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According to the dictionary, to be consistent is “to stay, be or look the same or do the same thing at different times over a period of time, especially so as to be fair or accurate.” It is to be free from variation or contradiction. In short, consistency is to be unwavering, unfailing, regular, and stable. To be able to do anything consistently is actually quite an achievement. For most people, it is one of the hardest things to do and be. But why?
First, human nature is fickle and mercurial. Our emotions and moods pull us this way and that. And life is also totally unpredictable and erratic. The one thing that everyone can count on is change. So for a person to be steady and constant when both his nature and his environment push against that is so hard. And it is made harder still by the push and pull of other people’s own shifting views and demands. In a storm of variety and alteration, it is easy to do or be almost anything for a moment, but it is incredibly hard to be consistent over time.
Consistency is hard, but it is not impossible. Those who have won Olympic medals, Academy awards, or Pulitzer Prizes have a plethora of different skills but they all share one quality, skill or approach in common. They all know how to be consistent. They know about practice, repetition and laser focus. More often than not, what has changed someone mediocre or average into someone who is an expert is consistency.
Consistency is the supercharger and game changer for mastery of any skill or achievement of any goal. Consistency can be achieved but it takes awareness and effort. Anyone gunning to achieve great success in 2021 or in life should focus on mastering the art of consistency. As Tony Robbins put it, “It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently.”
Consistency = Progress
So how hard can being consistent be? Just do the same thing over and over. Period. So easy to say and so hard to do. Ask anyone who has tried to do something consistently for a year and they will surely attest that it is incredibly hard. After all, if being consistent was easy, everyone would be. And most people are highly inconsistent in all of their efforts from learning to working to living. Benjamin Disraeli put it this way, “The secret to success is consistency of purpose.” So consistency is not just the key to success… it is a secret… the secret. It is the truth about success that most people don’t know and never achieve. It boils down to this:
What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.
On January 1, people will make all kinds of resolutions to be better and do better. Fitness and weight loss are often at the top of the resolutions list. For the first 10 days, people will be driven by motivation and “new year” adrenaline to hit the goal. This passion will keep them going for a while, but then gradually as life creeps in, they will start missing days and eventually they stop altogether. But, even if they exercised for two hours every day for the entire month of January, it would not make them fit. They might lose a little weight. They will definitely be sore. But working out for an entire month will not make anyone fit and lean. In fact, those 60 hours of exercise will have been for naught if they stop exercising in February or eat junk food every day. A new year’s resolution to exercise two hours a day, every day, is actually a waste of time if it isn’t done consistently for a long period of time. In fact, it would be more effective to exercise 30 minutes a day, every day, for four months. Though it equals the same amount of exercise, the consistency of doing that for four months starts the process of forming a habit and building a routine, which facilitates consistency. That is what produces results. Progress is not made on major goals by binging. Slow and steady wins the race for almost any important task in life.
John C. Maxwell, a renowned NY Times bestselling author and speaker on the topic of Leadership and author of the book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, put it this way, “All disciplines repeated with consistency every day lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.” This is true of learning any complex skill such as speaking a new language, playing an instrument, or running a business. Unlike a computer, there is no way to upload huge amounts of information, data or effort at one time into a person to be used later. Skills and abilities are acquired by practicing them consistently over time. People need to be fed information slowly for it to stick. And tasks need to be repeated long-tern for them to have an impact.
How to be Consistent
If being consistent in an inconsistent world is so hard, how is it that some people are able to do it? There are strategies and hacks that help people be more consistent.
- Set Goals – Without goals, being consistent about anything becomes much harder. Goals are tied to purpose. And consistency enables a person to focus on what needs to be done on a regular basis to achieve those goals. Focusing on a goal and working toward it every day taps into the power of intention. Intentionality yields exponential growth and progress… and ultimately results. But it starts by having a goal on which to focus and identifying the consistent tasks needed to achieve it.Goals must be important enough to drive behavior and overcome the multitude of variables that will pull and tug at someone to shift gears and become erratic. So they must be set carefully, with great thought given to the intended outcome and what is required to achieve that goal. Most any goal can be achieved if it is important enough to the person and if the person works consistently toward achieving it.
- Form Habits – A habit is something that is done over and over until it is done without thinking.
We don’t have to “remember” a task that is done by habit. According to scientists who study the brain, habits do not live in the same part of the brain as memory. A person can have a complete inability to store memories (as happens with some people who have had illness that ruins the memory center of the brain) and yet still be able to form a habit and perform tasks that are habits. So, for instance, someone with total memory impairment might move to a new home and not be able to ever memorize their new address, and yet be able to go for a walk around the neighborhood of the new home every day for months and eventually know exactly what home to return to after the walk even if they don’t know their address. Habits live in the auto-pilot center of the brain.
Most people have habits that they do every morning. Brush teeth. Wash face. Brush hair. Dress. Etc. These are things that are done with little to no thought. Consider, how much thought goes into teeth brushing? Is it something people spend a lot of time deciding to do? No. Is it something that gets skipped occasionally? Not really. For most people, brushing their teeth in the morning is a habit engrained since childhood that requires no thought at all. There is no decision-making involved. There is no planning required. The toothbrush, toothpaste, floss and mouth wash are all likely well stocked and sitting right by the bathroom sink. Why? Because it is a task that is so established that it is a lifelong habit. Habits make it easier to be consistent. So doing something over and over long enough helps form a habit that is done almost without thought, decision or intent. It’s done on auto-pilot. Anything that requires long-term practice should be done in a consistent way (same time, same amount of time, same days) without variation in order for it to become a habit. Once it is a habit, doing that task consistently becomes so much easier.
- Establish Routines – Routines are powerful. Boring, but powerful. A string of habits that are done together on a regular basis becomes a routine. Most people have a morning routine that includes brushing teeth, washing face, brushing hair, getting dressed, eating breakfast, praying, walking the dog, etc. These tasks, done daily, become habits and combined become the backbone of a routine. Most children have a routines – established for them by their parents – for getting ready for school, doing chores and homework after school, and getting ready for bedtime. The more habits that are incorporated into the routine, the smoother and easier it is for children to do those tasks on auto-pilot without much direction, admonition or prodding by parents. The same is true for adults. If exercising is built into the morning routine, eventually the body no longer begs to sleep later and will automatically wake at a time that allows for the entire morning routine to be done before going to work.
None of these ideas are revolutionary. Goal setting, habit forming and establishing routines are things most professionals do. And yet being consistent about some things – are still hard. That’s because they are not planned out, thought through and done together with intent. The focus needs not be on the outcome but on the process. The outcome is important but the process is where the breakdown usually happens. Anything that interferes with the process – set goal, create habit and build routine – will short-circuit consistency and make success that much harder and more dubious. In 2021, master the art of consistency and success is likely to be yours by the time 2022 rolls around!
Quote of the Week
“Look to make your course regular, that men may know beforehand what they may expect.” Sir Francis Bacon
© 2020, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.