Why Is It So Hard to Be Consistent?

Ahhh, consistency...I wish I could say I’m good at it, but I just don’t think I am. Well, at least not in the areas I want to be. I never stick to flossing my teeth for more than a few weeks, keeping a regular bed time is out, and exercising has never really been my thing.

That’s not to say that I give up on these things. I want to be better. But for the most part, it’s business as usual.

There are lots of reasons why we’re inconsistent in our lives. Typically, we chalk it up to being a human, but that’s the lamest excuse of all. Sure, we’re all inconsistent, but should we really just accept that? Isn’t there a better way?

What if the problem isn’t the consistency itself, but in lacking a good strategy (or having no strategy at all)? In this case, inconsistency is just a symptom of a deeper problem...

How many times do you come up with great ideas, but fail to strategize about how to make them happen? How many times do you “try” to do something new, only to come up short?

We have clever ways of explaining these types of things:

“I just can’t get any traction.”

“I’m working on it, but it’s just not going anywhere.”

“I can’t find the time to do everything that needs to be done.”

Quite plainly, these are lies. Time, or luck, or skill has little to do with it.

Taking the Long View

Imagine with me, for a moment, a small business. They’ve been around for years, have good brand recognition, and make a couple of million dollars in revenue each year.

They have a marketing budget of $24,000 per year. They know, based on years of experience, that June and July are slow months for them, so every May, in anticipation of this, they spend $24K on radio ads. A one month blast to remind people of who they are.

The result? A small upsurge from the ads, but it doesn’t last.

Now, imagine that same business...only this time, instead of throwing $24K at radio ads one month a year, they instead spend $2K per month to consistently stay in front of potential customers through Facebook ads, sponsorships in their town, and blogging.

Which version of this story makes more sense?

The answer should be obvious (if it’s not, scroll back to the top of this page and re-read the intro).

The premise here is simple: Executing consistently has greater power than a one time flurry of activity.

It’s the difference between the guy who comes out swinging as hard as he can (i.e. lacking a strategy) and the guy who takes his time to wear down his opponent with small jabs (i.e. has a strategy).

A strategy doesn’t have to be complicated. It just requires a little forethought and planning. That small investment of time up front, has a much higher ROI than doing something as a quick fix.

The dentist is never fooled when you start flossing two days before your next appointment.

The Grim Reaper of Business

Let me give you another example, proving two sides of the same coin.There was a coffee shop in my neighborhood, conveniently located across the street from a very busy neighborhood park. With the number of nannies and soccer moms there every day, you’d think a coffee shop like this would be packed. But it was always empty.

The reason is that no one ever knew when they were going to be open. They had hours posted on the door, but many days they were closed - for no apparent reason.

Eventually, their lack of keeping regular hours led people to stop considering them a viable option for coffee. Their hours were too inconsistent. No one wants to groggily drive to get their morning coffee only to find out they’re not open. That’s just asking for trouble.

To no one’s surprise, they closed.

Conversely, the shop was purchased by a new owner, given a bit of a makeover, and immediately began opening with regular hours. They sell the same coffee, ice cream, and baked goods as the other place, but with one big difference...

They’re open at the same time every day. They keep the regular hours they post.And guess what?

The place is packed every time my family walks by. Why?

Consistency.

Putting in the Reps

We know that consistency is a key factor in making progress - no matter what we're doing.

Why, then, are we so bad at it?

Because our brains are hardwired for instant gratification. We focus too much on the big payout. We want the result without putting in the reps.

In the field of behavioral economics, this is known as the “immediacy effect.” Basically, your “present self” trumps the actions of your “future self.” This theory plays heavily into procrastination, addiction, failed weight loss, and retirement savings. And it makes total sense.  

Why else would a business dump $24K in radio ads just one month a year? They want the outcome (more clients) in spite of the reps required to get there. There’s no system. No strategy. Just a focus on a big payout

Success - doing better work, getting more customers, making more money - all comes down to one thing.

You have to create a system that forces you to show up every day. To put in the reps. And if you don't have time, find someone who does. Hire a trainer. Find a freelance marketer. Get a professional flosser to come by every night before bed (how awesome would that be?)

Because while it might not make you feel as good as landing that knockout punch, having a long-term strategy definitely gives you the bigger payout in the end.