“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”
I believe that showing up consistently is one of the key components to business success and also one of the hardest things to do. This is what I have learned about being consistent in both life and work endeavours.
I haven’t always been disciplined. In fact quite the opposite, for many, many years I was a bit of a disaster on that front. In my twenties I would often declare new goals or intentions only to be laughed at by friends. “I’m going to give up alcohol” I would boldly declare. “One day I will run the London Marathon.”, “I’m going to write a novel.” All statements I made, all dismissed or laughed at by friends. Why? Because I was known for having big ideas, but then lacking the discipline and consistency to follow through.
I loved to dream big, but forming consistent habits that helped me to achieve those big dreams was a struggle. I would endeavour to do something, such as give up drinking for example and I would last a few days or even a few weeks before my resolve would crumble and then I’d be back to square one.
Fast forward a couple of decades and I’ve actually achieved all three of those goals and many, many more besides. Now when I say I’m going to do something, friends and family don’t doubt for one minute that I will. People don’t laugh at my lofty goals anymore, they’re inspired by them.
So what changed?
How did I go from having terrible will power and follow through to being disciplined and consistent in both my personal and professional life?
The answer is surprisingly simple. So simple that you might at first dismiss it but I encourage you to really think about what I share and examine how it applies to your life.
In a nutshell, I stopped seeing things as black and white. Good or bad, success or failure. I stopped striving for perfection.
Allow me to explain. In my younger years, if I made a bold statement like I’m going to run every day this year, when the day came that I inevitably couldn’t go for a run — perhaps due to time or health restraints — I would consider that a failure and my thinking would go something like…
I said I was going to run every day, I didn’t run today so I’ve failed at my goal.
End of story. Well not quite the end of the story, because with that perceived failure came a whole load of being hard on myself. Negative self-talk that would have me believe that I was a failure, lacking in will power and incapable of sticking to my goals. You know the sort of thing — the lovely feedback we like to give ourselves that leaves us feeling empowered and motivated to do better (not!)
For many years, I lived in this pattern, slowly undermining my own sense of self worth until gradually I started to see another way. With time I realised the flaw in my black and white thinking and I started to embrace the gray.
I started to see that doing things imperfectly was better than not doing them at all.
That’s how I managed to run a marathon in 2008, even after an injury that prevented me from training for months. I had the perfect excuse to bail on my goal but instead, as soon as I could, I got back out there for my training runs.
When I committed to writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days back in 2012, it was this new way of thinking that allowed me to come back to and complete the goal, even when by day 25 of 30, I had only written 4,449 words. I don’t mind telling you that those last 5 days were intense!!
And more recently, when I declared that I wanted to do 100 days of walking to get fit again after two babies, I didn’t give up when on day 6 (the first Saturday), I failed to get out for a walk. Instead, I adjusted my goal from 100 consecutive days of walking to 100 days of walking Monday to Friday and then when I missed a Thursday because of a stinking cold, I simply adjusted my goal to 100 days of walking, no matter how long they take. I’ll get to my 100 days and by then it will be a consistent habit and I will be healthier and happier in my body.
Not giving up when I fail to do something perfectly, is one of the most life-changing shifts I’ve ever made.
Coming back to the goal after every slip or stumble is what helps me to stay consistent. Not beating myself up when I don’t do it perfectly is what helps me to stay consistent. Allowing life to get in the way of my ambitions, without then throwing in the towel is what helps me to stay consistent.
How about you? What’s your relationships to goals, commitments and consistency? Does my story help? If so, let me know in the comments.
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