English: Traditional Devil's Food Birthday Cake

English: Traditional Devil’s Food Birthday Cake (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If perfection is not the goal because for one thing it is unrealistic, then what is?  I’m not a quitter.  I am incredibly tenacious and persistent.  Eventually starting again and again on the goals I had for a while but they got crowded out by choice and by higher priority.  Still, I’ve wondered how to also make room for and “keep in line” lesser priorities I still want in my life.  Quitting and restarting is not giving up, but, that still doesn’t get me the results I want because for so many pursuits consistency really works best.

For example, my garden keeps wilting or dying (but I keep replanting it!)  I have started to learn to play the piano at least 5 or more times (I’m really, really good at the primer level), etc.  Yes, certainly, for some pursuits consistency is just plain more effective than spurts.

Today I was studying for my personal trainer exam and the instructor said, “remember the 80/20 rule.  Consistency is not perfection”  In this case she was referring to our choices for nutritious eating.  I have applied this already to gauging my eating choices.  In other words, if you eat nutritious foods 80 percent of the time or more, that IS CONSISTENT enough.

Obviously this is in general and may not apply to us specifically.  I figured that that meant that eating a special dessert, celebrating a birthday party with traditional cake and ice cream, etc. are great, but probably not much more than two times per month.  Sometimes that can be really difficult because at work someone is always having a birthday, then at church, more birthdays.  The more people you know the more Christmas parties and celebration temptations.  But, empty calories are not out of the question.  They are just not what you USUALLY eat.  80% of the time is measurable.

But today, it struck me quite differently.  There are times when striving for excellence is detrimental.  For instance, if I guarded everything I said or wrote and only published on the web what I thought was truly exceptional and up to my standard, I wouldn’t share much.  In fact, I might not be able to write at all.  All action requires some risk.  Trying to edit as you write is a quick recipe for writer’s block.  That must be true for all action.

Of course I know it is okay to make mistakes.  Goodness, I even bought a book about all the advantages to a good mistake.  They are the learning experiences we never forget (hopefully) but if not, don’t worry, we’ll get to try to learn it again, later.

But, what if I gauged my other pursuits that way?  For instance, if I get up on time most of the time (80% or more).  Then, that IS consistent.  I could say I usually get up on time.  However, if it is causing a major life stress to me, my family, or my job, then maybe it isn’t consistent enough.  But, let’s say it doesn’t stress anyone.  Then, that can be good enough.

This is a reasonable marker because it gives 20% left for exceptional and excellent.  Really the difference between good enough and exceptional is just in the finer details or the greater consistency.  Excellence is not accepting good enough and pressing harder for exceptional.

But, we can’t grow all directions at once and sustain it.  Believe me, I’ve tried.  A focused improvement in one or a few areas is much more doable and sustainable.  So, where is the line?

I guess it is where it is consistent ENOUGH to get the results you need.  Excellence is getting or surpassing the results you want.

It really helps to have a more realistic and measurable definition of consistent.

There are really only a few areas I need to be more consistent in.  And, I see now more clearly, it may not be as far of a journey to consistent as I thought.

© 2013 DarEll S. Hoskisson (dsh)