If you ask my wife, I am a very consistent person. The spatulas go in the same drawer, the knives go in the same slots on the block, and the dirty dishes get loaded the same way every time. I have to sit in the same seat for dinner or movies. In a way, I'm sort of like Sheldon Cooper, just not quite as likable or cute.
In the last thirteen months, a lot of things have changed: I no longer get up at-or-before five o'clock for work; I no longer show up like clockwork to set up at church; I no longer do a lot of things with regularity that I did this baker's dozen of months ago.
What changed? First and foremost my job. When I got the opportunity to leave my previous position for one that I believed would offer me a better work-life balance while allowing me to be closer to my wife, it seemed like a pretty good idea. I knew that there were some downsides like lower salary and less advanced technologies, but the idea of having so much more of my time back was really appealing. I considered how much more time I'd be able to spend with my wife since we'd likely commute together more often than not (and we do!).
But an unintended consequence happened when I made that shift. Initially I approached my job in the same way that I'd approached my previous one, working extremely hard and too many hours. After a few months of doing this, I was incredibly frustrated by the glacial pace of getting things done. Slowly, my desire to excel eroded and—while I won't say I became complacent—I lost a lot of the drive for excellence. I started sleeping in more, so late that I'd barely get out of bed in time to leave "on time" some days.
Once I started slipping there, I found other things to slip in. Suddenly it didn't matter what I ate as long as it tasted good. I'd find myself at a friend's house and having a drink or two more than I needed. Heck, I even cheered for another hockey team once or twice.
I was really surprised when it came time for performance reviews. I knew that I'd started really strong, and that I'd accomplished a lot of things considering my relative newness, but I wasn't really prepared for the process. I got great marks! This was foreign to me because in the previous four years, I had received only one performance review that was actually reflective of my work as I viewed it (my previous supervisors had incorrectly attributed some project failures to me, as well as three of my major project successes to another individual). In the months since starting I felt like I wasn't giving my all, but my review was exemplary. I just couldn't understand it.
A few months later, I now find myself moving along at relatively the same clip that I was when I got that shock, but I've expressed to my manager my desire/intention for growth in specific things. It feels a bit like he doesn't agree with my intended trajectory, but that he'd also feel awkward to deter me from pursuing it.
I have expectations for myself, and I can't let those slip. I need to re-find excellence in my job. I think that a lot of this will mean personal growth in areas that I've long believed that I don't have strength. I think that it will mean pushing the boundaries of where I'm comfortable, but in technology and socially. But I have a need to move forward, to be the person that I want to be.
Outside of work, re-finding consistency has other implications. I need to get up at a regular time, adopt a regimen, and stick to it. Oh, and I should certainly find time to work out more. Okay, to work out at all. That one is really hard for me.
Much like my effort to drop sarcasm from my personal repertoire, reaching the new balance of consistency in my life is going to take time, and honestly a ton of it. But as the Chinese philosopher Laozi penned for us, 千里之行，始於足下. Or for the English speakers such as myself, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
Here's to next steps.