One of the most valuable assets we have as parents and leaders is our reputation. As the old saying goes, a man is only as good as his word. But how do we keep our reputation strong by keeping our word in the times when all we want to do is quit or change direction?
Saying something is one thing, but sticking to what you say when it stops being fun or comfortable is another thing entirely. As husbands and fathers, our wives and kids learn to trust us based on how well we stick with what we commit to. That’s why consistency isn’t just something that’s nice to have – it’s absolutely essential.
Most people aren’t good at consistently sticking to goals. Statistically, the large majority of people who set New Year’s goals give up on them before they achieve them. And we all know people who talk about all they’re going to do – start a business, lose weight, stop smoking, etc. – only to find them back to their old ways a few months later. If we’re honest, that’s us, too, a lot of the time.
But what’s the key to accomplishing the goals we want to hit? The answer is day-in, day-out consistency in the little nuanced aspects of the thing you’re working to accomplish. Author Malcolm Gladwell says that 10,000 hours of doing something consistently is how you achieve mastery of a skill. To put that into perspective: if you did something for 4 hours per day, it would take you just under 7 years to master something.
In other words, no matter how you slice it, consistently doing productive things over a long period of time is the key to success in any area of your life.
So how do we do that? How do we stay consistent? If we’re not naturally consistent people, is there a way to learn how to be consistent so we can finally stop quitting and giving up on things before they have time to materialize?
Here are a few tips to help you stay consistent so you can build trust and accomplish the vision you have for your family and for your own life:
Make a plan
This should go without saying, but most people don’t make plans for the things they want to do. DHM Research found that only 33% of Americans have a life plan that they have committed to in writing and use to help guide them.
Yet studies have shown that having a plan has been shown to increase follow-through on a wide range of beneficial behaviors.
So do this: start small and write down how you plan to get to the place you want to go. Don’t overthink it. Just put it on scratch paper or in a Google doc if you have to. But hold onto it and keep it handy for when you feel yourself starting to deviate.
Then do this…
Once you have your plan written down, then you need to share that plan with at least one person. Tell them that you need them to help ensure that you don’t leave the plan. See, when you have someone who knows what you’ve committed to, you’re much more likely to follow through.
We’ll let ourselves down, but we hate letting other people down. Use that to your advantage. Tell your wife or your best friend and tell them to follow up with you regularly. And do yourself a favor: make sure you pick someone who will be honest with you. The last thing you need is people around you justifying inconsistency.
Once you have your plan written down and you have someone you’ve told to keep you accountable, next…
Make a “when I feel like quitting” plan
The number one reason people quit on something they should be consistent on is because they believe that if they drop the ball once, they’re done – the fight is over. To overcome this all-or-nothing mentality, we have to do away with perfectionist thinking.
Tell yourself up front that you’re going to fail – because you are going to fail in some way. You’re human, it’s going to happen.
The difference between successful people and unsuccessful people is ultimately found in how tolerant they are of themselves when they fail.
This is why tracking the number of days in a row you’ve done something isn’t the most productive thing you can do. As soon as you don’t do it – as soon as you skip the workout or eat junk food or somehow break the streak – the clock “starts over” and it feels like it was all a waste.
But the way to stay consistent is to tell yourself ahead of time what you’re going to do when you feel like skipping or when you miss a day, drop the ball, or fail completely. Giving yourself that grace takes the pressure off to be perfect, and it removes the “pass or fail” grade we all try to place on ourselves. And we won’t quit if we don’t see what we’re doing as a failure.
Here’s the bottom line:
Success isn’t found in the absence of failure, it’s found in the persistence of pursuit.
Your marriage, your emotional growth, your parenting – they’re all infinite games you’re playing against yourself. You don’t have to be perfect in accomplishing your plan, you just need to be persistent. Stay in the fight and do the next step regardless of what happened yesterday.
Stick to the plan, and have someone you’re accountable to. Then, if you’re still ready to quit, give yourself a two week notice. We give notices to jobs before we leave them because we had made a prior commitment to them and we owe it to them to make the proper adjustments with our leaving. So why don’t we do that with ourselves?
Next time you want to quit something, tell yourself you’ll quit in two weeks. Then, at the end of those two weeks, if you still feel like quitting, then by all means follow through with your plan.
Otherwise, keep putting the next foot in front of the other and watch consistency and trust and success fall into place as you stick with the process.