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Consistency - The Path to Change

I find that one of my biggest struggles is consistency. I complain about it constantly with my golf game, “if i could just hit my driver consistently I’d be amazing”. But that’s just it, consistency is what separates good from great. Every single successful person in the world has mastered one thing, consistency.

But I struggle with the “How”. How do we create consistency in our morning routine, at work, at the gym, with our families, with ourselves? I love the following riddle:

“How do you eat an elephant?”

“One bite at a time”

I know its dumb but its also true. The key to consistency is one small bite at a time. When I was training for a 10K run I didn’t go out and run 10K from day 1. I first started running 1K, then stretched it out to 2k after a few weeks of daily run/walks, then I fell into a pattern of running 4-5km regularly. In fact I didn’t even run 10K before I ran my race, the consistency that I created running from 1k to over and over running 5k made it so that I could accomplish the harder task of running 10K without ever having done it in the first place.

The lesson I pulled from that is that consistency in a practice even if you haven’t achieved your desired result yet, will ultimately result in you achieving your goal. Once you stop resisting doing that “thing” every day and just do it. Start with 5min, then go to 10min, then 15min etc etc etc.

I want to share a conversation I had with my daughter. It started like this:

Daughter: “Dad, I hate reading”

Me: “why?”

Daughter: “Because I suck at it and that everyone in myclass is a better reader than me” (which wasn’t even remotely true)

<enter Dad/Coach mode>

Me: “well do you want to get better at reading”

D: “no, not really”

Me: “Do you like any of the books I’m reading to you? Like Harry potter?”

D: “yes”

Me: “do you think that you’ll ever want to read one of these books on your own?”

D: “maybe”

Me: “do you think that you will always suck at reading?”

D: “yes”

Me: “why do you think that?”

D: “because i’m not good at it”

Me: “Are you good at walking?”

D: “yes”

Me: “you weren’t good at it when you were 1, in fact you sucked at it, you kept falling all the time, crying, complaining, and crawling”

“Do you think you’d be good at walking without practicing it and being bad at it first?”

D: “I guess not”

Me: “So what do you think you need to do to get better at reading?”

D: “practice”

Me: “yup, how much do you want to practice?”

D: “I don’t know”

Me: “how about we start with 5min a day? And if you like, we can increase it as we go along and get stronger”

D: “Ok daddy”

<end scene>

So if I could convince my daughter to get back to practicing something she wasn’t good at and wanted to avoid, I surely can take my own advice and keep practicing to be consistent with what I’m struggling with.

And if she were to miss a day, would I yell at her, tell her she sucks and that I am disappointed in her? No, so why then is it ok to do that to myself. Maybe, a critical component of consistency is also compassion to miss, dust off and continue again. Life happens, and the only things we can control are our thoughts and our actions. So being consistent really is less about discipline and more about tenacity and compassion.

So the “how” in creating consistency is to start with small incremental steps, compassion for missteps and the tenacity to continue on.

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