By Amber Kinloch
I came across an intriguing post on an online forum. The commenter talked about how he would challenge people to focus on doing one task at a time. If you are driving, drive. Don’t listen to the radio or an audiobook. If you are eating, eat. If you’re doing a task, finish it before moving on to another one, etc.
This comment reminded me of the virtue of constancy. Constancy is a natural virtue, “[a virtue which] can be known by reason and can be cultivated to a significant extent through human effort” (The Art of Living, pg. 7). Author Edward Sri, drawing on St. Thomas Aquinas’ theology, defines this virtue thus:
“The virtue of constancy helps me maintain my focus and not be distracted by other pursuits that are not bad in and of themselves but are bad in the present moment because they divert me from what I should be doing” (ibid., pg. 145).
This virtue seems to be an answer to our common problems of procrastinating and multitasking. Instead of trying to do too much at a time, we can focus on accomplishing a single task to the best of our ability.
I tested this out by not streaming music from my phone while cooking, like I usually do. It helped me work more efficiently as I wasn’t pausing regularly to skip to a different song or playlist. I’ve also been trying to live this virtue in other areas of my life.
You, too, might cultivate this virtue. Consider the following areas where it might be lived out:
- During conversations: Give the person you’re with your full attention. Don’t check your phone, let your eyes roam around, or let yourself be distracted by other people or the music playing at a venue.
- While working: Finish the task at hand. Don’t hop about and attempt to multitask.
- When pursuing leisure: Enjoy the activity, e.g., walking outside, watching a movie, or playing a game, to the full. Live the present moment instead of letting your mind roam to another time and/or place.
- While praying: Focus on being with God. If something is weighing on you, bring it to your conversation with Him. Otherwise, earthly matters can wait.
Constancy will help us lead—and enjoy!—a better life on earth while preparing our souls for Heaven. It is a potent form of mortification that will purify us of selfishness as we train ourselves to stay focused on the duty of the moment. In learning to forget our petty whims, we will also grow in love of God and our neighbor. Thus, at our death, we might hope to hear God say: “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy” (Matthew 25:23).
Amber writes from the bunker of her living room. There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life. Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.