The consistency myth: how perfectionism kills your motivation

Consistency is a touchy subject with me. For a long time, I held the belief that I couldn’t succeed because I wasn’t “a consistent person.” Growing up, my mother called it laziness and tried to train it out of me by making my copy Bible verses on the subject. It didn’t help, but it sure made me feel guilty that I wasn’t like my ‘supposedly more disciplined’ (and not therefore not lazy) younger siblings who were happy to do piano practice every day or do their school work each morning and afternoon.

You don’t have to go far to find the story that you just have to be consistent in order to acheive everything you want to.

  • “Success isn’t about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” – Dewayne the Rock Johnson
  • “Getting an audience is hard. Sustaining an audience is hard. It demands a consistency of thought, of purpose and of action over a long period of time.” – Bruce Springsteen
  • “People like consistency. Whether it’s a store or a restaurant, they want to come in and see what you are famous for.” – Millard Drexler

Some of these quotes, on the surface, look nice and seem to be true, but let’s really break them down.

Consistency = success?

“Success isn’t about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” Here’s the problem with this. I know many many people who work consistently at something and still sucked. We all know those people.

  • A woman who spent 20+ years cleaning and “organizing” her home, but never managed to get rid of her lack and fear mentality so she could stop hoarding.
  • A young mom who got suckered into multilevel marketing and kept at it, posting pictures of her pink drink or other magic potion for years and never managed to recoup her money or see real results from its use.
  • The man who believes one day he’ll be the next J.K. Rowling, but spends more than 10 years consistently writing and editing  the “perfect” manuscript they never finish.

Seriously. Consistency isn’t everything when it comes to success. I spent more than 5 years working on the same website that barely made me any money, hardly brought me any pleasure, and didn’t usually bring in a profit.

 

Consistency = stability?

“Getting an audience is hard. Sustaining an audience is hard. It demands a consistency of thought, of purpose and of action over a long period of time.” Gee, thanks for this gem Bruce! If your message never changes, grows and evolves, then you know what happens? Your audience will outgrow you.

If an artist never had to change at all in order to keep their audience, then they’d wear the same style of clothes they wore then they first started performing. They’d play the same exact style, and they would be a laughingstock.

Many of the world’s most famous people have been remembered, not because they stayed the same, but because they changed and

In marketing, there’s a tactic called the hero’s journey. It goes something like this: “The hero was once a [nothing exciting] but then something happened to him/her and they had to deal with [a struggle]. That struggle impacted them and lead them to become [what they ended up as].

There’s a reason the hero’s journey is used in a lot of marketing. People want to believe in change, and they want to know they can change too! Without change, no one grows or thrives.

 

Consistency = your ticket to fame?

This quote made me laugh out loud. “People like consistency. Whether it’s a store or a restaurant, they want to come in and see what you are famous for.” No offense, but has Millard Drexler ever gotten bored of a restaurant and wanted to try something new? Ever gotten tired of the same old thing in bed and branched out to do something adventurous? 

While some people may be content with the same dinners night after night, routines day after day, and life year after year, most people want something more in their life. It’s the reason why people want to travel, why we read, and why we have social media: we want to see and experience different things. 

 

But, don’t I have to be consistent to see the results I want in life?!

Here’s the thing. I already told you, I’m not a consistent person. I don’t choose to do the same thing day after day, and I love my life. The things I need to do consistently, I find a way to automate it, or build a mindless habit around it.

I find that the more I have to fight to create a consistency habit for an activity, the more resistance I’ll give it. For example, I hated social media in my business for a long time. You know what I always was told you needed to do in order to do well with it? Consistency. You know what I don’t love to force myself to do all the time? You guessed it!

I came up with a system to deal with the fact that in many areas, consistency just wasn’t my forte. Here’ are my anti-consistency rules, the things I follow so I don’t have to spend my days doing the same old drudgery all the freaking time, because it’s “good for me” or whatever some guru is saying. Here they are:

The anti-consistency rules

1. Deeply question why, and if it’s important to you

Whatever the habit is, if the reasons are logically sound and will help you life your best life, proceed. If the reasons are based on guilt, or a sense of obligation that doesn’t fit into your plan for your best life, Let go of the expectation to keep it up and do something you actually want to do.

Some reasons why we might keep on feeling the need to do things, long after they’ve reached their expiration in our lives:

  • I feel obligated to do this because [person] always said I should.
  • My family has always done it this way!
  • Someone successful told me I should do it this way, so I should do it!
  • I feel obligated to do this because I’m afraid someone will be disappointed
  • I have to do it this way, because research shows that this is the best way! (There’s ‘research’ out there to support everything. Choose what works for you and trash the rest!)

There are things that we really do want in our lives, that will actually help us reach our ideal lives. For example, these are some things that I chose to keep in my life: 

  • Being more physically active, so I can feel good playing and being a high-energy mom with my kids, and I can live a long time with them
  • Homeschooling my kids – education is vital to kids, but I’ve been able to let go of a lot of idea that I was taught about how I “had” to educate my children. 

2. Do it in bulk, reap the benefits

I do this with cooking, shopping, and pretty much anything else I can get away with. When I’m in a writing mood, I may churn out 12 blog posts in a week. When I’m not, nothing gets written. The net result is the same, and the content I write when I’m in the zone is much better then when I try to force it because of some arbitrary rule about consistency.

  • Meal planning: I use the Cozi app to add all of our favorite meals in, then I just drag them in and use their grocery list feature to make my grocery plan.
  • Social media: I use Angie Gensler’s social media calendar to plan my content for the year, and schedule it in Meet Edgar. I like to do videos throughout the month, but not as a mandated activity!  

3. Find a way to delegate it (incrementally, if necessary).

As a stay at home mom with young kids, delegation is 100% necessary to life functioning at my house. Chores of all kinds are done either by my kids, or they help with any parts they are able to, in an age-appropriate way. I’ve also had helpers like a housekeeper to help stay on top of deep cleaning.

  • Meal delivery: We don’t use a meal delivery service at this time, but it’s definitely on my list for things I want to do in the future!
  • Shopping: there are so many places where grocery curbside pickup or delivery is available now, and even if you life in a rural area like we do where those services aren’t available, you can still use a service like or Boxed.com save yourself the time and energy shopping, plus the time and gas driving! 

4. Automate!

Automation is seriously the best thing ever. We automate everything possible, where we don’t have to sacrifice the quality of the end result.

  • Investing: we use the Acorns app to automatically invest for us by rounding up, and also have a monthly amount we add to that (yes, automatically!)
  • Saving money: I use Digit to save for me on top of what we do each paycheck. It means that money I would normally have spent gets saved so I don’t have to think about it.
  • Budgeting: Simple bank keeps my ongoing budget rolling each month with their expenses feature, so I can login and see if we’re on track to make our bills and goals each month. Gone are the days when I spend more than 15 minutes on a budget each month. Who has time for that?!
  • Buying essentials: I never worry about buying essentials anymore, because I use Amazon Subscribe and Save to do it for me, and it’s a huge area where not only do I not have to be consistent, I don’t even have to think about it.
  • Education/ Homeschooling – While I can’t automate everything about homeschooling, I did get my daughter several sets of her curriculum as audio books. She learns in the afternoon during quiet time, at bedtime, and during art time when she’s doing hands-on activities. She’s learned a ton, and I don’t have to do it, she sets it all up herself every day. When she’s ready to learn something new, I add it to her mp3 player and that’s it. We don’t teach all concepts this way, but it’s helped her learn a lot of things like history and science, and even reinforcing math and reading concepts we’ve worked on together. My son also learns things when he listens along, even though he’s three years younger. 

 

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