Why is it so hard to stay consistent?
I’m planning to write more, to publish, maybe daily and it has me thinking about the topic of consistency.
So maybe you want to write more too, or study more, or get to the gym, or prioritize something in your life that you’ve left by the wayside.
I’m great with habits, but I struggle with a lack of variety. Maybe it’s ADD, or maybe it’s just all of the incredible information and opportunities at our fingertips… but I find it’s tough to simply be consistent. This could be the topics I cover in what I'm writing, or the frequency of publishing.
Maybe consistency of pure repetition is great for some people, like Michael Phelps swimming laps back and forth day after day.
But with so many other people plugged into the online casino publishing ideas, can you blame yourself for wanting the new and the different? Can you blame yourself for chasing new ideas?
For me, I think being more consistent has been helped by strategically disconnecting.
You have to be able to get bored.
Basically, you have to pass the marshmallow test every single day.
For me, that begins right as I start my day. I’ve meditated now for over 16,000 minutes on Headspace alone. At least that’s something I’m consistent at. The reason I find meditation to be key is not just because it helps me learn about myself, but maybe more importantly because it starts my day with an internal focus and an internal locus of control.
By closing my eyes for 20, 30, or even 60 minutes sometimes, I can sit, get still, and just wait. This is not just for the path to enlightenment, rather it’s to create momentum in my day that’s not being pulled in some other direction.
Boredom and silence are tools that you can use to not get pulled int so many directions, and to start from yourself rather than reacting to what is external.
A bigger blocker to consistency is perfectionism.
I was having a conversation with a friend recently about communication at work, and, how he was struggling to respond quickly to messages, often keeping them in his inbox for days at a time, procrastinating.
He wanted to create a new system, some new productivity method that he could apply so he could be more on top of his work.
My advice was that no new apps or task management practices were going to help.
The problem was that he was worried about every detail of the different responses he was writing. The reason he was struggling to get back to everyone was that every message felt like a BIG DEAL. He felt like major aspects of projects were on the line and we wanted to craft everything just right.
Perfectionism creates friction – the more you try and make something perfect the more willpower you’re going to need to just keep going.
So, if you want to consistently publish, or do any new task or habit, the worse you let yourself be at it, the less friction there will be in at least being consistent.
Anyone can publish every day if they decide to let what they publish be imperfect. As Seth Godin says, “show me all of your bad writing.”
So... show me your bad __writing__, __running__,
Be inconsistent, on purpose.
Sometimes, maybe the best thing you can do is be inconsistent. From much of what I’ve learned in studying therapeutic models, a large part of the reason for therapy or coaching is to get beyond a repetitive pattern, a consistency, in your life that you aren’t wanting. For example, you’re consistently stressed, or consistently getting angry and creating problems.
So, in personal growth, it’s actually being inconsistent that is your advantage. Trying something out of the left-field is occasionally just what you need, and breaking habits or patterns means getting out of the habit of consistency.
So maybe one approach to be more consistent is to suddenly and purposefully be inconsistent at the very thing that’s holding you back. For those who love new and different, let that thought sink in for a moment…
Ultimately though, consistency is a way we can affirm the identity we wish to have with ourselves.
When we’re consistent, it becomes easier for people to trust and understand us, and, when we’re consistent we understand and trust ourselves more, too.
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