The Consistency vs. Novelty Dilemma

Consistency vs. Novelty

It’s been a while since I wrote a non-work related topic. Last time, I wrote about the unique kindness I experienced in Japan (see The Butterfly effect of kindness). This time, I want to write about a dilemma that I’ve been thinking about for a while.

When I reflect on my life so far, whenever I had some progress (learning a new skill, making new lasting connections, changing to a new job, losing weight), it was always due to consistency in my life. I was not traveling, I was not thinking about where to go, what to do, where to eat, how to get from point A to point B. I was in my familiar environment with a consistent (and maybe boring) routine where the basics of my life were in place. As a result, I had time, got bored, and started exploring. This consistency fueled boredom allowed me to explore an aspect of life that I wasn’t happy about and I put the time and energy into improving it.

On the other hand, when I look at what I remember the most in my life, it was almost always some novel experience outside my consistent routine. Novelty brings a level of excitement that’s energizing and memorable. I remember the countries I went for the first time, people I met the first time, conferences I spoke at, the unique eggplant caprese dish I had in Sofia recently, the time my mum and I went to visit the unique landscape of Iceland, the time I spent 3 months in Belgrade during the pandemic or when I accidentally got into a tango concert in Buenos Aires for free. All of these random experiences left a mark in me for some reason, that’s why I remember them, and they all happened because I got out of my consistent routine.

Consistency relieves you from day-to-day worries and that allows you to focus on long term accomplishments. However, too much consistency can lead an automatic and less memorable life. I certainly don’t remember my usual days in London that much.

Novelty opens you up to places and experiences outside your normal routine and you tend to remember them more. However, all of a sudden, you have short-term worries like places to live, eat, visit or work from on a day-to-day basis. And the more novelty you want, the more you need to move and spend more time on these short-term worries. It can definitely be more draining and takes time away from longer-term projects that can change the dynamics of your life.

When I question how to live a good life (and I often do), a question often pops up in my head: Is it better to have a consistent life or is it better to go for novel experiences? A consistently boring but more impactful life? Or a life full of novel short-term experiences but possibly less impactful life? To be honest, I’m not sure of the answer and it probably depends on what you want to get out of your life and what you value more.

For me, it all comes down to balance. Too much consistency and I feel like I’m living the same day over and over in an automatic mode. That’s why I hated the never ending pandemic time. Too much novelty, and at some point, I run out of energy and will to explore. Even experiencing new things gets boring after a while and you just want a simpler life after a while. Happiness lives somewhere in the middle where I have the foundations of a consistent life but enough novelty sprinkled throughout the year to make sure I remember the year with good memories. The key is striking that balance between consistency and novelty, whatever that balance might be for you.

What do you think?