Why "Be Consistent" Doesn’t Mean what You Think

WIP: The Consistency Formula.

4 minute read

Be consistent.

No matter the field, this simple phrase is touted as a foundational element of success.

Want to create a community on Instagram or Twitter? Be consistent with your content. Want to get in shape? Be consistent with your diet and workout. Want to hike to the South Pole? Be consistent in your regimen, marching 20 miles a day.

This concept of “consistency” comes off as if it were a single, repeatable action. “Oh, just be consistent. Got it.” But it is not that easy.

Being consistent is actually a multi-step process, each with varying degrees of difficulty. As I am starting to understand it, the “consistency fomula” is the sum of vision, bias for action, focus, and discipline.

For example, if you want to build an online community, being consistent with your content involves a lot more than simply hitting “share.” You need to first do your research to understand exactly what kind of content you should be sharing. Which leads to a non-stop pursuit of uncovering information that your community values. From there you need to carefully filter through and curate, going on wild goose chases and following dead-end leads. At this point, you now need to synthesize your findings, preparing, editing, and presenting in a way that your community finds engaging and useful. Now you can hit “share.” And then start all over again en route to your next post.

Here “consistency” requires vision to help understand your “why” for building the community. Then it is time for action, tracking down thoughts and ideas that you can work with. Focus is up next, transforming the breadth of the search spotlight into a laser-like beam of content. While discipline finishes the process off, ensuring you only share the exact content that your community values.

The good news is that consistency generates momentum. The more you pursue information, the more ideas you will have to share. The more you eat right and workout, the better you will feel and want to keep it going. The more consistent you are in your hiking, the faster you will get there.

And once you understand the other factors at play, you will be able to harness tools like habits to help you achieve your goals.

As Twyla Tharp shares in her book “The Creative Habit”:

“I begin each day of my life with a ritual,” she writes. “I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and First Avenue, where I work out for two hours.

“The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.

“It’s a simple act, but doing it the same way each morning habitualizes it—makes it repeatable, easy to do. It reduces the chance that I would skip it or do it differently. It is one more item in my arsenal of routines, and one less thing to think about.”

Even though Twyla is able to create consistency around putting on her clothes and hopping in the cab, it is not enough to just show up at the gym. She still needs to actually stretch and workout. But putting in place the process that helps her show up gives her a chance to close the loop on being consistent.

“Be consistent” really means “have vision, have a bias for action, be focused, and be disciplined.” In other words, be ready for hard work. But at least understanding what goes into the process can help us show up, day in and day out.