This article will describe why and how we can go from consistency to success in any endeavor we choose. I believe consistency is the most underrated skill a person can have when aspiring for success. Yet it’s one of the most essential skills for the process, second only to self-belief (what Napoleon Hill would call “faith”).
It turns out that we don’t need to do take big risks or accomplish great, flashy things in order to be successful. It’s much more important to focus on showing up consistently time and time again. It’s the little improvements performed every day which pave the road to success.
So let’s get started.
What Is A Skill?
According to Webster’s a skill is the ability to use one’s knowledge effectively and readily in performance. In short, a skill is an ability. And any ability requires time and practice to be sharpened and honed. Skills are tools, and like any tool they need to be in good working order if they are to serve us well.
The skill of consistency is universal in its applicability. This means that it doesn’t matter what field you are working in or seeking to improve in, being consistent will empower you to succeed. And like with any skill, the more you use it the better you get at it.
Being consistent breeds more consistency. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle. This doesn’t make it positive or negative; we can be consistently good at our jobs or we can be consistently rude to others. But it does mean that more consistent we are at doing something the better we get at being consistent.
Consistency Is A Skill
Yes, consistency is a skill. One which is becoming more and more rare these days as we find our life circumstances inundated with distractions. The more distracted we get the less likely we are to be consistent in our endeavors. In this way, technology can undermine our productivity, rather than empower it.
Consistency is showing up regularly. That’s all it is. Yet, within the simplicity that is consistency lies the seed of mastery in any endeavor.
Be 1% Better
In “Atomic Habits”, by James Clear, we read that making 1% improvements every day for a year leaves us 37 times better when we’re done. Conversely, if we get worse by 1% every day for a year we decline to 0.03 of where we were when we started. That’s nearly zero, depending on your perspective.
What is the main determinant in making that 1% improvement ever day? It isn’t effort. Being 1% better than yesterday hardly requires us to work much harder. Although, if you’re an Olympic athlete, becoming 1% better at your sport from one day to the next is next to impossible, but most of us aren’t Olympic athletes.
Additionally, we can become 1% better in something that is not related to the field we want to improve in. So even if we are an Olympic athlete and improving by 1% in our performance times from one day to the next might be impossible, we can improve by 1% in another area which directly influences our performance, like our nutrition.
In this way, there are always areas in our life in which we can improve by 1% on any given day. And since everything in our life depends on everything else, that 1% improvement in one part will carry over to the rest.
So the main determinant between improving 1% a day or not is not the effort we expend. It’s consistency.
Consistency Is Showing Up
Woody Allen said “80 percent of success is showing up.” Whatever your opinion of Woody Allen as a person may be, it’s undeniable that he was written and directed some great films. I believe that what Allen is saying with the quote is that by showing up consistently, ready to learn, or create or train, is where most of the work for our success goes into.
Showing up regularly isn’t easy. That’s why it’s such a large part of success. In order to show up day after day to our work, our training or our relationships we need to commit. We commit to carving out a part of our day, for weeks, months or even years, in order to show up and do the work we need to do to succeed.
It’s incredibly simple. But just because it’s simple it doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Most Failure Comes From Giving Up Too Soon
From what I’ve seen and read, most failure comes from people giving up too soon. This includes me. There have been several times throughout the writing of this blog when I’ve considered throwing in the towel. When I start having thoughts which lead me to believe that people aren’t interested in what I have to say. That it would be better for everyone if I dedicated my time to doing other things, like knitting.
It’s when I feel like this that consistency comes to the rescue. As soon as I start meditating on the fact that consistently showing up is what is most required to succeed I begin to calm down. Because I realize that by showing up and doing my work, even if I feel unmotivated or uninspired, I am engaging the power of consistency to work on my behalf.
When we work on something consistently on something we send the message to our bodies and minds that this is the way it’s going to be. By being consistent we actively vote for the person we want to become. Whether that vote is big or small matters less than showing up and casting it.
Effort Matters Less Than Consistency
Again in “Atomic Habits”, Clear writes that just showing up and following through with what you’ve committed to doing, even if you do a terrible job at it, is infinitely more valuable than not showing up. Because of the way improvement works, not showing up for the tasks you have scheduled for the day is much more destructive to success than showing up and being mediocre.
In the book, Clear writes to imagine you have 100 dollars. And then imagine you invest those 100 dollars and make a profit of 50%. So you end up with 150 dollars. Well, you only have to lose 33% of your total amount to get back to the original 100 dollars you had.
You had to improve by 50% to get to 100 dollars but you only had to lose 33% to revert to your original state. So as you get better you need to lose less than the measure by which you improved to revert all your progress.
This means it’s best practice to not have zero days. As long as we show up and do something we will not have a zero day. If you’re writing a book and are having a terrible experience in showing up to write one day, writing one sentence, is way better than not writing anything at all. Because you will not go backwards, you’ll go forwards a tiny step. The same applies to anything else.
And how do we ensure we don’t have zero days? By being consistent.
By remembering that if we show up consistently we have most of the ingredients required for success.
How This Can Play Out In Your Life
Think about a task you regularly do which is incredibly difficult for you. I’ll tell you mine, waking up at 5 AM to exercise.
Now think about the times you’ve given up without doing your activity. We all have tasks that defeat us. I usually wake up early to exercise but over the past few days I have failed at doing so.
Now imagine that instead of giving up entirely on the activity you scale it back. What do I mean by scaling back? I mean you do a fraction of the activity you had originally planned. If you had a 10 km run scheduled but instead of doing 10 kilometers you did 100 meters. That’s scaling back.
How does that change your psychology?
You go from saying “I didn’t do my 10 kilometer run” to saying “I did a 100 meter run.”
You go from having a zero day to having a positive day.
That’s priceless. It completely changes your psychology. Did you follow through with your 10 kilometers? No. But did you go backwards? No. You went forwards, even if it was a fraction of your original intended amount.
(I understand that if you’re an elite performer, doing a fraction of your intended practice will actually send you backwards. This is advice for most people, not you.)
In Conclusion… Invite Consistency Into Your Life
Consistency takes the pressure off. It allows you to shine during your good, productive days and to be alright with your mediocre days. Because you know that as long as you show up and do the best you can, even if it’s just writing a sentence of your book or running 100 meters out of 10,000, you are voting for the person you want to be just by showing up.
It makes the journey to success much less daunting. It doesn’t make it easier. Showing up consistently is hard. But it makes it the journey manageable. It gives you a system to fall back on.
So I invite you to bring consistency into your life. Show gratitude consistently. Go on walks, consistently. Switch your negative thoughts towards positive, consistently. I guarantee you that by doing small, positive things consistently you pave the way towards success in anything you do.
So go out there and be consistent!
To our wealth and success.
Is there any area in your life in which you’re highly consistent? Any area where you’re not but wished you were? Drop a comment and let’s talk!