It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives. It’s what we do consistently.
The Key to Success Very Few Talk About
Have you ever wondered how some people are able to achieve massive amounts of success in their field of endeavor, while others work just as hard but achieve very little?
It could be said that those who achieve high levels of success are simply more intelligent, or maybe more ambitious, or maybe more persistent, or possibly just luckier than the people in the second group. These are of course all key factors that certainly can help people achieve their goals. However, there is just one ingredient that goes into success that is more important than anything else. And that ingredient comes in the form of consistency.
To be consistent means to fully dedicate yourself completely to a task, activity or goal. It means to fully stay engaged without distraction.
To be consistent requires a commitment on your part. It requires that you commit yourself to a sustained effort of action over the long-term. What this essentially means is that you keep your word to yourself and others that you will follow through with what you set out to do consistently over a period of time up until the moment your objectives are achieved. As such, consistency is all about your ability to be dependable, reliable and responsible for all your choices, decisions and actions.
Consistency is about building small empowering habits and rituals that you partake in every single day that keep you focused on your highest priorities and goals. It therefore essentially comes down to your ability to hold yourself accountable for the daily choices you make with no excuses and no complaints. You and you alone are accountable for what you do and what you fail to do. All responsibility lies solely in your hands.
To be consistent means to focus on the present moment while maintaining a long-term view that helps you measure your results and the impact of your daily actions. With this regular feedback in your hands you are better able to learn from your failures and mistakes to help you effectively alter your course of action where required.
Consistency is therefore all about repetition. It’s about repeating the same actions (habits and rituals) over and over again; gaining feedback from these actions, and adjusting them accordingly to help you stay on track as you work towards your goal. And that in essence is the difference between success and failure in any field of endeavor, and the key to high levels of achievement.
Why People Struggle with Consistency
Even though the concept of staying consistent seems very simple on the surface, most people do struggle with this idea. They find it difficult to stay consistent because there are just too many distractions. People are simply not focused, committed or disciplined enough to stick with something in the short-term for long-term results.
The key reason why most people struggle with staying consistent over the long-term is that they only live for the short-term. In other words, if they don’t get immediate results from their actions, they don’t see the point with continuing with those actions over the long-haul. However, the habit of consistency isn’t about obtaining quick results. It’s rather about making incremental progress and improvements over an extended period of time.
Consider for a moment a skill that you have developed over the years. Maybe you’re a good singer or guitar player. Maybe you’re a great dancer or can speak a foreign language very well. No matter what skill you developed, you developed this skill over many weeks, months and years. And you developed it because you applied yourself consistently toward learning that particular skill.
A Practical Example of Consistency-in-Action
Consider for a moment a child learning how to shoot a basketball. In the beginning the child is shown the proper technique of how to shoot the ball. However, early on things aren’t easy. They practice and practice the proper motion and movement but results are just hard to come by. The basket just seems too small and too far away. However, the child persists with practicing their shooting technique over many weeks, months and years. And through repetition they start shooting more baskets.
The results become more consistent over time because of the muscle memory the child has developed through the act of repetition. Furthermore, repetition has helped the child to better understand what works and what doesn’t work while shooting the basketball. In other words, they have learned from their mistakes and errors and made the necessary adjustments along the way.
Years down the track shooting a basketball has become second nature, and it’s all because they committed themselves in the beginning to consistent daily practice through repetition.
This is of course just one example of consistency-in-action. It’s just one example of how doing something consistently over a period of time can reap incredible results. However, what if the child didn’t commit him or herself to daily practice? What if they just practiced once or twice per month? What difference would that have made years down the track? Obviously a tremendous amount of difference.
You Are Already Applying Consistency-in-Action
There are no quick results when it comes to a commitment to consistency. Consistency is rather about making incremental improvements over time. The results you are after will eventually come, however they will only come over an extended period of time when you commit yourself to consistency-in-action.
Now of course if for any reason you feel that this is something that’s difficult to do, then consider for a moment all the poor habits that people develop over time.
For instance, regularly snacking on that candy bar or overeating just a little each day over the course of many years can lead to major health concerns, obesity and mobility issues. But of course you probably won’t notice what overeating “just a little today” is doing to you, because it really doesn’t make much of a difference “today”. It probably won’t even make much of a difference tomorrow or next week, and maybe not even next month. But over the course of several years, overeating a little each day makes a significant difference; for that is when you finally start seeing the results from your consistent daily actions, and therein lies the power of consistency.
This is just one example of many where we use consistency-in-action in a very negative and limiting way. I’m sure you can probably think of at least a dozen more examples.
Given this, it’s quite clear that we are certainly capable of applying the consistency habit into our lives. However, from here-on-in it will all be about applying it in the right way to help you achieve your desired goals and objectives.
What Consistency Demands From You
Okay, so let’s say that you are intrigued by this idea of staying consistent and committed to a daily set of actions aligned with a specific goal you have in mind. On the surface staying consistent seems quite straightforward. It’s all about repetition, right?
On a surface level most people are quite aware of the value of repetition. Repeating something over and over again forms the foundation of any skill we are wanting to learn. What’s however not quite as clear is what repetition (consistency) demands from each individual.
Consistency-in-action is not purely about repetition. It’s rather about evolution.
This is not about mindlessly repeating an action over and over again. It’s about learning, growing and adapting your actions that can help lead to incremental improvements over an extended period of time.
Consistency-in-action is about gaining ever greater insights and understandings about what it is you are doing, and subsequently making the necessary adjustments to these actions to help improve your results and performance over the long-haul. In other words, it’s all about improving your effectiveness and efficiency at each step along your journey. Therefore consistency demands that you stay vigilant and focused on making incremental improvements and not just sticking with the status quo.
To be consistent means understanding that the greatest power lies in the present moment. Therefore consistency demands that you stay vigilant, mindful and present on the task at hand without losing focus. It demands that you are able to discipline yourself to this moment, and only to this moment without exception.
I discipline myself in this very moment…
Right now is the only moment that matters…
I only need to be consistent in this very moment…
Many people struggle with consistency when they fail to see immediate results from their actions.
We live in a society that thrives on instant gratification. We feel hungry we dial for a pizza; we get bored we switch on the television; we get lonely we call up a friend. As we have grown up we have been hardwired to expect that our desires will immediately be satisfied. However, when it comes to achieving any worthwhile goal, the rules are a little different.
Typically success in any field of endeavor initially requires that we commit ourselves to taking consistent daily action for next-to-no-reward. The rewards will of course come over time, however early on success demands that you put in the work with very little to show for your efforts. And this is of course where consistency-in-action comes into play.
You must consistently apply yourself to something over an extended period of time in order to reap long-term rewards. This sounds simple on the surface, but because we all live in a world built upon instant gratification, is it any wonder that only a select few people achieve any worthwhile long-term success?
Consistency Requires Some Planning
In order to maintain consistency over time requires that you plan ahead. However, this is not so much about planning as it is rather about forward thinking. You must think ahead in order to make room for the consistent actions you will take.
Consistency-in-action demands that you first get very clear about what your highest priority activities are. These activities are typically built around your core values, passions, purpose and goals. If for any reason your priorities are not aligned with these areas then you will very likely struggle to maintain consistency over the long-haul. Ask yourself:
What are my highest priorities?
How are these priorities aligned with my values, passions, purpose and goals?
Once you are very clear about the priorities you will focus on, it’s now time to develop a schedule that will help you to block out specific time throughout the day that you will spend working on these highest priority activities. Ask yourself:
When specifically will I schedule time to focus on these activities?
How will I ensure that I stay focused without distraction on the task at hand?
The key here is of course to develop a routine that helps direct your efforts, thoughts and actions consistently throughout the day. Moreover, it’s all about building small consistent daily rituals (as part of that routine) that help you form new habits that support the goals you are trying to achieve. And that in essence is what it takes to develop consistency-in-action.
Taking Consistent Action
Now that we have clarity about what consistency demands from us, it’s time to put consistency into action, and of course the key to consistency comes in the form of proper preparation and focused attention.
Preparing Yourself for Consistent Action
Before you begin taking consistent action, it’s important that you mentally prepare yourself by first establishing a goal or objective that you would like to achieve. Ask yourself:
What goal would I like to achieve?
Now reverse engineer this goal by progressively moving from the end outcome to the present moment backward step-by-step. Really take a deep look at this goal to get an understanding of how all the steps and pieces came together over time. Once done, break this goal down into parts and outline specifically how you will work through each step. To help you with this process, ask yourself:
What do I need to do to achieve this goal?
What repetitive actions or activities are required?
What specific habits and/or rituals could I develop to support these actions?
When will I partake in these activities? How? When exactly? How often?
It’s important here to identify specific timeframes you will be working with that will keep you on track as you work toward the attainment of your goal. With timeframes in place you will work with more purpose and a sense of urgency. With no timeframes in place it will just be too easy to get sidetracked or distracted throughout this process.
You should now have a very clear idea of what exactly needs to happen in order to achieve your desired outcome. It’s now in your hands to follow through with these specific actions over an extended period of time to help you accomplish your goal.
There is however one additional question you need to be asking yourself. That question is:
What repetitive activities must I avoid doing?
Often it’s not only what we focus on or do that matters, it’s also what we avoid doing that makes all the difference in the end.
Have a think about all the various distractions and counterproductive tasks that could divert you from what’s most important. Often these tasks/activities are irrelevant and will end up hurting your productivity. In fact, often they are nothing more than poor excuses for indulging in procrastination.
Maintaining a Steady Focus
Having gained clarity about what it is you will be working toward, it’s now time to get to work. However, in order to stay consistent in your actions it’s critical that you maintain a steady focus. To maintain a steady focus you need to address the following three areas:
- Focus on what’s most important, not what’s fun, easy and/or convenient.
- Focus on one thing at a time, not on trying to multi-task.
- Focus on the execution of an activity, not on the desired outcome.
The overarching key here is of course simply to stay focused on what needs to get done without distraction. This is where your priorities must come into the spotlight. You must focus-in on the one most important thing you need to do at this moment that will help you in the long-run to accomplish your goal. However, this rarely as easy as it seems. It’s not easy because your brain will always be prone to getting caught up in distractions. It will always want to focus on what’s fun, easy and convenient. However, what’s fun, easy and convenient is probably not the most optimal use of your time.
It’s very likely that the activity you are trying to focus on can become a little tedious and boring. In such instances it’s critical that you focus on the execution of that activity. Focusing on the execution helps you stay focused with little chance for distraction.
We will typically get distracted and sidetracked when we look too far forward and tease our brains with other thoughts or things that need to get done. However, when you focus on the execution of an activity you are unlikely to fall into this trap because all your focus and attention is on what you’re doing right now in the moment. This moment is all that matters. Everything else just fades away into the background.
This kind of focus is of course not easy. It requires discipline on your part to maintain your focus over the long-term. To assist you with this focused-attention you may find it helpful to regularly ask yourself:
How must I think to stay focused?
Reminding yourself of this question will help you to stay focused on the execution of the task at hand. Afterall, everything you do always begins with a thought. Therefore if you are able to effectively direct your thoughts in an optimal way this will help you to stay focused on what needs to get done.
Now of course, at times you will naturally lose focus. Staying focused for extended periods at a time is not easy to do. At some stage you are bound to feel uncomfortable, however you must push through this discomfort and stay the course until your objective has been achieved.
Having said that, the key here to staying focused is to work in bursts. Focusing on something for several hours at a time without a mental and physical break is extremely taxing on the brain. As such, it’s important to introduce short breaks of only a few minutes in between your focus-time. This will effectively help you to recharge your batteries and allow you to refocus on your work when you begin again.
Staying Consistent Over the Long-haul
Taking everything we have discussed into account, it’s clear that the key to success is of course consistency-in-action. However, to truly accelerate your results you need to also take massive action consistently over an extended period of time.
Doing little things in a small way consistently over time will make a huge difference over the long-haul. However, if you want quicker results than massive consistent action is what’s required. But of course, taking massive action can be very taxing and draining, and can often lead to burnout. As such it’s important to take massive action in short bursts and then resting and recharging.
This is of course not about perfect execution. Taking consistent massive action over time isn’t about trying to be perfect. It’s rather about continuously practicing what you need to do to be successful. And yes, practicing is the key. That’s essentially all you are doing. You are consistently practicing your craft over an extended period of time up until the point you have either achieved your goal or mastered the craft.
To practice your craft essentially requires that you build on the previous day’s work and look at ways you can learn and improve your actions. Ask yourself two simple questions:
What did I learn yesterday?
How can I improve things for today?
These two questions essentially allow you to keep making progress; they allow you to keep improving and refining your tasks and action over an extended period of time to help improve your efficiency and effectiveness. And all this essentially comes down to is building good habits.
When you commit yourself to performing an activity or task at the same time every day without fail, you are at that moment building an empowering habit that will over time blossom and help you get the desired outcomes you are after.
The Power of Reading 30 Minutes Per Day
Consider for a moment the act of reading a self-development or business book for 30 minutes per day. This might not seem like much, however reading 30 minutes per day over the course of a week totals 3.5 hours. An average sized book will therefore probably take you roughly two weeks to read. Given that there are 52 weeks in a year, you would therefore end up reading roughly 25 books within that calendar year. But let’s say that you skip a few days and you only end up reading 20 books. Or let’s say you go on holidays and only end up reading 15 books. That’s 15 books in one year! Five years down the track you would have read 75 self-development or business books!
Do you not think that reading 75 books over the course of 5 years would change how you think about your life, your career, your relationships or your business? Do you not think that you would gather unique insights and ideas from these books that would help transform the course of your life? I bet it would. In fact, I bet it would change your life in a dramatic way. And to think that all you did was commit yourself to reading 30 minutes per day.
Now of course, 30 minutes seemed insignificant in the beginning. In fact, you might have gotten very little value over the first few weeks or months. However, slowly but surely the seeds of new thoughts and ideas were laid, and over time you made more and more associations and connections between what you were reading and what you already knew about your life, business, career, relationships and/or circumstances. This over time created a series of “aha” moments where suddenly everything became crystal clear. It was as though you suddenly woke up and saw your life and circumstances in a brand new light.
As a result you ended up making a different set of choices and decisions that led you down a very unique path, and ultimately your life has been transformed forever. And to think that it all started with just 30 minutes of reading time per day.
This is the power of consistency-in-action over a period of many months and years. Likewise this is the power of developing an empowering habit that is likely to transform your life for the better. However, indulging in this habit will not make much of a difference today. Nor will it make much of a difference next week or next month. Maybe you won’t even see much of a difference over the course of several months. However, over an extended period of time (sometimes over many years), as you accelerate your momentum, there will be a noticeable difference. And then one day you will look back in awe on where it all started in disbelief at the progress you have made. That is the power of consistency-in-action.
The Consequences of Consistency-in-Action
Now of course, as mentioned earlier this power can be used for good as well as for evil. 🙂 Instead of reading a book you could watch your favorite television show for 30 minutes per day while snacking on your favorite chocolate bar. This habit/routine of course won’t make much of a difference today. Nor will it make much of a difference tomorrow, next week or next month. But over the course of a year, or over the course of many years as your tummy grows and your health and mobility deteriorates, you may look back at your life and wonder:
How in the world did I get this way?
And this is just one of the many self-sabotaging habits that people typically indulge in consistently every single day. And because we just don’t see that it makes a difference today or tomorrow, it effectively just doesn’t matter because it simply doesn’t register on our intellectual radar.
You see, the problem is that many people live with a short-term view of their world. They rarely see past the moment. They just can’t quite comprehend how the actions they take today and the consistent actions they take over time will impact them years down the track. Or maybe they do understand, but unfortunately just don’t have the necessary willpower to hold themselves back. This is after all how addictions are born; and habits are very much like addictions. They are things that we just can’t help but indulge in over an extended period of time. We might of course feel as though we can quit at any time and turn our lives around, but in reality we are only deluding ourselves.
Life is too precious to waste away in this way. Your future rests purely in your hands. You and you alone can decide within each moment what you will focus on. You and you alone can choose an alternate course of action. And you and you alone can make up your mind to start making positive changes today. And it all begins with something small and positive; something you commit yourself to doing each and every single day without fail for weeks, months and years.
You of course won’t see much of a difference today, nor will you see a difference tomorrow, next week or even next month. But over the course of many years your consistency-in-action will build the foundations of a far richer, happier and more fulfilling life.
The choice is of course yours to make. So what will you choose to focus on today?
Time to Assimilate these Concepts
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Gain More Knowledge…
Here are some additional links and resources that will help you learn more about this topic:
- 7 Principles of the Slight Edge that Changed My Life @ LinkedIn
- Being Consistent is Not the Same as Being Perfect @ Entrepreneur
- Consistency is the Key to Breaking Bad Habits and Forming Good Ones @ Entrepreneur
- Consistent Positive Action Creates Huge Momentum @ Evan Carmichael
- How Consistency Touches Every Area of Your Business @ CBS News
- How to Be Consistent @ WikiHow
- How to Be Consistent: 5 Steps to Get Things Done, All the Time @ Marie Forleo
- How to Take Action Consistently @ Steve Pavlina
- How to Take Consistent Action Every Day: 5 Powerful Habits @ The Positivity Blog
- How to Take Consistent Action: 7 Powerful Tips @ The Positivity Blog
- Power of Consistency: 5 Rules @ Inc.
- Read the Bible on How to Develop the Consistency Habit @ The Slight Edge
- The Power of Consistency @ The Huffington Post
- The Under-Appreciated Benefits of Creative Consistency @ Sparring Mind