This is going to be controversial. But read on…
By now, you must have heard this a zillion times: To achieve even your biggest goals, be it building habits, becoming fit, or compounding your wealth – all you need is consistency. When you are consistent, small incremental progress adds up to massive outcomes. This is the oft-touted magic of compounding.
Everybody has talked about this. Even I have written about consistency dozens of times on LinkedIn.
And yet, if we don’t do it properly, this idea of consistency could badly misfire. That is how we fall into a very common trap, which I describe below.
Almost every life-changing journey requires us to do something regularly – e.g., workout, meditate, read, and so on. E.g., if you read 10 pages a day, you can finish a 300-page book in a month. And lo and behold, you end up reading 12 books a year. You are now probably in the top 2% of book readers, and much smarter and wiser – all for reading just 10 pages a day!
Such is the power of consistency. But there is a downside that nobody mentions.
Let us say you start reading 10 pages a day, and soon, you are cruising. You have now built a 15-day reading streak about which you feel proud – and rightly so. But then, one day, you have too much office work or get sucked into Netflix, or something happens – and the streak breaks. Now, what do you do?
This is the moment that determines your life’s story. (Ok, I am exaggerating a bit, but not that much.)
What do you do when you have ‘failed’ in being consistent? The most common response is the following self-talk: “I can’t do anything right. Every time I build a habit, I quit after a few days. I have no discipline – I might as well quit now.”
After excoriating ourselves, that is what we do – quit. That is the end. And sadly, it was all unnecessary.
Nobody is 100% consistent all their lives, in anything. What happened to you, happens to everyone, all the time. When people are enthused, they build a streak. But nobody has a life-long streak for anything.
Then what should one do when the streak breaks? Nothing dramatic really – just restart. Forgive yourself. For God’s sake – you are not some mass murderer or some special class of sinner – you just skipped a day. Big deal! Start again.
But then you broke the 100% consistency rule! What about that?
Nothing. That is why I said in the beginning – you need consistency but not necessarily 100%. If you are 80-90% consistent, you are doing great and the habit will stick. So does it mean that you only aim for 80-90% consistency? No.
Imagine you are trying to build the habit of a morning workout and on the first day, at 6 am, when you don’t feel like getting out of bed, you tell yourself, “I don’t have to be 100% consistent – so why not take it easy today? Tomorrow – I will do the workout.” This is the recipe for 100% failure.
So when you have to act, aim for 100% consistency. But if someday you break the streak, don’t sit and ruminate over it. Just make sure to show up the next day – make it like war.
Be fanatical about pursuing your goals, but if you miss someday, show compassionate understanding and restart.
I have been working out for 14 years now, and this is how I have sustained the habit. And you too can sustain any habit, for any length of time. Just follow this.
Thank you for reading. I hope this helps you in achieving your most prized goals.