Consistency vs. Intensity: The Art of Creating
By: Dr. Yashar Khosroshahi, ND
There was a time, not too long ago, when the word “intensity” was my guiding light. I was “all in, all the time”. I coveted the “hustle” and “grind” and the speed that came with it all, and I wanted more of it. This was a very raw and turbulent way to live. However, I stayed the course because I thought it was the best way to create the type of life and work that I wanted. My point of reference, simply and naively, was that this was the way I have always done things. From medical school, to sport teams, to being in a rock band, to running committees – I did it all with this approach. I ended up creating a lot this way, but it wasn’t sustainable. And so I started to resent my work, as well as other parts of my life.
Things did not change until someone new came into my life and taught me a very important lesson. That someone was my son. Though I fought the lesson, he fought harder with his persistence – he would never leave! He needed a lot of my attention: this was attention I would have normally spent “hustling” and “grinding” on all the other projects and commitments I would create for myself. He required me to figure out a smarter, more holistic and sustainable way to work and apply my talents.
With the help of my wife, and that of my sister, the other half of MINDSHIFT NINJA, Ayla, I started to soon see the truth of my ways. I started to see that the intensity and speed I associated with all my work had made less room for sustainable creation, rhythm and connection to my work, and the people I wanted to work with. I was suffocating the room necessary for true exploration, growth, and attention to detail – not to mention that I was leading myself straight into the proverbial wall and burning out.
How did I learn to create more consistently and sustainably by doing better, by thinking better? I’ll tell you:
“Show me a person with more than 3 priorities, and I will show you a person with none.” — unknown
I read the above quote about three years ago, and it haunted me. I was the person with many “priorities” and justifiably so, or so I would argue. It wasn’t until I sat down and really thought about the meaning of the word priority, and how it shapes my schedule, that my thoughts started to shift. One of the main reasons I had such intensity, and as a result speed, associated with all that I did, was because with so many priorities on my list, there was no other way of completing them all if not with speed and intensity.
Once I started to create clarity around my priorities, I started to see a method out of the madness. The intensity associated with multiple priorities started to give room to a more focused and consistent action plan toward my most valuable priorities. It is much easier for the brain to connect the dots of life and business when there are less focal points for it to manage.
For me, it came down to this: Family, Health and MINDSHIFT NINJA/Clinical work. Everything else became an afterthought. I would ask myself everyday, “How does “x” impact family, health and MINDSHIFT NINJA/Clinical work?” If I was satisfied with the relationship it was building for one of those three buckets, I would proceed forward.
- Questions: Of course, it is possible to have more than three priorities and be okay with the process and results. The question remains, however, how much better would your process and results be if you focused yourself with only three priorities? If you were to pick only three priorities for the next 3-6 months, what would they be? How would that help shape your focus and energy. How much more impact do you believe you would be able to deliver only focusing on these three priorities.
“We have to really educate ourselves in a way about who we are, what our real identity is.” — Deepak Chopra
Asking myself to commit to three priorities really had me question who I was, who I was working to become, and how I produce work. My identity was in question, because my way of living and working for the last couple of decades came into question. However, as I spent more time identifying my priorities, I noticed a sense of excitement for the type of person I could lead my day as. I noticed that the stock answers to the often very difficult questions of “who do I want to be?”, “how can I show up as this person?”, and “what type of work can this person create?” started making room for more meaningful answers. I started to actively choose my path based on how my three priorities shaped my identity. I began to answer more mindfully.
It sounds so simple, even as I write this, but I know I am not alone in the confusion that can occur when asking a person to identify who they truly are, and how they can show up in life and business as this person. I know this because of the hundreds, if not, thousands of conversations I have had with people on this exact topic. It takes time, and it takes practice. But if we do the work it leaves us with a very clear sense of what our real identity is. And then we can work everyday toward consistently taking steps forward as that type of creator, leader, and human.
- Questions: How do your priorities speak to the person you are living as? Are you okay with this? If you were to choose a different identity to work towards, how would that change your priorities? What character strengths best support your work priorities? How do you consistently show up to your work as the version of yourself you are most proud of?
“It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.” ― Elizabeth Gilbert
The next lesson was, for me, the toughest of them all. As the above quote suggests, to truly make these changes sustainable, we have to practice them. I had to learn how to consistently produce work that matched my priorities, everyday. The appeal of running around and keeping busy with the next “shiny object” started to wane. I started to solely focus on showing up everyday and doing deliberate work as the person I wanted to be, and for the work I wanted to create.
I created something everyday and learned something everyday that matched these goals. I did my best to not simply accumulate knowledge, but to integrate the information into my life to transform myself and my business (and to help others do the same).
The level of focused work increased, and so did the level of focused results – the so what of it all! There were projects that moved forward in a timely manner and new clients that reached out that were never there before. It is almost as if I wasn’t leaving any room for this to occur previous to the change in mindset and behaviour.
However, the most intriguing and unintended result of doing this type of MINDSHIFT was my schedule started to show glimpses of time that could be filled with recovery time (time in my schedule that I actively choose not to do work). I started to identify less with the guilt associated with not spending every waking hour working, and partly so, because I could get more focused work done consistently.
As a recovering addict to the speed and intensity of everything, I very rarely honoured the brain’s need to not only have focused priorities, but also its need to not be doing work at all. The brain can only optimize its performance if it is given time to recover and reset, and I only truly started to realize this once I integrated recovery routinely in my schedule.
- Questions: If you were to give your calendar to a friend, would they know what you are disciplining yourself to improve everyday? On the flip side; How often do you find yourself not doing work, and being okay with it? What is one thing you can add to your calendar that would improve your focused work and recovery? What is one thing you can subtract from your calendar that will improve your focused work and recovery?
I can now confidently say that consistency as a system for my life and business is much more productive and sustainable than intensity ever was or could be. For me, it started with identifying my true priorities, creating my identity around them and learning to truly focus my time practicing them on a daily basis. How can you incorporate consistency over intensity into your life and business to help you do better, by thinking better?