In today’s society, consistency has almost become a bad word. We are focused on wanting things now and along the way, we somehow lost discipline of taking one small step at a time–the art of doing small things over and over again until they become a well-grounded habit. Yet to tell the truth, consistency is the very thing that actually leads to breakthrough.
There is a marvelous little book out there by Jeff Olson, The Slight Edge. He begins by telling the story of a wealthy man offering both of his sons a choice between one thousand $1000 bills (one million dollars) right now, or a penny in a purse with the stipulation that the content of the purse would be doubled every single day for 31 days. One of the sons chose the million dollars, the other the penny. The son with the million dollars hired financial advisors with the hope of turning the million dollars into a genuine fortune. The other son chose the penny. Within a week, he had sixty four cents. After two weeks, he had $81.92. On day 28, the purse of pennies passed the million-dollar mark, and on day 30, it was at more than 5 million. Crazy, isn’t it? That’s the power of compound interest–and the power of consistency all at once.
Consistently in the little things seems worthless, but that is where personal breakthrough is found most of the time. Building new habits through small, insignificant daily actions lead to massive changes. And consistency, it is like the special glue that makes you stick to something until you get there. The more you utilize this glue, the stronger it becomes…super glue. At some point, you begin to notice that you can stay focused on what is needed over and over with less effort, thereby changing outcomes on many different levels.
Many, many of my life coaching clients, probably most of them, reach their goals by setting up small daily action plan that I keep them accountable for.
Think on the areas of your life where you have been successful: graduating high school or college, marriage maybe, career, raising kids, volunteer work. Do you see how your consistency in these areas was part of the reason for your success? The end result might be glamorous, yet the consistent everyday work that was involves is not; it is often menial, and maybe boring, requiring a lot of discipline and can seem ridiculously unimportant. Yet we are the sum of our small acts and thoughts…
Small acts count greatly; small thoughts can cause us to quit or go forward. Nothing small is irrelevant!
Think of a hand-pumped water well. The water table is, let’s say, 25 feet below the ground. A pipe runs down to the water table and you have to pump the lever to create the suction to get the water above the ground and out the spout. Here is what most people do when they start a new endeavor. They grab the lever and start pumping really hard… they pump and pump, and after a few minutes (or a few weeks), they don’t see any water (results), so they give up the lever altogether. People expect instant results. This is where most people quit, before the success ever begins. If they persevere and continue to pump and pump the lever, eventually they get a few drops of water. This is when a lot of people say, “You’ve got to be kidding! All this pumping and for what, a few drops of water, forget it.” If you continue to pump soon enough you will get a full and steady stream of water. Congratulations, a success! Now that the water is flowing, you no longer need to pump the lever as hard. It becomes easy and you can keep the pressure steady by just pumping the lever CONSISTENTLY. Now, in our water-well analogy, what happens if you let go of the lever for 30 seconds or so? This is what happens if you don’t strap on your gym shoes for a week or two. The water falls below the ground and you are back to square one again. To just get back where you were you have to pump the lever like crazy again. But if you’d just kept a consistent, easy, even stroke, you could have kept the water (success) flowing. It’s not how you (or your competition) start; it’s how you CONTINUE. The definition of commitment is: Doing the thing you said you were going to do, long after the mood you said it in has left you.
Consistency–a single discipline that gives the advantage.