Building Your Consistency

If you search the entries in this series or simply read them as they go public, you’ll find I write quite often about consistency. The reason is simple: in almost every field of human endeavor, consistency is critically important for jacking up your overall level of productivity and success.

As I learned many years ago from mega-investors, and separately from my own consulting and efforts to increase productivity, it almost doesn’t matter what success-oriented strategies and tactics you use, so long as you use the same ones consistently.

Of course, I’m not the first one to tell you about the value of consistency. You will come across this fundamental idea expressed in many ways from many experts in many fields.

The trouble is, their advice on how to be consistent boils down to “just keep doing the same thing.” But if it were that easy, we’d all behave consistently pretty much all of the time.

So I’m going to step back from the simple-minded advice to “be more consistent” and tell you specifically how to build your consistency. You do it like this:

Start Small and Easy

I know. This sounds exactly like the “just keep doing it” advice I so disdainfully decried a few sentences earlier.

The difference here, however, is that I’m not asking you to start out being consistent about anything big or important or even useful. Just as you have to spin an internal combustion engine a few times before it can fire up and start producing useful power, you have to perform a specific action more than once before you can “fire up” your consistency circuits and train them to work better on tasks, projects, and goals you really care about.

In practice, you can start the consistency building process by doing just about anything.

For example, you can start building your consistency by checking to make sure you bring your keys every time you leave your home. However, that’s almost too useful for our purposes here. You might better energize your consistency circuits by doing something entirely useless every day, like spin in a circle, or dance a little jig, or take two steps forward and then two steps back.

The idea is to….

Do It for Its Own Sake

I have discovered you can best “fire up” your consistency circuits by doing something without a good reason. This makes sense, because consistency plays no part in doing something purposeful.

For example, checking to see you brought your keys every time you go out helps you feel certain you can get back in. That’s not consistency. That’s just sensible and prudent.

But spinning in a circle or dancing a jig before you leave home serves no useful purpose. The only reason you will do it is to engage and build your consistency. (One could argue that in this context, building your consistency counts as something useful, but let’s not get too convoluted in our thinking.)

After days, weeks, and months of spinning in a circle before you leave home – every time – your ability to behave consistently will be much stronger, better developed, and more directly under your conscious control. As your consistency grows in these ways, you can begin to focus it on useful behaviors and drop those useless “training actions,” such as spinning around before you leave home.

Build An External Motivator

Another way to strengthen and develop your consistency is to build an external motivational system.

You can do this by rewarding yourself for consistent behavior. For example, if your plan is to walk three miles every day, you may build into your plan the external reward of eating an ice cream popsicle after seven days in a row of walking.

An even stronger external motivational system uses punishment rather than reward. For example, instead of planning to eat a popsicle after walking for seven days in a row, you might plan to donate a few bucks to a cause you hate if you don’t walk seven days in a row.

You should, of course, carefully choose your rewards and/or punishments to suit your individual preferences and aversions.

Later, the benefits you receive directly from your enhanced consistency will help keep you on track without specially contrived rewards or punishments.

Don’t Set a Target

Just as exercise and healthy eating are never-ending practices with no endpoints, it’s helpful to recognize that efforts to build your consistency should continue indefinitely. And as with exercise and healthy eating, consistency itself will become a “new normal” that feels pleasant and rewarding every time you apply it, over and above the good things your consistency brings you.

As you develop, strengthen, and practice your consistency, you’ll become better equipped to follow everyone’s simple advice to “be more consistent.” You’ll also become much more capable of applying your consistency to any aspect of your work and your life where you want to be more productive and successful.

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