. It was bound by time and a particular, specific end. I could map the entire thing out. And I didn’t know better. What I didn’t know was that it wasn’t a holistic challenge but a very niche challenge in the grand scheme of things.

The reality is, I’m having a kind of existential struggle right now: I don’t like my job or “career,” I’m feeling boxed in by expectations others have for me and that I’ve internalized; I now have expectations for myself that I never wanted nor intended (unpack that in your spare time…). And so, I wonder if I’m trying to steer the ship from the back by starting off with lifestyle habits that don’t address those bigger identity issues. Can I be a healthier or even happier me if I’m not terribly sure of who I am? Can I become clearer on who I am by walking 10,000 steps everyday and drinking enough water? I think that’s the disconnect: I have larger questions unresolved, so these more tactical strategies seem stupid and ergo consistency is an issue.

Starting Somewhere

All that said, I think the answer to my questions above is ultimately a soft yes. I have to start moving in some area of my life. I don’t think I can wait for me to figure out my bigger problems of purpose and fulfillment before I tune up the physical self. In fact, I can imagine no end game that doesn’t include me being in better physical and lifestyle shape. So moving more, hydrating, lifting some weights, seeking balance will all serve whatever larger end I eventually discover for myself. If I can remember that these things I’m tracking daily are a piece of the larger puzzle, that maybe they are part of the path to getting answers to some of these larger questions, then they become much more manitfestly important, worthwhile, and worth showing up for every day.

I’m not sure I’ve cured my consistency problem…but I’ve definitely found the rationale to keep them in the forefront of my mind and sticking to them for now. Consistency is boring but It’s probably the right strategy to a bigger end.

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