Since you’re here, the word “consistency” is probably less welcome than wet socks on a Wednesday. (Wet socks on any day, especially when you’re unsure of why they’re wet—and no, this totally didn’t happen to me this morning, what are you talking about?)
For most of my life, I’ve struggled to be consistent with… well, pretty much everything, aside from being inconsistent, of course. And for most of my life, I’ve believed that to be a major, unsolvable problem.
Luckily, I’m wrong about both of these things. I was able to see why thanks to one simple little idea that hit me out of nowhere the other day and is already making a difference. Read on to see what it was!
…against the idea that it’s hard to do things consistently.
And I know how big of an ask that is, especially because life seems to punch us in the face with that “fact” every chance it gets.
But why is it totally worth it to try anyway? Because as long as you believe it’s hard to be consistent with anything, you will actively create a reality where it’s hard to do anything consistently.
Yeah, it’s that simple. I know—INFURIATING. Buckle up, because I’m not done yet.
Consistency is—ready for it?—100% neutral. It’s just a concept in our collective awareness, with no moral value on its own. It’s a thing that simply exists until we react to it.
This is important to know because we have a shitload of opinions about what consistency means, and we treat those opinions as fact:
Consistency is absolutely necessary if you want your ideas to work out.
If you can’t do something perfectly consistently, you may as well not do it at all.
People with ADHD can’t be as consistent as neurotypical people. (Ohh, I believed this one for a LONNNG time.)
All of those opinions are fine, I guess. I just don’t find them particularly helpful. Do you?
Since consistency is neutral, all of the drama we feel about it comes from our thoughts about it.
In the way we react to it. What we make it mean about us when we struggle to meditate or exercise or organize for 30 days in a row, only to drop off around day 11, even if we were starting to see some results we liked.
Actually, it was meditation that brought all of this up for me. I used to meditate consistently—for 20 minutes every day. It was amazing. I saw tons of benefits in my thinking, mood, and overall well-being, and I was sold on how essential of a practice it is. So of course, I did the logical thing and abruptly stopped with no explanation to myself about why. *cackles in ADHD*
The other day was rough though, so I decided to meditate on why. I consulted with Future Ada—one of my favorite exercises when I feel as stuck as a sad slug in a bowl of molasses. (Idk what’s up with these metaphors either, fam—ROLL WITH IT.)
I asked my future self about what she’s up to—how she’s handling the day-to-day challenges and curiosities of being Ada Sewell. One answer she gave me was so surprising and refreshing that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it all week. Future Ada said:
“I meditate every day, to show myself how easy and imperfect it can be.”
…in the shiny, beautiful idea of “imperfect consistency.”
Because the idea of meditating—or writing, or practicing bass, or growing your business—with perfect consistency seems impossible and intimidating, right? But it doesn’t have to be.
When I committed to meditating every day, for 20 minutes a day, I definitely saw some incredible progress… and it was also an incredibly easy habit to drop.
Because sure, 20 minutes isn’t much, but it’s still 20 minutes. There were days where I just didn’t want to sit quietly for that long. And since I read once or twice that meditation works “best” in 20-minute chunks, I figured that anything less than that wouldn’t even count.
BUT I WAS WRONG. (The older I get, the more I love being wrong about things.)
Future Ada meditates every damn day… because she doesn’t give a flying, fiery fuck about doing it “the right way.”
Sometimes she meditates for 20 minutes. Sometimes for 11 minutes. Sometimes she meditates for 90 seconds TOPS… but damnit, she gets to honestly say she does it every day.
She gets to believe in her consistency. So present Ada (oh wait, hi, that’s me) can start believing in it, too.
I started applying this to writing, too: “I write every day to show myself how easy and imperfect it can be.”
Which means even if I only write half a sentence every day, I’m still consistently writing every day.
And yeah, you might be thinking, “Okay Ada, very cute and funny, but the minimum amount of effort doesn’t count. It’s not enough. It won’t get me where I need to be.”
Fair concern—but what if it does count? How do you know, for certain, that it’s not enough? How close can it get you to where you want to be?
You have to decide what’s enough, rather than believe that nothing ever is.
If I meditate every day for 90 seconds, I’ll probably benefit from it more than if I meditate 20 minutes a day for a week, drop it faster than an expensive new phone, and spend the next year beating myself up about quitting until I pick it up again. Maybe it’s not the “recommended” amount, but honestly, who gives a shit? The Meditation Police?
By the way—consistency isn’t a virtue. There are things I’m happy to do inconsistently, and having more consistent habits doesn’t make you a better or worse person. But if you want to be more consistent with something, take that phrase for a spin and see how you can apply it to your situation.
“I (insert your thing here) every day, to show myself how easy and imperfect it can be.”
And of course, if you don’t do it every day, not even a little bit… that’s totally fine too. Did you know that you’re allowed to be kind, loving, and supportive to yourself regardless of your circumstances? WILD, I KNOW.
This is all about meeting yourself where you are, not where you think you “should” be.
Identify the most low-effort, brain-numbingly easy way to do something repeatedly and start there. As I like to tell my coaching clients, set the bar so low that it’s pretty much underground.
And the really important part: practice letting that be enough. Hell, let it be plenty.
Give yourself permission to be dazzled and impressed by any amount of effort you put toward something, because it’s infinitely better than the “no effort” option you could have gone with instead.
Plus, the more you praise yourself for your attempts, the easier it becomes to keep them up. Brains love rewards, after all!
Here’s to your imperfect consistency showing you how much simpler new habits can be. Talk to you soon!