Consistency is Consistently Overrated

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to condemn consistency. I think it’s valuable for a lot of reasons. Consistency is a virtue… if you’re not a screw-up.

Yet, I can’t help but notice that people blindly accept consistency as the road to their success. It’s a classic case of copying tactics without understanding the strategy.

The thing is, if you’ve found the path that works for you, then go for it. Be as consistent as possible. Do your thing and don’t look back.

However, if you’re not quite sure what path you’re meant to be on yet, then consistency is overrated. In fact, if that’s the case, I think consistency will do more harm than good. If you don’t know where you’re headed, how can doing the same thing over and over again get you any closer to where you really want to be?

Embracing Inconsistency

I’d rather embrace inconsistency—surrender to the fact that you don’t know where you’re going yet, and resolve to try everything you can until you figure it out. Sometimes you have to stumble around in the bushes for a while before you find the trail.

In fact, even once you find that path, there’s no guarantee you’ll always want to follow it. Being consistent is great, but changing your mind is just as important in life as making it up.

Here are a few things you might consider changing your mind about:

Your mission: I usually say that the mission, the big goal, is the one thing you should never give up, but the truth is that it’s perfectly okay to have a revelation that changes your priorities. Just because you dedicate years of time and effort to accomplish something doesn’t mean that you should keep working towards it if you realize that it’s wrong.

Before I started, my big goal was to get a good job, make a lot of money, and be comfortable. Losing my job and really looking at the things I wanted from life turned that idea completely on its head, and I couldn’t be happier.

Now, I work for myself, make much less money (but having your attention is invaluable payment), and I seek out discomfort in many aspects of my life.

Be careful, though, not to use false reasoning to change your big goal. Your reasoning should be internal, not external. I get far too many emails from people telling me that they had to give up their dream because they had a child or that they’re setting aside a big goal because they want to work in a field that doesn’t make enough money to pursue it.

That’s nonsense. If you want something bad enough, get creative and go after it in a new direction.

Your strategy and tactics: Just because an idea worked for someone else doesn’t mean that it will work the same way for you. If you’ve been following someone else’s guide and it’s not working out, don’t stick to it just to save your own pride.

Don’t fool yourself into believing that a broken strategy will work for you if you stick with it long enough. Give up your consistency and try something else to get you to the goal post. If that doesn’t work, give up and try something else again.

Forget what anyone else has to say about being consistent. Don’t pay attention to those who think you’re selling out because you’re changing your plan. If something’s not working, it’s not working and it has to change. Simple as that.

In my opinion, it’s much better to be happy and disliked than it is to be miserable and loved. Martyrdom is overrated.

Your schedule: You are what you repeatedly do. Many wise men have said that before me, and I don’t believe for a second that it isn’t true, but I think a consistent schedule is overrated.

I love having a regiment that allows me to be productive when I want to be, but I also love breaking it up and trying something completely new and different. I love creating an expectation that people will hold me to and then delivering something completely different.

If greatness is achieved through consistency, then it’s only one of at least two strategies, the other being surprise.

Your ideals: I got in an argument the other day with a friend who thinks that no one should ever change their ideals, that they develop over time and once they’re in place they ought to be maintained for eternity.

Of course, I couldn’t disagree more. Far too many times have the unyielding ideals of men and women landed them on the wrong side of history. Just look at all the trials we’ve been through in our past regarding human rights and equality.

An ingrained belief that we have to serve our ideals rather then that our ideals must serve us has lead to too many wars and too many people being denied the rights that, over time, we all now agree they deserve.

All this for the sake of consistency.

Take a stand, and take it against yourself if you have to. Never give in to popular belief due to pressure, but constantly question your own beliefs and morals. Ask how they’re serving you and what they’re really doing to make the world a better place. If you discover there’s nothing there, then give up and try again. No one that matters will blame you for it.

Have you ever faced a foolish consistency? How did you handle it? Let me know in the comments.


Responses to comments will be slow for now because I’m currently out climbing Mt. Elbrus in Russia. Follow my updates on Twitter or Facebook.

Image by: Brett Jordan