Consistency is by far the most important factor in achieving long-term results. In fact, one of my favourite quotes at the moment is:
“Little by little, a little becomes a lot”
Small actions taken consistently, really do add up to some very significant results over the long-term.
Consistency is open to interpretation though. Doing something 100% of the time is being consistent. So, what’s 90%? What’s 80%? Where do you draw the line?
If you set the bar too high, it can often backfire. It becomes too hard to sustain. Ironically, trying to be too consistent, will actually cause inconsistency. On the flip side, if you set the bar too low, you won’t do a behaviour frequently enough to get results.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what exactly consistency means to me. I’ve settled on a definition and framework that feels right. I suspect it’s also the right way for most people to think about it:
A minimum of 80% consistency over a period of 30 days – with no more than two consecutive misses.
There are three parts to this, let’s break this down a bit.
I’ve found that 80% is a perfect balance between being consistent enough to get impressive results – yet still giving you the flexibility to enjoy your life and deal with challenging periods. Everything above 80% starts to become diminishing returns, when you take into account the marginal gains vs. the trouble you run into. It’s not worth the trade off.
Thirty days is a good length of time to measure consistency. It helps you see the bigger picture. You’re less likely to get bent out of shape by having a bad day – or even a bad couple of days. You can afford to miss up to six times in a 30 day period, and still achieve 80%.
Two consecutive misses
The consecutive misses aspect of consistency is something that I only recently figured out. It might even be more important than 80% and 30 days.
A single miss is easy to recover from. As we know, you can afford six of them in a 30 day period and still achieve 80% consistency. But, if you do have a miss, you must try and put things right the following day. Because, where one miss is a blip, two consecutive misses becomes the start of a pattern. The probability of another miss is higher after two consecutive misses. And so on, for three misses, and four misses etc. It’s a very slippery slope. So, I’ve found that you should try very hard to avoid two consecutive misses. And you never want to go more than two consecutive misses.
To give a bit of context, here’s how my habits are looking for March so far (21 days in):
The first thing you’ll notice is aside from 10K steps (a new habit I’m establishing a baseline for), I’m on track to achieve 80% for every habit. For some habits, I’m even trending towards between 90 and 100%. That’s fantastic, but it’s the icing on the cake and not my goal. I just happen to find those habits easier to do.
You’ll also notice that other than 10K steps, you won’t find more than one consecutive miss. When I miss (whether the miss is intentional or not – and sometimes it is intentional), I try very hard not to have another consecutive miss afterwards. And if I ever miss twice on the row, I’m on high alert.
So, a minimum of 80% consistency over a period of 30 days – with no more than two consecutive misses. That’s how I define consistency. It helps me get impressive results and live a balanced life.
I encourage you to spend some time thinking about what consistency means for you. Define it in a way that leaves no ambiguity. Because, when you get clear on stuff like this – things really start to click.
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