A Need for Consistency
Consistency--something inside of us needs it, wants it, and we are often driven to great lengths to achieve it. Our human nature dictates that we are most comfortable when things happen the same way over and over again. Although variety and a sense of adventure keep life interesting and engaging, it is the little consistencies that keep us grounded and feeling in control of our world.
A teenager may rebel against curfew and an employee complain about strict safety standards, but each subconsciously respects the consistency that regulation brings. A two-year-old expects a slap on the hand when he reaches for the electrical outlet, the teenager expects to be grounded if she comes in an hour late and your employees expect to be reprimanded when they show up tardy to work. Likewise, we subconsciously anticipate approval and recognition when we do what is expected of us and beyond. We know how our spouse will respond to a desired gift or a special meal, and life gets interesting when your response is inconsistent to their past experience. They also know what generally upsets you and are caught off guard when you come back with a positive response to a normally negative situation. It isn't until you consistently respond to similar situations in the same positive way that their expectations change and there is a feeling of safety and comfort that allows them to trust the same response will be repeated again and again.
I read a quote from Dr. Steve Booth-Butterfield of West Virginia University once that said, "Things must hang together for us and make sense. When they don't it feels like we have a problem that must be fixed or we do things that bring us back to what we expected in the first place. Consistency becomes the glue that holds our world and relationships together, a type of human gravity that holds everything down and together."
The need for consistency does not mean that we live boring, predictable lives but rather it provides the balance and stability that allows us to continually launch into the unknown and enjoy the adventure because the consistencies from our past experience have provided a foundation to build from.
- Beth Paluch
One of the greatest things to learn as a leader or parent or a trusted friend is the importance of consistency between what you say and what you do. One of the best ways to build your own self-esteem as well, in fact, is found in your ability to do what you said to yourself or others that you would do. Take a few minutes to think about all of the wonderful opportunities in our lives that prompt us to be consistent and then consider the actions that earn that reputation of consistency.
- Job performance - All of us have areas of our work where we know without a doubt that we need to be more consistent. Is it in managing your time or in organizing your schedule or in holding yourself and others more accountable? The best way to consistently improve job performance is by identifying and pursuing clear expectations in yourself and others that you lead.
- Eating well - Have you ever wondered how there could be so many different diets that truly help people lose weight and yet none work for everyone and few have lasting effects? It is only when an individual changes the way he sees himself and in turn consistently changes his eating habits that lasting effects result. It's simple: consistency in eating well is the only way to maintain our weight.
- Parenting - What better area of life can we practice consistency than in parenting? Children, even though they can resent authority and rebel against the rules, need consistency in their lives more than anything else. As they become adults and reflect on their early life, it is often the consistencies of discipline, order, family rituals and unconditional love that are valued the most and passed on to the next generation with conviction.
- Developing relationships - whether the relationship you are wanting to nurture is with a spouse, a parent, a best friend, employee or colleague, consistency plays a major role in our success. When our advice is consistent with our own actions, our responses are consistent with the responses we are expecting from others, our mutual respect and expectations are consistent from one day to the next ... trust grows in the relationship and takes it to greater depths of enjoyment.
- Servicing customers - Nothing loses a customer quicker than promising one thing and doing something else. It is very satisfying as a consumer to know what to consistently expect and being pleasantly surprised by receiving even more than expected as your business relationship continues. When we are consistently giving the right service over and over again, long-lasting business relationships thrive.
Is consistency a problem for you in any of the areas mentioned above or in other areas of life that you identified as you have read this post? The best way to improve consistency is to become aware of your actions and then focus on improvement. Why not pick one of these areas and become completely committed for one month to become consistent in the actions you desire of yourself. Don't try to fix it all but just get really good at becoming consistent in one area before moving on to improve another.