You would think it didn’t need to be stated. You cannot do something once and expect instant success. It becomes especially evident over New Year as people resolve to fix what they are unhappy with in their lives, or vow to publish that book they have been sitting on for years.
But here is the kicker. Publishing that one book probably will not change your life. There are a select few for whom this is the case. But for the majority of us mere mortals, we’ll have to write another, and another, and another as we consistently improve.
Anything else is akin to the lottery mentality. Your life will not magically improve if you just win the lottery. In fact, there is strong evidence that many people get worse off after winning. Not to mention that lottery tickets generally increase their sales during a financial downturn, efficiently taxing the poor and desperate.
So you do not want to be stuck in a lottery mentality. A condition I must admit I suffered myself as a young adult to a degree. But what do you focus on instead?
I have two friends who are published authors. They shed blood, sweat and tears and finally pushed their book-baby to completion and can proudly boast a physical, published work of literature. There is every reason to be proud of what they did. It required a lot of hard work and dedication. Not to mention grit and intelligence.
The sad thing I see with both of them was that they clearly, to a degree, expected the book to turn things around for them. They’d be able to retire from their day job, write exclusively in a nice house and happily ever after.
As you might have guessed, that did not happen.
Instead, they made a few sales, got some reviews, and their book went into a bit of a slump with a lot of unsold ones still on shelves and in boxes. They got depressed, and have started talking to their friends about how writing isn’t everything, and how you can’t expect to make it as an author.
It is a sad sight to see. Because they both have the potential if they keep at it.
I see the same thing with Etsy sellers, a field closer to my own experience. I’ve seen many shops open after reading blog posts about how easy it is to get rich selling stuff on Etsy. They post a few listings, and then get demotivated when the crickets chirp and nothing happens.
To be sure, my own modest Etsy earnings are nothing to write home about, but they are growing. But if I did not try to put out something new every once in a while, I am pretty sure they would not.
I have many examples of my own lack of consistency, so don’t think I am preaching from a high horse here. I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to develop a yoga habit, only to fall off the wagon a month or two later because I want to sleep in or I don’t have time or whatever other excuse I make up for myself.
I am pretty shit at consistency, but it is a skill I try to develop little by little. Because I realize how important it is if I want to eventually escape the rat race and reach employer independence. But it is not just money, consistency is important everywhere. From exercise to eating healthy to hanging out with friends and even gardening.
Who cares if you dug out every single weed in your garden patch to pristine beauty, if you only did it once during summer? For the plants, it would actually have been better if you were less of a perfectionist, but instead weeded more often.
Most skills you want to develop work in a very similar way. You learn far more from practicing often, than from spending a lot of time trying to figure out how to do it perfectly. Regular dedication is far more important than one-time perfection.
Again, I am far from an expert in the field of consistency, but there are a few things I have noticed that make it easier to develop a consistent habit.
This was a surprise to me when I discovered it. I thought consistency was all about doing something every day or every week, no matter what. If life came in the way well, I was just a failure!
It should come as no surprise to anyone that this attitude hampered my efforts of creating consistency, as opposed to enhancing it. By having such a black and white view it was much harder to try again when I dropped out of what I was trying to achieve.
By contrast, by expecting setbacks and accepting them as normal, I could see a small relapse for what it was. A small break, nothing to cry over and certainly nothing to give up over. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater and all that.
as part of my regular New Year spiel, I am trying to get back into yoga. But instead of trying to create a daily routine like my goal was every other year, my goal this year is to aim for weekends and days off when I have a long morning ahead of me. I figure I can branch out to work mornings when I have a better hang of the weekends.
Not only that, but I am starting small. A handful of sun salutes and some good stretches. 5-15 minutes for a start. I am physically capable of doing the longer sessions, but I want to create the habit first. If you try to do everything at once it is so much easier to fail.
PS: You don’t need to shell out thousands for a yoga studio if that is not a priority. I use Yoga with Adriene on youtube, because I find her upbeat and positive attitude a great way to start my day. Plus, she always provides alternatives for different levels of skill, body shape and schedule.
Your version of starting small could be to write for 5 minutes every morning, or to write one paragraph, or read for 15 minutes. Whatever works and makes sense for you.
Once you have that habit smack down, you might find that you enjoy it so much you expand it. 5 minutes becomes 15, a paragraph becomes two, three, or even 1000 words. But don’t begin at the end! Begin with the end in mind, but start off with small, achievable and realistic goals. After all, you can’t improve if you don’t have the habit to begin with, so you need to develop the habit of consistency first. Don’t think about improving until after the habit has been implemented.
Keep writing those blogs/books/articles. Keep posting those listings/make those things/sell those darlings. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
What are your best tips for developing and keeping a consistent habit, of any kind?