Is consistency always a good thing?

twins
Consistency has never been my strong suit.

I have good intentions. But carrying them out tends to be a challenge.

I operate in cycles. I work like crazy, then I need lots of rest. I have trouble putting work away once I’m into it and trouble picking it up again after I’ve been away for a while.

I’ve never been able to corral my creativity or productivity into a regular schedule.

This is who I am. How do I make that work?

I used to really beat myself up about this, thinking there was something wrong with me. Now I accept these things as part of how I’m built. The question then becomes: “How do I manage within my limitations?”

Having a crazy, productive creative cycle can be a good thing. I can get a lot done in a short period of time.

Businesses, however, are built on consistency.

So I’ve been practicing with consistency. Trying to find some regular habits and practices that I can maintain.

What can I do consistently (and succeed at)?

Enter the “Monday Morning Motivation.” A *short* weekly email.

I wanted to set the bar low enough so that it would be *possible* for me to succeed.

I made it clear that it would NOT be anything as serious (or as long) as a *newsletter* – I even hinted that I would probably may write it late at night after a couple drinks.

I come across motivational/inspirational ideas all week long. All I’d have to do is capture one, write a couple of sentences, pop it into the autoresponder and boom! Illusion of Consistency. If I got on a creative roll, I could probably write up 6 months worth of the things in a day.

I lasted 10 weeks before I missed one

And it’s not like I forgot. My journal entry for last Sunday (right under the reminder to send out the MMM) reads: “OK. The experiment is called: who will notice?”

I was feeling “meh” about it. I questioned if I was being useful at all…or if I was just cluttering up inboxes.

I decided no one would notice if I missed one week. So I didn’t send it. And last night I decided not to send it again.

Something seems familiar about this

I went to bed, and as I laid there…I noticed an old pattern. The same pattern that keeps me from getting regular exercise or making my bed every morning. Once I stop doing something (or stop not doing something), once I fall off the wagon, so to speak, I tend to stay off. It’s an all or nothing thing.

So I broke the pattern. I got up and fired off the following:

I don’t know if you noticed, but I didn’t send a note last week.

And I almost didn’t send one this week.

We like to be consistent. To do the things we say we will. And sometimes we mess up. And then comes the choice: either we stay down. Or we get back up.

Consistency is over-rated. Resilience is not. If you’ve faltered on something, pick it up and start again.

It seemed to resonate with people. Over 10% of my list sent a response to it. (10% sounds much weightier than “5”, yes?) They noticed that I missed a week. They even claimed I’m helpful. (To be fair, I’ve received thank you notes almost every week. I heart my readers.)

But there’s more to it than that

I want to add to that message. Because there’s the other side:

“Having a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sometimes dropping the ball is a hint that we need to reconsider.

Things change.

And we need space to test and evaluate. To try things out and see if they work.

Because if every time I try something new, I tell myself that I have to “be consistent and finish and carry this on forever and ever” – I’ll never start or try anything.

So…it’s not always as simple as picking something up and continuing.

It’s making a new decision.

We need to ask questions:

Is it working?

Is it still meaningful?

Do I *want* to continue this?

And we need to remember:

It’s OK to change your mind.

It’s OK to decide when you’re finished with something.

It’s OK to tweak and make changes and experiment.

It’s OK to pick up the ball and carry on.

It’s also OK to decide to call it a day.

As far as the blog goes, I will continue to be consistently inconsistent.

Your turn

How about you? Is there something you need to pick up and start doing again? Or maybe something to stop doing? Any other thoughts? Please share in the comments. (Comments consistently make me happy.)

19 Comments

  1. Kelly Parkinson on December 13, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    You speaketh the truth! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Wanting purpose and excitement over consistency. What’s the point of doing something consistently if I think right now I could get a better return on effort by doing something else?
    Who are the Consistency Police, and are they really that consistent about enforcing the rules?
    I like resilience. I like permission. I like the notion of letting what I’m excited about guide the way.

  2. Square-Peg Karen on December 13, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Seriously? Another adult who doesn’t make their bed everyday (i’m lucky if i make mine once a month) – I’m thrilled (again ) to say: “it’s not just me”

    and the rest of the post hit me the same way – “me too!” “me too!” “me too!” ran through my head a LOT!

    I think the biggest part of this is the mindfulness – DECIDING where/how we want consistency. I’m practicing consistency too – trying to find out what works and what doesn’t – and your gentle, kind (and funny!) way of talking about this is a help! Thank you.

  3. Patty K on December 13, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    @Kelly – YES! Letting excitement and purpose lead the way. Love it. (and strangely enough, the only “consistency police” I’ve encountered live in my head)

    @Karen – Hee hee. A few years back I was in the habit of making my bed daily. Now I only make it when I wash the sheets. So, no! It’s not just you (and it’s not just me.) I think a lot of, if not most, “grown up activities” – like making beds, are totally over-rated. And I agree with the mindfulness thing…I think it’s the answer to just about every problem, actually.

  4. Stacy Kennedy on December 13, 2010 at 9:51 pm

    You are so funny and I love you!

    I love that you get all excited and do something…then maybe it gets less exciting and you may do something else. But all along, periodically as it comes to you, you write about it. You make your process real.

    So many of us are trying to figure out OUR own processes and you make every part of where we don’t stand up to some ridiculous ideal that we’ve convinced ourselves is how we’re supposed to be…okay! You give us permission to not be super-whatever. To be human. Sometimes we’re totally on fire, on point, on the ball. And sometimes, we can’t seem to pull it together to save our lives! We get tired or lazy or uninspired or whatever.

    And you are going through her process through peaks and valleys and sharing your “stuff” that makes it okay for everyone else to have a real experience instead of failing to live up to some ideal that’s realistic in no real world.

    You are my hero and I think you’re wonderful and fabulous in all of the excitement, falling off wagons, climbing on wagons, being real and loving your readers. As my kid sister would say, you’re the bomb diggity!!

  5. Patty K on December 13, 2010 at 10:40 pm

    @Stacy – wow. *blushes* Thanks so much! You, my friend, really know how to make my day. 🙂

  6. Darlene on December 13, 2010 at 11:15 pm

    Funny that you write the words I always think… I have intentions to be consistent and so I am consistently inconsistent and besides why do something when your not inspired any ways?

    Thanks for speaking my words and being real!

  7. Sue Mitchell on December 13, 2010 at 11:16 pm

    HA! So you’re someone else’s hero, too. 🙂 What a great way to be a hero…by being just a regular human in a pair of pj’s.

    Hmm…I’m in a nice pair of pink & peach polka-dotted pima cottons right now, with a big, luxurious robe and fleece slippers. Maybe I have hero potential myself!

    Okay, back to the topic of consistency. I did miss your MMM and I’m glad you’re continuing that for now. But I agree with Emerson on the foolish consistency thing…I’ve always loved that quote and bring it up in meetings whenever someone starts suggesting we all do things the same way “for consistency.”

    I don’t want to be confused with the Consistency Police (who surely don’t wear polka-dotted pj’s), but I do think there is a place for consistency. For example, my walks. It *has* to be a non-negotiable, or like you, I’ll just flat out quit. Every time or never.

    Being consistent on a weekly basis, like MMM, is actually much harder. Our personal rhythms aren’t set up in terms of 7 days…at least mine aren’t. There has to be some kind of artificial structure in place to keep that kind of consistency going. The whole purpose of consistency is to build a habit, and weekly isn’t a habit.

    I guess I’m in the minority in that I do love a made bed…but I do that because I love it, not because of someone else’s rules. And sometimes I don’t do it. Frankly, most of the time there’s no other large uncluttered surface anywhere in our tiny house…it’s my only hope for a sense of order and space. 🙂

  8. Patty K on December 14, 2010 at 12:09 am

    @Darlene – nice to see you here! If only inspiration were consistent, then we could be too. Thanks for the comment.

    @Sue – Ha! I’d say you *definitely* have hero potential. Even without the polka dotted PJs!

    And I agree: daily is much easier than weekly or 3 times a week or whatever. If it weren’t for my electronic memory, there’s no way I’d stand any chance of sending something out weekly.

    Hmm. I always figured most grown ups made their beds. I’d hate to think my rebellious stance was actually the more common. 😉

  9. Tshombe on December 14, 2010 at 1:08 am

    Patty,

    You’ve obviously hit on something amazing here that resonates with a lot of folks, including me!

    It reminds me of DeBorah Beatty, a coach who lives in the Greater Portland (Oregon) area, who has a program she calls “Disconnecting Your Oughta Pilot”!

    One thing that I love about you, Patty, is your commitment to being YOU and consistently (THAT’S what you’re consistent at! 🙂 show up authentically and unapologetically.

    This post is a perfect example.

    You speaking, networking, or otherwise going out in public in your pajamas when it’s not Halloween is a perfect example.

    You give people permission to be openly whoever they are.

    Beautiful, funny, witty, empowering post, Patty K. Thanks much!

  10. Tshombe on December 14, 2010 at 1:10 am

    PS I LOVE having the bed made every morning. . .but I think I’m probably in the minority.

  11. David Rendall on December 14, 2010 at 6:44 am

    Patty,

    I’d love to quote half of your post. I’m not consistent either, but I have built a successful business that doesn’t require consistency. Like you, I work in bursts and bunches. I agree with your argument that “having a crazy, productive creative cycle can be a good thing. I can get a lot done in a short period of time.” That’s what I do. I get a lot done and then do nothing. This can be just as effective as working steadily each day. For example, I’m going to finish writing my book during the final week of the year in one giant flurry of activity. I plan my schedule around my preference for intense focus.

    I wrote a free manifesto that answers your question “How do I manage within my limitations?” It’s called The Freak Factor: Discovering Uniqueness by Flaunting Weakness http://www.changethis.com/45.02.freakfactor I think you’d enjoy it.

    I’d love to feature you as the Freak of the Week on my blog. Are you interested? All you need to do is write a short post about how your weaknesses are also strengths and how you’ve used those strengths to succeed in your life and work. You could probably use a lot of what you wrote in this post.

    David Rendall

  12. Sarah Bray on December 14, 2010 at 7:41 am

    Chiming in with another “me too! me too! me too!” When I’m consistent, I tend to feel better about myself in the short term, but brownie points only go so far when I’m giving them to MYSELF. I have the same creative patterns. On, on, ON…and then we’re off. Goodbye. I’ll see you in a month or two.

    I think that makes us more exciting. And maybe even brings in an element of scarcity! Yay for scarcity!

  13. David Cohen on December 14, 2010 at 7:58 am

    Thank you Patty – this hit me where I live.

    I think there always needs to have a little oscillation for me to be happy. I get bored if things get too routine. The funny thing about consistency is that what makes a pattern easy to recognize is also what makes it easy to ignore or tune out. I prefer to think of consistency as a way to set context so that whether you differentiate or deviate (or both) you’ve created a context for that to be understood and valued.

  14. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by David Rendall, David Rendall, David Rendall, David Rendall, Rob and others. Rob said: From @PattyK_ Consistency is over-rated. Resilience isn't. If you’ve faltered on something, pick it up and start again. http://bit.ly/fV88n8 […]

  15. Judy Dunn on December 14, 2010 at 10:14 am

    Wow, Patty. For someone whose thinking style is “random creative,” I feel like I’m bouncing off the wall. (But in a good way.) : )

    I get SO much of what you are saying here that it’s a little scary. You said:

    “I will continue to write the MMM and I will send it out like clockwork every Monday morning. Except when I don’t.”

    I so get that. Consistency can feel like being in a rut sometimes, especially for creatives. I love the concept of “flurries” of effort—where you go wild and go deep, don’t come up for air for a week. Then on to another deep project. (Kind of like David’s book.)

    I love it that you give us permission to change our minds. I love so much about this post. : )

  16. Patty K on December 14, 2010 at 10:41 am

    @Tshombe – Thank you so much. Yes. I am consistent at being me. I never, ever considered that. And ooo Disconnecting your oughta pilot. Gotta look that up! (And I think I’m going to have to look up bed making stats…if there are such things.)

    @David – “I have built a successful business that doesn’t require consistency” – that line made my morning. (Yay, yay, yay!! It might just be possible for me to be me *and* make a living.) Thanks for the link to your manifesto, I will definitely check that out. Be the “Freak of the Week”? Hell, yeah! (I am very excited about this offer – just ask my husband. “Hey, honey, guess what? I’m gonna be the Freak of the Week!!!”)

    @Sarah – I think it *definitely* makes us more exciting. And I never thought of it in terms of scarcity, but I think you have a point. Thanks so much for chiming in.

    @David – I hear you loud and clear on the “if things are too routine, I get bored” thing. Me too! Interesting points about consistency making a pattern that is easily ignored and about setting context that illuminates value. I’m going to have to ponder that for a bit. Thanks so much.

    @Judy – “random creative” – I like that. Yes to flurries of activity. Yes to ruts. And also – from what I’ve experienced (and from what I’ve heard from others) being creative “on demand” just doesn’t happen. At least not for a lot of us. I’m suspecting that a lot of people who *appear* to be consistent are doing things like writing 20 blog posts over a weekend, then parceling them out on a schedule.

  17. LaVonne Ellis on December 15, 2010 at 3:03 am

    Wow, must be something in the air. I gave up on my Stuckbuster Sessions after no one showed up for a couple of weeks or more, and sent a notice to my mailing list saying it was closed. But before I could shut down the sign up page… someone new signed up! But that person has yet to make it to one session. Seriously considering refunding their money and cancelling the whole thing. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but…

    • Patty K on December 16, 2010 at 12:01 pm

      I think it’s partially the time of year. Apparently there’s some sort of winter holiday thing happening. 😉 I think experimenting with these things is important. Not just to find out if our “market” wants something, but also to find out if it’s something *we* want to do. Sometimes cancelling and moving on is the right decision.

  18. Barbara Breckenfeld on December 21, 2010 at 11:35 am

    Patty – I love this post, and the way you’ve shared yourself and your ways with consistency and inconsistency.

    I remember being taught as a child that being consistent about certain things would earn me certain privileges or rewards — and making my bed was definitely on my mother’s list! (She’s 84 and still makes her bed every day. I am flexible about bed making.)

    Life gives us lots of structured situations that require consistency for us to get the results we want: show up at work to earn a pay check, go to school and do your homework to get a diploma, exercise regularly enough to maintain the physical condition you want or need.

    It is SO different when the structure goes from external to internal. When we start our own businesses, we not only create the structure, we have the last word. Whew! So many choices.

    This discussion gets me thinking about what is enough. Being a practical sort, I wonder HOW consistent do I need to be — at blogging, for example — to get the results I want?

    I am in the process of making peace with who and how I am. Apparently I can keep many balls in the air at once, but certain ones are harder to keep in the air than others . . . But maybe that is just my particular way of short sheeting myself mentally. Can I truly accept myself the way I am? If so, the mental noise goes down so far that unimaginable feats begin to seem almost possible.

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