Consistency is Overrated
I've been getting an inordinate amount of emails lately on the topic of "how to stay consistent."
What is up with that?
A shared theme of the influencers I'm currently following?
A reflection of the time of year it is now (January)?
A growing/needed cultural discussion?
Whatever is driving this conversation, I feel my irritation grow every time it comes up.
Aside from the frequency with which the topic surfaces, what really fascinates me, has been my own emotional aversion, almost repugnance to the topic.
I've been talking about the importance of consistency for years.
I even coined a phrase "consistency is my superpower" to remind me that I want to be the kind of person who constantly shows up, is willing to do hard things, and can keep going after the excitement of starting is over.
My ability to be consistent has been a point of pride for me--which is probably a good topic for a different blog post.
SO...WHY DO I FEEL DISILLUSIONED ABOUT THE TOPIC OF CONSISTENCY?
Or maybe better said, what do I think this discussion is missing?
As I've read various pieces of advice about consistency, several thoughts emerged:
Duh. Of course I won't get anywhere if I'm not consistent.
Yeah, yeah, I don't need another productivity hack.
Yes, but how do I know what you're asking me to be consistent at will even work?
Sheesh, do I sound as boring and unhelpful as he/she sounds right now?
Whoa...when did I become such a cynic?
WHY CONSISTENCY IS OVERRATED
Consistency is only important...if you're focused on the right things.
Being consistent at the wrong things, or perhaps worse, staying disciplined with behaviors you think will help, but won't (e.g. insert all sorts of bad diet and exercise advice here), is a great source of frustration and waste.
Now, that's not a highly profound statement, so let's dig a little deeper.
Let's say you are focused on being consistent at "the right things."
Are those things the right things to focus on...now?
Might you be neglecting other areas of life where consistency is equally (or more) important?
Might you be making yourself busy at the expense of being productive?
Are you focused on too many good things, at the expense of a few great things.
See...that's a whole different way to filter questions about your consistency.
Finding a better "system" (app, hack, tracker, etc.) to stay consistent won't mean squat if all you're trying to do is cram more busyness into an unbalanced life.
AVOIDING "MISGUIDED CONSISTENCY"
We live in a society that prizes maximization.
We’re told the sky is the limit, that we can have it all, and if we try hard enough we can be great at everything.
That's a lie.
You can’t have it all…sorry if I’m the one breaking this to you.
You’re limited. You only have so many hours in a day.
Reaching for the stars in everything, is like:
Trying to simultaneously hold down four, full-time jobs
Major in every degree your school offers
Or, the often tried, but rarely-to-never achieved--stay in awesome shape while becoming financially free, being an awesome parent, maintaining 10 close friendships, winning Boss-of-the-Year, being a loving spouse who protects date night, volunteering at church, making time for your hobbies, and having a consistent day off.
You can’t do all that...no matter how many productivity apps you have. Trying to will make you feel mediocre at everything, and nary a thing will feel satisfying.
Trying to maximize all those things and lead a "balanced life," is a unicorn.
Or said differently, you can’t maximize different areas of life that are trade-offs.
You have to pick.
Since you can't be in two places at once, the more you maximize one area, the more you minimize the others.
DEALING WITH YOUR CRISIS OF LIMITATIONS
If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve hit your crisis of limitations, either in terms of your knowledge, time, resources, energy, or even motivation.
There's a good chance, because you've believed the lie that you can have it all, that you’re tangled in so many obligations and now your health, and possibly other important areas of life, have started to suffer.
Want some encouragement? Just focus on being consistent at trying to have it all!
Sorry, I couldn't help it.
Do see how that doesn't help?
This is my attempt to pin down what's been bugging me, to find the missing piece in this discussion of consistency.
All of the repeated admonitions to focus on consistency seem to be implying that I haven't been, and that if I was, I'd be enjoying more success.
It presents my lack of whole-life success as a discipline defect, rather than what is more likely a need to think differently. Let me explain with some more personal examples:
In trying "have it all" I have been consistent at:
Taking on too many things at once
Saying "yes" when I should have said "no" and vice-versa
Giving the best of me to the business and my leftovers to my wife and kids
Believing I can just pick up friendships later in life when I "have more time"
I don't want to be consistent at those thing anymore, but to change that reality, I needed something else first.
CLARITY FIRST -- THEN CONSISTENCY
To help you (and me) be successful at what really counts in life, you have to come back down to earth and jettison the fairy-tale, maximization approach.
You have to hit the reset button.
You can’t cram health, relationships, or other important aspects of life into the margins of an over-stuffed schedule and expect that to work--and expect you won't get cranky trying.
You have to ask, “If I’m going to be good at what counts, what gets to stay on my balance beam of life, and what needs to go?”
How do you make health, finances, family, or faith a priority, and "stay consistent at it" while enhancing the other important areas of life, not taking from them?
Here's what you're going to find...
LESS...IS TRULY MORE
One of the great "secrets" of our success helping people get healthy…is to move them away from the maximization mindset, to help them figure out how to do fewer things, but to do those things, really well.
You know what clarity does...it simplifies.
But what does that look like, for you? How do those trade-offs shake out in your schedule, and in terms of emotional satisfaction?
It looks different for everyone, but here are...
The two most important question you have to face, and keep facing:
What's enough, for now?
What's enough for the future?
I can tell you, the better you get at answering those questions, the better you'll be at juggling all the important aspects of a well-lived life--in real time.
Keep asking those questions...and you'll probably never become an Olympian or a billionaire. You may not even be boss of the year, but your kids will love you, you spouse will adore you, your quality of work will improve, your body will slowly get healthier, and your bank account will be more and more able to help meet the needs of others.
Good enough...is almost always good enough.
DON'T BE CONSISTENT...UNLESS IT'S IMPORTANT
Once you clarify something that undoubtedly should stay on your balance beam, protect it with everything you have!
You won't regret it.
What you will regret is being consistent at neglecting what's important.
TWO FINAL TIPS
1) Regularly (did you catch the extra emphasis on that word) take take a hard look at what's worthy of your balance beam--family, health, friends, vocation, faith, etc., then figure out how much time is left.
HINT: Sleep, rest, and play are non-negotiables too. Fail to include them on your beam, and you'll always feel like you can't be fully present.
2) Don't take yourself too seriously either. We humans tend to stress over things that a month from now we will barely even remember.
My wife taught me to "work to become a non-anxious presence." She's great at it. I'm slowly getting better...but I can tell you the emotional payoff is tremendous.
Practice those two things, and you'll find you have more time than you thought you did.
You might even enjoy yourself a bit more too.
Now...go be consistent at that... :)
Until next time,
PS. What if you had a plan that helped you clarify what it would take to rebuild your health, and reset your lifestyle to one that is sustainable, healthy, and accounts for your competing desires for whole-life success?
That, is the kind of work we do. If you want to find out how we help people lose weight, stop pain, and heal their body, without crashing their schedule, draining your willpower, or sacrificing what matters most, then check this out.