The Most Unsexy, Under-Rated Secret of Success – in Anything
You’re struggling; you’ve lost your mojo. COVID-19 has nipped in and stolen your dreams. All those bold plans – or even any plans – you had for the future have been put on ice. Maybe you’ve lost your job? Or your options for getting one have been stymied? Maybe you hate the job you have, but you’re now too scared to jack it in because the job market’s in turmoil? Maybe you can’t move to a new city as you’d hoped to do? Or that side hustle you thought was your ticket to freedom now looks and feels like a massive waste of time? You’re trying hard, but it’s getting to you. You’re waking up each day in a fog, unmotivated for a future that’s had all the colour sucked out of it. What to do?
The Most Unsexy, Under-Rated Secret of Success
First, take your feelings seriously. Seriously. This is a delicate time for our mental health. Because when people can’t see a future, they lose hope. And a lack of hope leads to despair. The best way to protect ourselves from that is to deploy the most unsexy, under-rated secret of success: consistency.
I know, you’re rolling your eyes. “Consistency” as a concept lacks verve; even the word is boring. (And no-one rates consistency in a partner until they’ve been messed up by an inconsistent one!) But the truth is consistency rules – in your job, your art, your relationships, your friendships, your health habits, your knowledge, your interests. And the danger in a volatile world is that we’re destabilised, that we lose our good habits, that we lose faith in what we know is good and true. So here are the keys to consistency.
1. Just aim to ‘get good’.
“Relying on craft and routine is a lot less sexy than being an artistic genius. But it is an excellent strategy for not going insane.”
If you’re aiming to be something or someone in this environment, you’re in trouble because outcomes are even harder to predict than they used to be. You don’t have to drop your expectations: just aim to get really good at whatever you do. If you’re a writer, write. If you make art, make it. If you tinker with motorbikes, tinker. If you’re lifting weights, lift more or bigger. If you’re learning something, learn it well. Keep going and you’ll get good.
2. Show up even when you don’t want to.
“The willingness to show up changes us, it makes us a little braver each time.”
Put your bum in your chair or your feet in your garage regularly – daily if possible. Don’t just turn up every now and then, or when the mood strikes. You won’t get really good by doing that. Nor will you get the satisfaction that comes with consistent effort.
3. Tuck your feelings on a high shelf.
“Just being there is ninety-nine percent of what matters when your world falls apart.”
Our moods and feelings are valid, especially now, but we can’t afford to let them govern everything, especially when we’re struggling with motivation. So don’t ask yourself how you’re feeling before taking action. Just schedule it and follow through.
4. Keep going when it’s hard and bad.
“Some days you just have to get rid of as best as you can.”
You’ll have bad days. But you had bad days before coronavirus, remember? Anyone who’s successful in any field will say you always have to get past bad to get to good. And one of the great lessons of life is that you don’t have to be feeling amazing to do great work. Stay in the game.
5. Don’t look over your shoulder.
“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
Beware of comparison – it’ll put you in a deep, dark hole. And the sad thing is it’ll be one you dug yourself. Other people are getting on with their stuff. So just get on with yours.
6. You can always move the ladder.
“If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”
You’re allowed to change course: if you eventually find you want to do something else, you can. Nothing is wasted (a truth we don’t fully believe until we’re old enough to look back on our lives). Time spent improving yourself and mastering your skills is always time well spent. And if you’ve shown commitment and perseverance to anything, you’ll have a magic bullet no-one can ever take from you: proof that you can.