Consistency: How a pattern shapes your outcome

What is the first thing that pops into your mind when it comes to consistency?

  • Be consistent with your diet and you will lose weight.
  • Be consistent with your studies and you will graduate with honors.
  • Be consistent with practicing your skill and you will achieve excellence in it.

Malcolm Gladwell sold copy after copy of the book “Outliers” because of the section the dives into the idea that 10,000 hours is what it takes to become an expert at something. Agree or disagree, that has been the consistent quoted and discussed section.

Usually when people think about the action of consistency, they think of it in a positive manner. People think that being consistent can only bring about good things. What I want to put before you is the full potential and danger of consistency and how there are patterns for everything you do, positive or negative.

James Bailey

Jame Bailey was born in 1979 on a day so cold the the hospital kept losing power. He almost died due to complications. 12 hours after he was born his mother passed. There was no father and he became a child of various relatives.

13 year later I saw James on the side of the gas station up my street. He had stolen watermelon wine coolers, Kools, and was playing on a Gameboy. I walked up and he said “Hey, do me a favor will ya? Poke your head around the corner and tell me if the tall and skinny cashier is still working?”

I stuck my head around the corner and the woman I referred to as “Pirate Helga” was working. Yes, I really did call her that. I was 11, give me a break.  I called her that because she was the size of a gladiator and always had one eye closed from the cigarette she held in the corner of her mouth.

I said “Nope, he isn’t working.” James shrugged, said thanks and gave me a few wine coolers for my troubles. I sat down and James started to tell me that he was going to be the next video game champion. He was going to get out of this neighborhood and get paid to play video games.

This was a dream of a lot of people where I grew up. In my area, kids would carry their game stations from house to house and have play offs. Every couple of weeks there would be a different tournament depending on the game. It might even be safe to say that most crimes that occurred within our blocks by kids were because of the need to buy a new video game. Since we had a lot of kids and only needing 1 or 2 of the same game, it ended up working out well for most.

James was the “King” of those mini gaming tournaments. Whenever I saw him he was playing a video game or trying to steal something to buy a video game. When he was 14, he ended making it out to California for a NBA Jam Tournament.

As the years went by, James spent less time gaming and more time getting into trouble. The bad in his life increased and the hope for positive change decreased. At 17, he ended up in jail for a few years because of stealing a car and running from the police. I don’t know what he is doing now. Last I heard, he has been in and out of jail two more times.

Mourn Consistency

The take home point is that James let his bad habits increase. He let fade away one of the few positive things he had in his life. He became consistent on negative acts towards himself and others, and it payed off. That dedication and focus he put into becoming a full time thief and putting aside the dreams he had for his future landed him right where his 10,000 hours should have.

Did you realize that is was the 10,000 hours of overeating that landed you to being overweight?
Did you realize that is was the 10,000 hours you said you weren’t going to move or exercise that lead to you being out of shape?
Did you realize that is was the 10,000 hours of thinking about only yourself that lead to your relationships with people crumbling?
Did you realize that you could have spent 10,000 hours doing something to better your life, instead of complaining about why it wasn’t fair?

Who you are over and over again is who you are.

Brief victories are only just that, brief. That doesn’t mean a moment can’t create a lifetime of better consistencies or a horrible tragedy to forever alter your path. But as a whole, it’s who you are everyday that counts.

Consistency is Boring?

Some of the worst quotes ever snagged were on the topic of Consistency. Here are two examples.

Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. – Oscar Wilde

Too much consistency is as bad for the mind as for the body – Aldous Huxley

Can one not be consistent in adventure? Can one not be consistent in change? Can one not be consistent in not being boring? I propose that it is the consistent belief in yourself that gives you wings.

Closed minds there Wilde and Huxley.

Twain said it best when he said:

What, then, is the true Gospel of consistency? Change. Who is the really consistent man? The man who changes. Since change is the law of his being, he cannot be consistent if he stick in a rut.

Consistency isn’t boring. Being boring often makes your consistently boring. You can quote me on that.

3 Exercises for Consistency Awareness

You can shape your consistency into whatever you want it to be. You can be consistently amazing, strong, lean, smart, and confident. You can consistently be whoever it is you want to be and it is in that very consistency that takes it from a fluke, to being a defining characteristic.

Using these 3 exercises will help you do this that much faster.

#1 – The Name Game

Do you remember when you were a kid and your teachers would have you write your name downward on  a piece of paper and then next to each letter you have to write a word that describes you? It might seem cheesy but it can be more telling of how you see yourself than you think.

I had a client do this 2 years ago and then again recently. Here is the example.

justine-name-game

It seems pretty obvious to me the positive changes that have taken place, even on subtle levels. Why? During the span of  those 680 days Justine was consistently working on better herself. She was consistent in defining her identity and what she wanted it to be. She did 20 name drafts between Day 1 and Day 680. This is the one she keeps in her purse to remind her of what her consistent identity is.

#2 The List

What do you want to be consistent in? What do you want to no longer be consistent in?

Make a list of 5 things on each side. Don’t overwhelm yourself with 101 things you want to change.  5 things you no longer want to be consistent in, and 5 things you want to improve your consistency of.

Example:

No – 1.Lazy 2.Unrealistic 3.Overly Fearful 4.Static 5.Whiny

Yes – 1.Strong Physically 2.Reliable 3.Inspirational 4.Lean 5.Independent

#3- The Question

What was I consistent with today?

Be it on a post-it note or you printing out this post, ask yourself this one question constantly. Pick a time of the day that works for you. I like mid-day better than bedtime because there is still time to change the outcome of that day.

Never try to sort through your day at bedtime. It is an instant step in the direction of self loathing and regret. It gives way to phrases like “Tomorrow is a new day” and “Everything will look better in the morning.” While these sayings have their place for hope, they are crap for action.

Instead, say to yourself as you are living the day “What was I consistent with today?” Worst case the next morning say, “What was consistent about yesterday?”

Remember that the answers need to be realistic and of the good and the bad.

  • Today I complained consistently.
  • Today I punked out on being who I said I was more than not.
  • Today I tracked my food intake consistently.
  • Today I thought of her/him constantly.
  • Today I dreamed of my dream consistently.
  • Today I made the chance for tomorrow better, again.

It may be 1 answer or 10 answers, but the final question for you right now is:

What will your next 10,000 hours be?

Before starting any new diet and exercise program please check with your doctor and clear any exercise and/or diet changes with them before beginning. I am not a doctor or registered dietitian. I do not claim to cure any cause, condition or disease. I do not provide medical aid or nutrition for the purpose of health or disease and claim to be a doctor or dietitian. This is merely an opinion blog. Read full disclaimer here - http://www.leighpeele.com/disclaimer

25 Comments

  1. Chris
    Reply

    I went back to my hometown recently and apologized several times while at barbeques/ get-togethers with friends about not eating certain foods.  “I know, I’m ridiculous,” I would say.  But then someone looked at me at said, “Chris, you’re not ridiculous…you’re consistent”. I loved that comment. 

  2. Sarah
    Reply

    What a timely post. I’ve been spending allot of time talking with clients about this very topic– consistency and that being the very thing they need for success. I love it when someone smarter than me says the same thing. Thanks Leigh!
    Sarah

  3. Sinead
    Reply

    Great post. I am supposed to read Outliers this month for book club, and I’m intrigued. I love the example of the changes in Justine’s thinking, too!

  4. Nia Shanks
    Reply

    Awesome post. I keep trying to help people understand that consistency is what will produce the results they want.

    Want to lose fat? You must burn more than you take in.
    Want to gain muscle? You must train consistently and eat more.

    We are in a world where everyone wants a quick fix. We have faster internet connections, we use microwaves instead of ovens, we have drive throughs, and as a result we want everything now and bitch and moan if it will take a little effort to obtain.

    Very well said, Leigh.   : )

  5. Chrissy
    Reply

    Leigh what an amazing post. Right now I have been being consistantly bad in a lot of areas, but I never realized it. I always praise myself for the good and don’t make myself aware of the bad. As I was reading your post I realized that. Thanks again for knocking me upside the head again with your simple logic!
    Oh and great point Nia.

  6. Amber
    Reply

    Fantastic Post You know what would be cool if we all did our names and then Leigh linked to the post in a year to see what we wrote! Ok I will start
    Amazing
    Motherly
    Bright
    Enlightened
    Real

  7. jeanne
    Reply

    I never thought about consistency being a “bad” thing. This is making me take a huge stock of how I look at everything in my life and how it has turned out.

    Lot of thinking today Leigh :)

  8. etana finkler
    Reply

    I am consistently:
    Energetic
    Tenaciously persistent
    Adventurous
    Nocternal
    Analytical

  9. Jessie
    Reply

    Amazing story. Great post Leigh.

  10. Kevin
    Reply

    First – great post.
    Second, I read something many years ago that I found inspirational and helpful in pushing through to those “10,000 hours”.  It was a story, likely apocryphal, about someone asking a martial arts black belt how long it took them to earn the black belt.  The answer was 7 years.  The questioner was put off by the length of time, to which the black belt responded “The time will pass anyway.  How you choose to use it is up to you.”  Positive consistency can  help you achieve goals in the most efficient manner – and recognizing that the time will pass regardless can help you decide where you want to be after 7 years – a black belt or someone still wishing that they had earned one.  I use this thought in many areas of my life (not to say that I don’t piss away the occasional hour here and there) to help with focus and goal-setting.

  11. Matt
    Reply

    I don’t usually get worked up over “motivational” posts but I will be honest and say that I “get” this one. I didn’t like the name thing at first, thought it was a little girly, but then I thought of what I WOULD have written a few years ago and what I would write now and WOW what a difference a few years makes on your self esteem. Not in a good way either because I am struggling here.

    I am going to work on that.

    Love the Petty song too.

  12. Leigh Peele
    Reply

    Thanks for all the positive feedback.

    I am not sure why but it is one of my favorite posts. I think because when it hit me that consistency wasn’t just what you did right, but what you did wrong, it was a bolt of awakening for me.  I took stock of my negative consistences and I was surprised at how much it shaped who I was, even in subtle ways.

    So yeah I had been meaning to write about it for sometime.

     

  13. Shelly
    Reply

    Well, I’ve been consistantly complaining about the weather since May…
    I’ve committed myself to a couch to 5K program (with the help of an iPhone app), so I’ve been consistantly making myself run, which I hate more than anything.

  14. Hollie
    Reply

    “The time will pass anyway. How you choose to use it is up to you.”

    I just printed this out and stuck it to my computer monitor.

    I’m someone that has a habit of giving up on something new if I’m not good at it right away. In the last few years I’ve done a few things that weren’t easy for me right away but knowing this flaw I stuck with it and have surprised myself with progress I’ve made. But it took TIME! A yoga instructor of mine likes to say that progress isn’t made in one class but in consistent practice. If you improve only by the width of a phonebook page every class but come to class consistently you’ll eventually end up with a phonebook width worth of improvement. (Does anybody even use phonebooks anymore?)

    Thanks for this post. It reminds me that I need to apply this line of thinking to my eating habits.

  15. Jennie
    Reply

    Never having posted before, I just have to say this post really got to me. It actually made me think of some some of the things I’ve consistently done wrong in the past, but mostly I’m trying to focus of the good consistency ver the past 2 months . . . and good changes that I want to continue. I think my name meaning has actually changed for the better in the past couple months, something I couldn’t have said over the past few years.

    So, consistently, I have tracked my food, consistently I have done reasonable exercise (not to extreme), consistently I have taken 1 day off a week, consistently I have re-fed myself at regular intervals instead of waiting and waiting and waiting, which resulted in a binge.

    And consistently then, the scale has gone down for me every week . . . wow, amazing!

    Thanks Leigh for another thought provoking post

    Jubilant
    Energetic
    Nice
    Neverending
    Intense
    Enduring

  16. Missy
    Reply

    Thanks for the awesome post. Consistency. Honestly, my first thought was of a nature of something, like the consistency of cake batter (yeah, guess who is dieting…)
    Anyhow, after reading, I was mostly struck by the fact of negative consistencies. I am so guilty of them, moreso than positives. I consistently whine, complain and worry. I consistently see the glass half empty (well, actually most days I see the glass broken with nothing in it or that the glass was stolen) I am so printing this out!!
    Also, I love that Leigh, even though she is the FLTS queen, writes posts like these, that while it can and does apply to fat loss, dieting training, etc.., it also applies to so many (every) other areas of life. I realized I need to be more consistent in helping others, listening, praying, being patient and a whole list as long as my arm. Thank you so much for the reality booster shot!! I also like all the responses!!

  17. Anna
    Reply

    Leigh, one of the reasons you’re so good at what you do is that you can really “get in there”–to how we sabotage ourselves–and break apart our defenses so that are forced to see what we are doing to ourselves.

    Your insights are genuine, not pat. That sincerity really sets you apart from most. I appreciate how much you put yourself out there; I really admire that.

    And finally–I just noticed now the awesome pics of your dog with the different hats on. Nice blue ballcap. :)

  18. Carrie
    Reply

    I never post, but I had to for this one. What a great spin on this topic! I talk to a lot of people at work about consistency when they ask me how I stay fit. Will you be saving this post anywhere as an article, so people can reference it and send it to others for inspiration?

    I have to say, it’s ironic that you posted this when you did, since yesterday was the first day I was INconsistent with the program I’ve been on. The guilt drove me to write an entire post about it on my blog, Carrie’s Fit Life.

    You’ve had kick ass posts lately, I love ‘em, so keep them coming!! Your blog is what actually inspired me to start mine, so thanks for the inspiration!

  19. Amanda
    Reply

    Love this post. I’m thinking I need to really sit down and give my negative consistencies some thought, because even in five minutes I was thinking I think I have more “room for improvements” than positives.
    Or maybe that means I need to focus on my positives. :)
    In any case, very thought-provoking. I’m having issues doing the name game, though. Curse my name that uses one vowel three times! ;)

  20. Mickey
    Reply

    Interesting that you posted those consistency quotes, Leigh.  Recently, I’ve been working on a report and was including relevant quotes with some of my points.  Unfortunately, in searching for quotes on consistency, these are the types of things that kept popping up…
    Consistency is contrary to nature, contrary to life. The only completely consistent people are dead.
    Consistency is the paste jewel that only cheap men cherish.
    Consistency requires you to be as ignorant today as you were a year ago.
    With consistency a great soul has simply nothing to do. He may as well concern himself with his shadow on the wall.

  21. Leigh Peele
    Reply

    Mickey that is the exact thing I kept finding and it goes to show the lacking of common sense towards the ideals of consistency and the closed mindedness to it. It is in the same vein as predictability.

    You can bet that on a daily basis I am going to have a blast, I am predictable like that.

     

  22. Vicki
    Reply

    Yes. Maybe consistency gets a bad name because of its association with predictability. I don’t especially like being called predictable, although it is true. But predictable can mean trustworthy, which I think I am, and I like being.

    This post reminded me that I should read some more Malcom Gladwell. I’ve always meant to get to Blink and, now, Outliers.

  23. Eric Troy
    Reply

    Well, I am very late to this but I like it so I wanted to comment anyway.
    This actually struck me in a different way because I realized that maybe my definition of consistency was different than other peoples. To me, consistency has always meant adhering, as much as possible or practical, to a set of underlying principles. I.E. if you are consistent then you will not blatantly violate those principles.
    So I never thought of it as doing the same things or always reacting the same way but simply not to violate those principles, which could also be thought of as values, philosophies, etc..
    So if the principles are sound than consistency will be rewarded. If the principles are flawed, well…
     
     
     
     

  24. Krista Rompolski
    Reply

    Wow, what a post, Leigh! I think you’re right – people so easily forget how long it took them to get to the place where they finally decide to make change. Great read!

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