The Hobgoblin Of Small Minds
When I was in college, one of my music professors would say the following quote to his students on a regular basis:
“Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.”
It wasn’t until sometime later that I discovered he was actually misquoting Ralph Waldo Emerson, who stated in his essay Self-Reliance:
“A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
This is about on par to misquoting the Bible on the topic of money – “money is the root of all evil” versus “the love of money is the root of all evil.” But I digress.
I am a super consistent person. Always have been, and I’m pretty sure I always will be. That’s how I’m wired. I’m not sure, though, that people would classify the majority of my consistent behavior as “foolish.” But, I can see the need to regularly evaluate any consistent life behaviors.
I don’t want to foolishly pursue consistent behaviors, purely based on the desire to be consistent. I want to make sure my behaviors are effective as well. If they’re not, then that would be foolish to pursue on my part.
Consistency Vs. Creativity
The challenge with the characteristic of consistency is that it can be misrepresented as boring and not very creativity. When you are locked into a pattern of consistent behavior, then you can lose a great deal of creative possibilities.
Let me give you an example.
In the pursuit of renaissance living, I practice my musical abilities on trumpet, four to five days a week. There’s my first consistent behavior. In my daily practice, though, I have the tendency to practice the same routine, the same exercises, the same songs almost every day. There’s my second consistent behavior. I have two different levels of consistency going.
I think the first level is good. The idea of setting and maintaining some type of trumpet practice time each day is good for me. I need to make music on a regular basis. Where I run into trouble, though, is on the practice routine, itself. I tend to get stuck in a rut of consistently practicing the same stuff, over and over again. This second level of consistent behavior is stifling my creativity.
How Do You Balance The Two, Together?
It can be challenging trying to balance these two behaviors of consistency and creativity. In my trumpet practicing example above, I have found that I need to purposefully seek variety in my daily routine. This helps me avoid that second level of consistency that is dampening my creativity.
So, I’m becoming more proactive in looking through my music library and finding different songs in different styles to play through. As I pursue more variety in my practice time, the creativity is beginning to flow! I’m getting new and different ideas.
I believe the balance between consistency and creativity works in this way. First, the consistency part should focus on doing the specific activity, whatever it may be, on the regular basis. So, carve out a consistent time each day, five days a week, to practice your renaissance activity. Then, within that consistent time frame, be proactive in pursuing variety within your routine time block. Change things up. Get creative.
How do you balance consistency with creativity? Do you have any additional ideas? What have you found to be helpful in your own life?