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 skills and you will achieve excellence.
Malcolm Gladwell sold copy after copy of his book, “Outliers,” because of his assertion that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. Agree or disagree, that has been the most consistently 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 am going to explain is the full potential and danger that consistency can have, and how there are patterns for everything you do, whether positive or negative.
Jame Bailey was born in 1979 on a day so cold the the hospital kept losing power. He almost died due to complications from his birth; twelve hours after he was born his mother passed away. His father was not involved so he was taken care of by various relatives.
Thirteen years later, I saw James behind the gas station at the end of my street. He had stolen watermelon wine coolers, Kool cigarettes, and was playing on a Game Boy. I walked up to him and he said, “Hey, do me a favor will ya? Poke your head around the corner and tell me if the tall, skinny guy is still working?”
I stuck my head around the corner and a very large, wide woman I referred to as “Pirate Helga” was working. Yes, I really called her that. I was eleven years old, give me a break. I called her that because she was the size of a gladiator and was always squeezing one eye shut so she could hold onto the cigarette she had hanging from 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 trouble. I sat down and he told me how he was going to become the next video game champion. He was certain he was going to escape our neighborhood and get paid to play video games.
This was a common 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 playoffs. Every couple of weeks there would be a different tournament depending on the game. It is safe to say most crime that occurred within our few blocks by kids was because a new video game was released. And really, only one or two copies were needed because the kids shared them so this system ended up working well for most of them.
James was the king of these mini gaming tournaments. Whenever I saw him he was playing a video game or trying to steal something in order to buy a video game. When he was 14, he made it out to California for a NBA Jam Tournament.
But as the years went by, James spent less time gaming and more time getting into trouble. Bad things kept happening to him and his tightly-held hope in positive change just kept decreasing. At 17, he ended up in jail for a few years because he stole a car and ran from the police. I have no idea what he is doing now, but the last thing I heard was that he had been in and out of jail a few more times.
The take home point is that James allowed his bad habits to overshadow his hope. He let one of the few positive things in his life fade away. He became consistent but it was in committing negative acts toward himself and others. It paid off; the dedication and focus he put into becoming a full time thief and putting aside the dream he had for his future landed him right where his 10,000 hours should have.
Did you realize it was the 10,000 hours of overeating that led to you being overweight?
Did you realize it was the 10,000 hours you did not move or exercise that led to you being out of shape?
Did you realize it was the 10,000 hours of thinking about only yourself that led to your relationships crumbling?
Did you realize you could have spent those 10,000 hours doing something to better your life instead of complaining about how and why it wasn’t fair?
Who you are over and over again is who you are.
Brief victories are just that—brief. That doesn’t mean there are not moments that can create a lifetime of better habits, but as a whole, it is who you are each and every day that counts.
Consistency is Boring?
Some of the worst quotes ever recorded for posterity were about 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 it is 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 you have there, Wilde and Huxley.
Mark Twain said it best:
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 is stuck in a rut.
Consistency itself isn’t boring. If you are boring all of the time, you are consistently boring. Please quote me on that.
Three Exercises for Consistency Awareness
You can shape your consistency to be whatever you want it to be. You can be consistently amazing, strong, lean, smart, and confident. You can consistently be who you want to be, and it is in that very consistency that takes it from being a fluke to being one of your defining characteristics.
Using these three exercises will help you get there that much faster.
1. The Name Game
Do you remember when you were a kid and your teacher would have you write your name vertically on a piece of paper and then next to each letter you had to write a word that describes you? It might seem a bit cheesy but it can be more telling of how you see yourself than you think.
I had a client do this two years ago and then again recently.
The positive changes she has undergone seems pretty obvious to me, even on subtle levels. Why? During the span of those 680 days, Justine was consistently working on bettering herself. She was consistently working to define her identity and figure out who she wanted it to be. She did 20 name drafts between day 1 and day 680, and this is the one she keeps in her wallet as a reminder of how far she has come.
2. The List
What do you want to do consistently? What do you no longer want to do consistently?
List five things on each side. Don’t overwhelm yourself with 101 things you want to change. Five things you no longer want to be consistent doing and five you do.
Less Consistency: 1. Lazy, 2. Unrealistic, 3. Overly Fearful, 4. Static, 5. Whiny
More Consistency: 1. Strong Physically, 2. Reliable, 3. Inspirational, 4. Lean, 5. Independent
3. The Question
How was I consistent today?
Write it on a post-it note or print out this post if you have to, but never stop asking yourself this question. Pick a time of the day that works for you; I prefer mid-day better than at night because there is still time to change the outcome of that day.
Never try to sort through your day at bedtime. Doing that is a step toward 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 serve a purpose regarding hopefulness, they do not encourage action.
Instead, each day ask yourself, “How was I consistent today?” And each day after that, keep asking yourself, “How was I consistent yesterday?”
Remember that your answers need to be realistic and honest. You have to acknowledge the good along with the bad.
- Today, I complained consistently.
- Today, I was not who I said I was going to be.
- Today, I tracked my food intake consistently.
- Today, I thought of that person constantly.
- Today, I was often lost in my dreams.
- Today, I hoped that my thoughts and actions will make a better tomorrow.
It does not matter if you have one answer or ten; just make sure you are being real with yourself. My final question for you right now is:
How will you spend your next 10,000 hours?
ChrisJuly 7, 2009 at 11:20 pm
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.
SarahJuly 8, 2009 at 2:49 am
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!
SineadJuly 8, 2009 at 7:27 am
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!
Nia ShanksJuly 8, 2009 at 7:35 am
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. : )
ChrissyJuly 8, 2009 at 8:41 am
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.
AmberJuly 8, 2009 at 8:52 am
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
jeanneJuly 8, 2009 at 10:18 am
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 🙂
etana finklerJuly 8, 2009 at 10:19 am
I am consistently:
JessieJuly 8, 2009 at 12:13 pm
Amazing story. Great post Leigh.
KevinJuly 8, 2009 at 1:16 pm
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.
MattJuly 8, 2009 at 2:29 pm
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.
Leigh PeeleJuly 8, 2009 at 3:02 pm
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.
ShellyJuly 8, 2009 at 3:03 pm
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.
HollieJuly 8, 2009 at 3:10 pm
“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.
JennieJuly 8, 2009 at 3:53 pm
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
MissyJuly 8, 2009 at 7:01 pm
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!!
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AnnaJuly 9, 2009 at 7:12 am
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. 🙂
CarrieJuly 9, 2009 at 9:13 am
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!
AmandaJuly 9, 2009 at 3:18 pm
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! 😉
MickeyJuly 10, 2009 at 1:49 pm
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.”
Leigh PeeleJuly 11, 2009 at 12:04 pm
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.
VickiJuly 15, 2009 at 11:25 am
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.
Eric TroyJuly 30, 2009 at 2:41 pm
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…
Krista RompolskiJune 18, 2012 at 1:59 pm
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!