If there was one thing you can do to be better (in any area of your life) you should strive to be consistent.
Last week I was in New York City for a work meeting, and while I was there I was able to meet with a lot of smart, accomplished leaders (including Stacey-Marie, a past leader of the week). And in my conversations, I asked a lot of questions about success. I deeply wanted to know: what makes these special people tick? How did they get where they are today? And what sets them apart from everyone else?
And while each person I met with had a very different journey and career path, in each of these conversations I picked up on a theme – consistency.
If you look at yourself today, and compare today’s version of yourself to who you were one week ago there is little discernible difference. Success and failure look the same in short timeframes.
What will determine your success are all the small decisions you make every day, or every week, and how those add up over years.
And that is why consistency is so important.
Making good little decisions is better than big changes
Have you ever tried to go on a diet and made big changes for a few weeks, and then reverted back to your old habits? Have you ever tried to start a workout program only to quit going after a month?
The problem with big changes, or new programs, is that they are big. They disrupt our lives, and sometimes you can effectively reprogram yourself to stick with a big change, but more than likely your efforts fail and old routines resurface before the change can really take an effect.
Don’t get me wrong! I love the concept of 30 days trials (it was how I gave up sugar and candy for a full 60 days), but it can require quite a bit of willpower to stay on track – and most of us find that kind of hardcore willpower really hard to maintain when we have life, families, and work to take care of at the same time.
Big changes are appealing because they sound like quick-fixes. We think, “Oh, I could be so fit if I just ran 5 miles every morning!” while conveniently forgetting the training, struggle, and dedication is takes to be someone who does that. It’s easy and appealing to fantasize about waking up tomorrow morning as a brand new person with brand new priorities, so we all do it. But it is nearly impossible to actually carry out a totally new lifestyle or big change, just because we like the idea of it.
Do you know what is easier to do and more likely to succeed? Making small, easy adjustments.
What do I mean? Here are some examples:
- Deciding not to eat that extra cookie.
- Eating a piece of fruit on the way to work.
- Reading 10 pages in a good business book.
- Reading two good articles or blog posts before watching TV.
- Parking your car at the edge of the parking lot so you have to walk just a little bit further.
- Taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
All of those things are small, and pretty easy to do. And crafting a habit of those small changes every day can actually transform your life, if you do it every day for a year or even 10 years. It just comes down to consistency.
Small positive changes over time compound positively, or negatively
In fact, when you think about all of the small decisions you make every day, think about them like compound interest in a bank account. Lots of small good decisions add up in a positive way, like putting small amounts of money in a bank account over a lifetime, whereas bad decisions are like small debits slowly depleting your capital over time.
Just think about it.
If you walk an extra 2000 steps per day (easy to do) it burns about 100 extra calories. In a week that won’t matter much – 700 calories isn’t even one pound. However, if you do that every day for a year, that will add up to 36,400 calories, or just over 10 pounds. Just by walking a little further every day.
Now think about if you read 10 pages in a good business book each day. In a week, you will have read 70 pages, which on its own may not be enough to make you that much smarter. However, if you did that every single day for a year you would have read 3,520 pages, which is about 10 good books. And I will be damned if that hasn’t given you new ideas and helped you improve at your work in some way.
The trick is that you have to be consistent.
You have to do a little bit more every day.
You have to make slightly smarter decisions every time.
And don’t forget – since all of these things are easy to do, they are also easy not to do. Most people don’t maintain them over time, since after all, it’s easy to justify skipping your one little routine “just this once”. And it’s true – skipping a small thing “just this once” won’t ruin you. But deciding to skip it once and then “just once” again and again until it stops being a habit, rather than being consistent, is what holds most people back.
Simply by deciding every day to say “yes” to your small routines, you’ll already be miles ahead.
Putting this into practice
This week your word is consistency. I want you to think about what one thing you can do that is small (less than 15 minutes daily, or an hour weekly) but that you can commit to doing consistently.
- Maybe you can start taking the stairs every day.
- Drinking 1 extra glass of water.
- Telling one person thank you for something they did this week.
- Implementing a Monday Ninja Planning session.
- Making sure your 1:1 happens with your boss.
- Reading 10 pages in a good book.
Pick something and commit to it. It only needs to be one thing. And if you need some accountability, leave your new commitment in the comments.