Practice makes perfect. You have probably heard it a million times. When people say the same thing over and over again it’s easy to overlook it. When was the last time you applied this adage proactively? We all have things we want to get better at. We all want to do more, to be more. Consistency – sticking to the practice of your craft – is timely advice, but how does it apply to daily life?
Becoming great is not about doing great things. You first have to do more. Education is a process of experimentation. Knowledge is a byproduct of many iterations. Quantity is the prerequisite for quality. But quantity is not enough either. Our bodies are aligned with the 24-hour window we call a day. In order to tap into your full biological potential, you need consistency. We follow a circadian rhythm, so practicing your craft on a daily basis takes advantage of this mechanism by alternating periods of intense focused work and rest.
A marathon runner doesn’t prepare for a marathon by jogging: the training is focused on high-intensity exercises. It’s the same thing with growth: you have to sit down and put in a high-intensity work regularly so that your results can compound into a huge amount of work. Doing something consistently is fundamental to ease the learning curve. This statement is only true for creative practice. When it comes to repetitive tasks, it’s better to batch them to perform them less frequently, thus freeing time.
Consistency has a much deeper effect than the quantity or quality of your work, which is why you need to develop habits. A daily habit is easier to develop than a weekly habit because it won’t sap your willpower: no calendar to check and less quantity to deliver will make your daily habits more achievable. Saying “I’m going to talk to 50 customers per week” is not optimal. Instead, talk to at least one customer per day, or one customer per working hour if you’re on a frenzy. Increasing the frequency of your practice is much more powerful than increasing the quantity of less frequent outputs. When you are doing something on a daily basis you are already setting yourself apart from other practitioners who do things less often.
Consistency builds identity: “we are what we repeatedly do”. It will impact how you perceive yourself: writing every day will make you a writer. Being consistent demands you to reorganize your life. Remaining publicly accountable will also affect how others perceive you. Consistency creates trust. Showing up everyday signals dedication while establishing predictability. In this aspect, consistency is the root of social proof. It contributes to positioning you as a subject-matter expert.
Growth is created when you manage to both over-promise and over-deliver. Powerlifters grow muscles by using progressive overload. Consistency is the first step toward growth, but it is not enough. You have to train at regular intervals, but your workout program is meant to change over time. Muscles need resistance to break down and be made anew. Increasing the weight you lift or the number of repetitions of a given exercise is mandatory to progress. This method is called progressive overload.
Similarly, your brain needs to acquire new experiences in the form of ever-increasing challenges. I released a book after going through a habit of writing at least 200 words per day for 140+ days. I started with 200 words as a daily target because it is both realistic and achievable. Publishing a book led me to write more than 2000 words per day, which is ten times my regular amount. After returning to my regular program, I feel much more skillful at the craft. The amount of effort required allowed me to break through my past limitations and reach new levels of personal growth.
The road is never-ending, but that makes it a mystical and exciting journey. It is tempting to keep your eyes on the prize, yet you must learn to cherish the journey. Being consistent is having faith your work will compound in something magnificent. Instant gratification is short-lived. Cathedrals took several generations to build, but their glory is eternal. Consider you are your own cathedral, the path to your personal growth lies in front of you.