Simple Math Really

By Jeffrey Pillow on October 25, 2019 — 3 mins read

It’s simple math really. If you want to get better at something, do it consistently. Form a habit. Habits are hard to break. This goes for your health, your relationships, your hobbies. Anything. Even eating a salad.

Multiply your effort by your consistency and the math equals your progress.

Emmitt Smith, the NFL’s all-time leading rusher, once said, “All men are created equal. Some just work harder in the pre-season.”

Take running. If two people decide today they want to become runners, who will progress faster: Runner A who chooses to run once a week or Runner B who commits to four times per week?

Over the course of one month, Runner A will have run four times. Runner B will have run sixteen times. Over the course of a year, Runner A will hit the trails fifty two times. Runner B will have laced up her shoes on two hundred and eight occasions.

That’s only if Runner A sticks with it, which is unlikely because the limited effort and consistency in running once per week does not align with the science of habit formation.

However, if Runner A is an optimist, she will recognize the simple math that running fifty two times in a year is far better for her physical and mental health than running zero times, as she had done the previous year.

In year two, if she chooses to up her running to twice or three times per week, she doubles or triples her output to one hundred and four or one hundred and fifty six.

The math checks out no matter what.

If I want to become a better writer, I’ll put my butt in the seat more days of the week than not.

In “Write On,” John Saddington, a professional blogger who writes daily, states, “Write daily […] the sheer act of writing, over time (and not quitting), will make you better.”

If I want a stronger relationship with my family, I’ll put in the work. I’ll ensure I communicate more effectively, more frequently, and in a more encouraging way. I’ll make a habit of positive engagement with my family at the center, and not my own ego.

I’ll be more present day to day. I’ll listen more than I talk. I’ll ask them what they want to do instead of telling them what they should do or directing them toward a decision that benefits my end goal.

I’ll ask, “How can I help?” Not, “What’s for dinner?”

I’ll wash dishes. More. I’ll vacuum. More. I’ll do laundry. More. I’ll figure out dinner even if I’m a sub-par chef. Granted, Chef Jeff has a nice ring to it.

The key is repetition. Not doing these activities as a novelty once, twice, or even three times. But consistently.

I’ll play basketball or ride skateboards with my son or write stories and dance a silly dance with my daughter. More.

I’ll listen to their fears and worries and do my best not to pile on when what they need is a hug and not a stern voice.

By making a conscious effort, it will later run on auto-pilot and become second nature with a little discipline.

If I want a worse relationship with my family, I’ll put in less work or lazy work such as servicing my ego. I’ll push them down more than I lift them up. I’ll communicate in a way that serves me first and them second.

In math, there are positives and negatives. If your math is the former, you will grow and add to your life. You will gain in areas of health, relationships, and hobbies et al.

You may not run your way to first place at the Boston Marathon (or even qualify). You may not write a New York Times bestseller (or even land an agent or publisher). You may not win a hypothetical Parent of the Year award. But you will have put in the work of creating meaningful habits, and that’s what matters.

If your math is static or the latter (a negative), you will not grow; worse, you may subtract.

It’s your choice. It’s simple math really.

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Posted in: Personal Musings