Three words for those trying to do something new

​I’m not exactly a monk. But the other day, I was talking about mindfulness with a colleague. We were discussing sitting positions, imagery, breathing techniques, what works, what doesn’t, what’s hard, what’s easy. 

But really, none of that stuff matters. If you’re not above intermediate level in a skill or craft, the specifics of performance are inconsequential.  What matters most for a beginner—someone trying to learn a new skill or habit—is that you’re actually doing something.

For someone trying to establish morning meditation as a habit, it doesn’t matter whether you sit in the half lotus or the Japanese seiza position. It doesn’t matter what you do with your hands. It doesn’t matter whether you count multiple breaths or use specific imagery to help you focus. 

What matters is that you’re there, doing it. The easiest way to summarise this idea is with the following three words:

Consistency before competence.

In strength training, you could have the best program, the best facilities, and the best coach in the world. But it doesn’t matter if you’re inconsistent. In fact, a woman with just a kettlebell and a mat that she places down on her living room floor will make more progress than a woman with access to a fully equipped gym. If the latter is inconsistent.

Starting out, the important thing is to show up. To be there. Day in, day out. Week in, week out. For months, for years. Do that and competency will come. 

Once showing up is established as a habit, it takes an infinitesimal amount of energy to continue showing up. Which means the energy you needed to spend just to get yourself there can now be utilised for analysis. For assessing and working on your strengths and your weaknesses. For exploring different methodologies and schools of thought. 

But you only reach that stage if, in the beginning, you prioritise consistency before competence.