Achieving success through consistency requires this universal strategy
When I write about the benefits of exercise, I often say consistency is king. But I'm wrong. People can turn up physically but not mentally - and that's a problem because they give up too quickly.
We need to understand that being consistent is not the strategy. Consistency is a tactic. In other words, consistency is about keeping on pedalling - strategy is about heading in the right direction.
Unexpectedly, consistency has a universal strategy.
This interests me because I've seen many people be very consistent in their actions yet at the end of the day not make progress. If they understood the universal strategy behind the habit of consistency, they could have succeeded.
When we think of consistency, we usually think of a gruelling everyday imposition.
It's not like that.
Consistency is not about applying a gruelling everyday imposition unless there is no higher purpose behind it. That greater purpose is not a milestone such as losing 10kg - this is only a road sign along the way.
We all know the quote from Woody Allen.
"80 per cent of success is just showing up" —Woody Allen.
It's not true.
Billions of people turned up at work for the new year - being consistent - and this year is not going to be any more successful than last year.
Consistency is necessary, but not sufficient.
If you are on a diet to lose weight, then you have to be consistent. If you keep weighing yourself and see that your weight loss does not meet your (unrealistic) expectations, then what happens?
What happens is that this confirms your self-belief of failure and gives you the satisfaction of proving it, by no longer showing up.
There's no doubt that without showing up - consistently - that you cannot achieve an outcome. But an outcome, such as weight loss, is not the strategy - it is just a signpost along the way.
Ironically, even when people achieve their outcomes through consistency, such as work goals or weight loss goals, they often stop being consistent. They quit. They stop showing up.
This is because what lies behind "just showing up" is the hard part. It is about learning more about "the thing" for which you are showing up.
As hard as it sometimes seems, we can all get started on things in the short term. Most of us, me included, get started on too many things. Despite the slogan "just do it", just doing it does not mean that you will become consistent.
Know the universal strategy enabled by consistency
The goal of consistency is not to be consistent - being consistent is just a tactic or method.
However, using consistency as a tactic creates space for you to fully engage in the objective of your consistency - the objective being your aspirational purpose for being consistent.
To be consistent, you have to know the universal strategy enabled by the tactic of consistency. This strategy is to learn about the craft, discipline, sport or activity for which you are executing consistently.
Consistency gives you the space to learn how to learn your craft.
The universal strategy is to create the space in the practice of your craft to be able to see how to learn it and embody it and not just do it.
Anyone can run, but a real runner wants to learn their craft. They cannot do this without consistency.
Consistency provides the space to learn
But consistency alone will not teach you how to learn and embody running deeply. Consistency and success aren't about just showing up. Consistency provides the space for you to do this if you make an effort and wish to learn.
A runner is someone like Sergy Faldin: How I Went From 0 to Running 21.1K in 3 Months who describes running as a philosophy which he learns by being consistent. He quotes the book of Haruki Murakami, and his book, 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running' as inspiration.
When writers on Medium talk about writing every day, they don't mean just writing. They suggest that once you overcome the effort of writing every day that you can create space to develop your insights and ability to engage others with your writing.
Without consistency, you will not gain that mental space. Consistency provides you with the opportunity to attain the space - you then have to use it.
You will start looking for something in the world to write about. You will seek to notice something interesting and to say something creative about it. Well, isn't that all we're looking for? The best practice of generously sharing what you notice about the world is exactly the antidote for your fear ~ Seth Godin, from his interview on the Unmistakable Creative Podcast.
In other words, consistency is a means to an aspirational purpose. In Seth Godin's to enlighten your understanding of the world and share it, to help others do the same.
Tim Denning, whose articles have 30m views, says his aspirational purpose in writing is to "inspire others to consider a different perspective and change your life in many tiny, insignificant ways that you'll perhaps never even realize".
Ed Latimore calls it writing with a purpose. I add "an aspirational" purpose because a signpost along the way can often be confused for a (simple) purpose if you only set yourself a simple purpose.
There will be signposts along this road, but they are not the purpose. For example, the signposts could be the number of engagements, or requests for articles, or the degree to which it creates a living.
Being consistent on a diet has signposts as well, such as losing 10kg. But the aspirational purpose of dieting could be to learn the lifelong skill of eating food you enjoy without being overweight.
Running a marathon could be a signpost for a runner. But the aspirational purpose could be the runner wanting to get more in touch with themselves, and finding running to be the vehicle to do that.
Conversely, when someone says they tried gym for 45 days and were so glad to get their life back, you know that they failed to create learning via their consistency.
"Too much restriction and life admin, I very quickly realized, is terrible for my mental health" ~ Refinery29 on Medium
Consistency is a means of achieving an aspiration purpose. Without the purpose, it becomes a grind, a chore, or "admin" as Refinery29 said. The stress of a gym schedule squeezing your life reflects a failure in the purpose of consistency.
If exercising holds no higher purpose than "being consistent" than it will become a chore, it will then be then cast off as "getting in the way of life".
Repetitive brain injury
You've heard of repetitive strain injury - consistency without an aspirational purpose creates repetitive brain injury.
By the way, consistency does not necessarily mean doing something every day. Seth Godin recommends writing every day, but other very people achieve their aspirational purpose writing twice a week.
Some runners run every day - others less often. You might only go to the gym three times a week. Presumably, you would diet every day.
Whatever you plan to do consistently, have an aspirational purpose behind it. Give your aspirational purpose a far more extended timeframe and far higher value for your life than just meeting some short-term milestones.
If you can use consistency as the means to achieving your aspirational purpose, then your regular actions won't become chores. They'll become stepping stones to your aspirations.
If consistency is king, then using it to make space for your aspirations is heaven.
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Since I was diagnosed at 50 with Type 2 diabetes I've been learning how to do bone-building body-shaping training for people our age. You can too. It's your choice. Walter