My friends nicknamed me Mr. Consistency. Clearly, they thought I possess this trait at an extraordinary level. However, there is nothing extraordinary about my consistency. It is mundane, even boring. It is not so difficult at all.
Most think consistency is hard, difficult, impossible, tough, unstable, untenable, and unsustainable.
Most people are wrong.
Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t — you’re right.”
— Henry Ford
It’s enough to change your thinking about consistency to attain it.
How Do You Change Your Thinking about Consistency?
I have a few ideas.
1. Realize that Humans Are Wired for Consistency.
How often do you touch your mobile phone screen? Quite consistently, right?
How often do you scroll through social media? Again, consistently, right?
How often does a gamer play a video game, a smoker light a cigarette, a pill addict gulp a pill, and an alcoholic sip a drink?
The same answer applies.
Humans are creatures of habits. Pshaw! As far as we know, all vertebrate are creatures of habits. We share the part of the brain where habits are stored — basal ganglia — with the most primitive animals — snakes, pigeons, alligators.
I can hear the objection: “But wait! I meant consistency with good habits is difficult!”
You say so?
How many people have the same friends they had a week, a month or a decade ago? How many people have the same spouse for years? How many people have been going consistently to work? How many students have been going consistently to school?
The answers to the above questions are: billions, billions, billions, and billions.
So, are friendship, love, work or education evil? Nope.
Bad habits glue to us without much effort. Most good habits need some cultivation before they solidify. But both good and bad habits use the exact same biological mechanism.
2. Examine Your Life.
Unless you are sick and there is something seriously wrong with your brain, you already have plenty of habits. Pick a few you are satisfied with and grateful for. Maybe you take a minute to decompress in your car when returning from home?
Maybe you exercise regularly?
Maybe you read a lot? Maybe you clean your room/house?
If you cannot recall any other good habit, you probably brush your teeth, right?
OK, so you have some good habits. It already says a couple of things about you:
-you are capable of creating good habits; difficulty level aside, you were able to develop some.
-your good habits benefit you; that’s why they are called “good!”
Examine your life and your habits. Think of how your life could look, if you didn’t have them?
For example, I know very well how miserable my life would be without a habit of brushing my teeth twice a day. I developed it only as a teenager. And toothaches plagued my life prior to establishing the habit. My teeth rotted and ached like hell. It’s enough to dedicate two minutes in the morning and in the evening, to spare myself terrible torment.
However, you must perform this mental exercise on your own, taking examples from your own life. What benefits do your habits provide? What do they prevent and protect you from?
Also, recall the process of creating your habit if you can. Maybe it wasn’t difficult at all? If developing this specific habit was easy, maybe other habits you have were easy to build too?
The grandest habit I have is writing at least 600 words a day. When I built my writing habit nine years ago, I had been aiming at 400 words a day. It took me about 30 minutes ripped off from my insanely busy schedule. Yet, I don’t recall any difficulty at all. The difficulties I had, I label now as inconveniences and discomforts.
I wanted to write! I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to change my line of work. I didn’t deliberate with myself if I should write on a given day or not. Runners run and writers write. End of story.
I remember creating another habit — drinking a glass of water first thing in the morning. It was annoying; I wasn’t used to consuming anything at all for about 2–3 hours since waking up. And I almost never drank water. I didn’t like the taste of it. Yet, in a few short weeks I developed this habit. It stuck with me ever since.
3. Realize the Power of Time.
You can do that only through reflection and rumination. Your subconscious mind doesn’t understand the concept of time. All it knows is “now.” As far as I know, you cannot teach your subconscious what time is, like you cannot teach a chimpanzee to fly like a bird. Those two entities are incompatible.
We all intellectually know the concept of the compound effect. But the theory is not enough. I had once in my mastermind a very successful guy, an owner of a multimillion dollar company. He struggled to save money. I remember other guys from the mastermind explaining to him how one dollar saved today can be turned into several dollars down the road, and I realized how dumb that was. Taylor already knew how the compound effect worked. He wasn’t stupid! He helped to build a very successful business. He simply didn’t feel the importance of it and its repercussions.
You need to internalize the knowledge and feel it at your gut level.
This was the purpose of recalling your good habits and counting their benefits. It’s one thing to intellectually understand good habits are good for you, and it’s a different story to actually experience they have been good for you.
Scientists claim that about 40% of our daily actions are automatic. You drive your car, put your shoes on, brush your teeth and you don’t think about those activities at all. You just do them.
But those automatic actions don’t determine only 40% of your life. They determine about 98% (where does this number come from? My personal hunch). You see, the actions you don’t perform regularly have very small overall impact on your life.
One day you eat a carrot, another day you eat a burger. Those actions nullify each other.
But those 40% of activities you repeat every day? They compound. Eat vegetables every day; or eat fast foods every day. The output of those actions will quickly cumulate in your life.
Time. This is the true power behind consistency. Time is the most powerful force in the universe. With time, a river could cut out a Great Canyon in the rock.
Dripping water hollows out stone, not through force but through persistence.”
Consistency is a way to leverage the most powerful force in the universe in your life. Try to keep that in mind when the next impulse to eat junk, watch junk, or “kill time” will arrive.
4. Killing Time Is Suicide in Installments.
Inactivity has consequences.
Time will be your friend or your enemy; it will promote you or expose you.”
― Jeff Olson
Always. A decision to do nothing is not indifferent. It makes the time to work against you instead of for you.
Do nothing, and suddenly instead of riding the tide of time, you are crushed under it. When you put your life on hold to mindlessly watch another TV series, play a computer game or scroll through social media, you make time your enemy.
Make rest a necessity, not an objective.”
— Jim Rohn
It doesn’t mean you will not rest. In reality, we need loads of time to pause and charge our internal batteries. Eight hours of sleep. Half an hour of exercise. Time for socializing. Quiet time for your mind and soul.
Have you noticed? There is no single modern app or entertainment platform on the above list of necessary activities. When you let yourself be sucked into mental entertainments, you make time your enemy AND you don’t get any rest. You still need to cut time for charging your batteries and for all the work you have to do.
5. Consistency Is Here and Now.
The classic mistake we make when thinking of developing good habits is that we focus on the perceived difficulty of doing something for months and years.
But you never have to do something for months or years. Consistency is a chain built from many links. When it comes to actual action, it is only the single link that matters. When you read, write, exercise, write a thank-you note, eat a vegetable, or meditate, you do it here and now! Not in the upcoming decades!
The effort is scaled down to the next few minutes or hours. That’s it.
Anticipating years of struggle and toil in advance is as stupid as worrying about your kids’ college grades… while the kid in question is currently the baby crying because of a wet diaper. You should deal with the wet diaper, eruption of teeth, first steps now. The time for college grades will come.
6. Consistency Is Small.
The size of activity doesn’t matter. At least, when we regard consistency. Whether you write a paragraph a day or a chapter a day, consistency of the activity is actually the same. It’s the number of repetitions, not the scope of your activity that defines the consistency of your actions.
I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”
― Bruce Lee
Yes, you can condense the same effort into one day. You can do 100 consecutive pushups instead of doing five pushups for twenty days. In the short term, you will surely gain more than a guy doing five pushups a day. But when it comes to continuity and sustainability, your 100 pushups means exactly nada.
Unless, you can do them the next day too. And the day after that, and another…
Hmm, actually, consistency is not small. It is size-indifferent. However, starting small makes the whole process so much easier. First of all:
“Well started is half done.”
When you try to attempt something ambitious, like writing for an hour a day or going to the gym every day, you set yourself up for failure. The initial resistance is huge! In most cases, you don’t even start. You just fiddle with this thought and talk yourself out of it. In those few cases when you actually start such an activity, the resistance is big every time you try to repeat a habit. And you eventually talk yourself out of it.
When you start small, the mechanism is opposite. There is little to zero initial resistance, so you actually start instead of just thinking of it. The next day, it’s easy to continue, so you continue. You grow your streak with almost no effort. The best part? It’s ridiculously easy to scale up your habit once you built it.
Back in 2012, I created a habit of gulping a glass of water right after my morning workout. One glass. As I mentioned, I built it fast. Soon, I added another glass of water — I had an empty glass, so I filled it again and went to my desk to continue my morning ritual. While reading, journaling and the like I sipped that next glass.
Nowadays, I’m at the level of four glasses of water before I finish my morning ritual.
Consistency is easy. Change your thinking about regular activities. Doing them is not difficult.
We are biologically wired for consistency.
You already have good habits. You are capable of developing them.
Time will pass anyway. Your habits let you leverage it to your advantage.
Wasting your time is a big no-no. Time for a rest is necessary.
Consistency is built here and now, not in the distant future.
Starting small is smart. You can upgrade an existing habit almost effortlessly.
Wrap your head around the above concepts and become consistent. This is how you make your life easier and advance to the top 1%.