Consistency = Success = Happiness?

This past week I noticed that the gym was noticeably emptier.  In fact, it’s been getting less and less crowded every week for the past month or so.  This is perfectly normal, because it’s March, and March is just about when everyone who made a New Year’s Resolution to get in shape is starting to give up.  Especially the people who go early in the morning like I do.  They slip back into their bad old habits and find ways to justify doing other things with their time (or more likely, sleeping an extra hour…which isn’t bad, but you could just go to bed an hour earlier to get the same effect while still hitting the gym).

In a way I like the extra space at the gym (nothing worse than a crowded gym), but mostly this is just depressing to see with such predictability.  The inability to set goals and stay consistent with the tasks necessary to achieve them is something that seems to plague our culture.  Even though you justify giving up, deep down you feel like crap when you do, which makes you a little less happy as a person.

Conversely, if you do every single scheduled workout, you see slow-but-steady progress, which in turn gives you a rush of happiness, and in turn leads to your desire to achieve more.  Being consistent compounds upon itself and gives you the results that make you feel good about yourself.

When I was in 10th grade I was a chubby 15 year old.  That year I started playing for our high school football team, and while I wasn’t very good, I became committed to the year-round weight training program and – in conjunction with eating healthier – was able to shed about 25lbs by the time I was 18.  Since then I’ve never missed a workout unless I was sick or injured.  11 years of working out 3-4 times each week, slowly but surely increasing my strength, putting on a little more muscle, and decreasing body fat.  I’m in the best shape of my life right now, at an age where most people start to put on fat and lose muscle.  It’s been a shear by-product of hard work, and it makes me extremely happy to think about.  I’m addicted to the feeling of feeling good about myself.

So is it going too far when I say that I think consistency leads to success, and success leads to happiness?  Or maybe better – success contributes very positively to happiness?  In a post I wrote a few years back entitled Success and Happiness – Myths all Over the Place, I cited an article from Men’s Health:

“The surgeon can’t afford to feel happy during a demanding operation, or a musician while playing a challenging score,” writes Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist who first proposed the concept of “flow.” “Only after the task is completed do we have the leisure to look back on what has happened, and then we are flooded with gratitude for the excellence of that experience — then, in retrospect, we are happy.”

The article goes on to mention that our relationships with others are also a large portion of our happiness, which I think is something everyone knows to be true.  But how come people ignore this other component?  The component that involves hard work and consistency instead of immediate gratification.  Losing weight is great, but the process of doing it makes you just as happy as the end result.

It’s the same with starting a business.  The slow and steady micro-innovating is what leads to success.  Even better, thinking back upon each one of those accomplishments and seeing the results of them is what makes me smile from ear to ear when I think about our business.  It just wouldn’t be as good if we just put up a website and were millionaires overnight.

10 comments on Consistency = Success = Happiness?

  1. Most people seem to choose short term happiness over the prospect of long term happiness. I’d rather be mildly happy now rather than really happy in the future.

    Let’s say that you are going to give away money to a friend. (this happens all the time, right?) And you give them a choice between $10,000 now or having the opportunity to work hard and dedicate themselves so that in three years they could have $1,000,000. What would most people choose?

  2. Anthony says:

    Haha… I always think about the concept of an overnight success. It seems to me that most people & companies who are viewed as “overnight successes” spent years, if not decades, under the radar, working towards becoming somebody or something. I’m of the state of mind that unless you win the lottery, the term overnight success/sensation/etc is drastically overused.

    That being said – I think you’re right on with this post, and my comment above only plays into that. People think that just because they’re not being immediately gratified, there’s no use in forging ahead. Didn’t lose 30 pounds in a week? Lost cause. Didn’t become a millionaire CEO in a month? Wasn’t for me. But consistency breeds results, and results breed happiness & fulfillment. And that means the opposite is also true – inconsistency breeds disappointment, which most of the time leads to an extremely unfulfilling life.

    There is probably only one point I’d add – consistency only breeds happiness given the right combination of faith and evidence. American automakers have been consistent for decades – consistently doing bad business, that is, and getting more myopic about it every year. Consistency is important, but so is being adaptive, and knowing when to give up or change course *if and when it really makes sense*.

  3. Adam McFarland says:

    @Brian – re “I’d rather be mildly happy now rather than really happy in the future.” I think I’d argue that people are happier in the present when they are accomplishing things that will also make them happier in the future.

    @Anthony – couldn’t agree more about the “overnight sensation” thing and the American auto makers. But I really think you nailed my point on the head with “inconsistency breeds disappointment, which most of the time leads to an extremely unfulfilling life”. I’d say the majority of people I”ve crossed paths with fall into this category to varying degrees, which kind of sucks. I’m not saying I’m consistent at everything I do because I’m not, but I’m also not consistent at nothing, which seems to be a lot of people.

  4. Oke says:

    Adam,

    Good post, I think about what I’m doing now and realize it is for the better. I started seriously working out 3 years ago and can’t stop doing it, it is addictive and am continuing to challenge myself in different ways when it comes to exercise.

    I also took this same approach of setting only one goal this year and so far so good, I’m still doing it (writing every day, now up to 45 minutes).

    The cool thing about my goals for the day are that I am done before I go to work, so anything else towards these passions is additional cool.

  5. Adam McFarland says:

    Oke –

    I give you a ton of credit for being able to work out and write for 45 minutes before going to work. Now that’s dedication!

    Adam

  6. Adam McFarland says:

    Some comments over on the Brazen Careerist as well http://www.brazencareerist.com/2009/03/27/consistency-success-happiness

  7. Adam Gilbert says:

    Great post. Obviously, I agree with everything you said! 🙂 That is my business!

  8. Adam McFarland says:

    Thanks Adam – I was thinking about you and MBT the whole time I was writing it. You definitely have to have one of the most gratifying businesses in the world. You get to make people happier, one at a time.

  9. […] same order each month.  After all, consistency breeds success, results and, some may argue, even happiness (which is one of my ultimate pursuits in undertaking this […]

  10. […] me of that post I wrote last year: Consistency = Success = Happiness?. Posted on July 16, 2010 in Entrepreneurship, Work Ethic and tagged Best […]

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