Why Maintenance Is More Important Than Progress

by Paul Hudson

Your life is like a car. There are plenty of upgrades that you can make. You can upgrade the sound system. You can tweak the engine to add a few more horses. Maybe throw on a new body kit. Now the car that you started out with is not the same car anymore, it’s been completely revamped and made progressively better. Then you realize that although you’ve spent so much time upgrading your car, you completely neglected the routine maintenance.

You haven’t even changed the oil in over 10,000 miles. You’ve been driving on low oil and transmission fluid for weeks and now both your transmission and the engine itself is shot. All that progress, destroyed by the disregard of the necessary maintenance for your vehicle. Just like your car, you and your life both need maintenance in order to come out on top.

While progress is great, it’s rendered useless if not maintained. The majority of people I have come across focus their energy on either progress or maintenance, but rarely ever both — at least not in appropriate proportions. The two must be used together in order to create long-term change. Not all change is long-term and no change is ever permanent.

There is almost an elasticity of our character; if we want to change something about ourselves and, in essence, change ourselves then a certain amount of force must be applied in order to allow mutability. Also, a certain amount of consistency and repetition of the action must be applied in order to increase our elasticity, allowing for long-term change.

Progress can generally be defined as a positive change — whether it be in character, standard of living, anatomical or social. Maintenance, on the other hand guarantees that the progress will not regress — that all the hard work that you put in will not have been in vain. Some like to focus on maintenance and defer from aiming for progress.

These people are the least ambitious and are happiest when things change minimally. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the super ambitious and super antsy. This bunch is very driven and focuses only on progress. They never want to stop moving and lack patience. For people like this, progress is all that exists; they don’t have time for maintenance.

The problem with these extremes — as with all others — is that both sides of the coin have something that we find appealing; on one side, we have progress and excitement, on the other, we have comfort and stability. Both are appealing to a certain extent, but neither are entirely appealing. Those with comfort and stability will lack excitement and progress in their life — basic human needs that must be addressed. And those with only forward movement and progress are actually hurting themselves, taking a step backwards for every step forwards. The only good solution is to find yourself somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, the median.

Why not have stability — keeping atop of maintenance — while focusing a portion of your energy towards progress simultaneously? I understand that most people have a natural inclination towards one vs. the other, but if the goal is to maximize your happiness, you cannot argue that having a bit of both worlds won’t get you there faster.

If you are naturally very driven and hungry for success, then focus mainly on making progress — but don’t overlook maintenance. This is the type of person that I myself am. However, I have come to the conclusion that it is more efficient to a lot a good amount of time towards maintenance as well. The truth is that proportioning 75% of your focus towards progress (generally speaking) and 25% of your focus on maintaining the progress you have already made, will get you further and faster than devoting all your focus and energy towards progress.

Maintenance allows for stability — which is why it is so appealing. There are those of us who would like to focus their lives on the simpler things in life, that are happy with who they are and what they have. There is nothing wrong with this — as long as some sort of progress is being made. Change and progress are things that a human being cannot live without.

We feed off such change. We are comforted by progress. Maintaining a presence of progress in some part or parts of your life is necessary to feel alive. Once you stop making changes for the better, you feel stagnant. You become complacent and you end up unhappy. The stability allowed by consistent maintenance is great, but without progress it simply isn’t enough. Consider how you proportion your progress and maintenance and see how it works for you. Are there changes that you can make to better your life?

Photo: USA Networks