Debunking Your Inconsistency Story

“I’m not sure who I am, but I know who I’ve been.” —Modest Mouse. “Make Everyone Happy/Mechanical Birds

If quitting your job doesn’t cause you to question your identity, nothing will. We are conditioned to tie who we are to what we do. More than that, we label ourselves and others in the hopes of finding meaning in this often chaotic world. But can these labels ever truly encompass the complexity and essence of you and the things for which you are capable?

Enter what I believe is one of the most powerful ideas about identity. Identity is nothing more than an emotional construct. We take a bunch of feelings, self-imposed labels, and stories filtered through biases and social constructs, stir it up, and voila; you get the stories you believe about who you are AKA your identity. All of this shit is totally devoid of any objectivity. You are so much more than the label and stories that you believe about yourself. At any time, you are free to shift your mindset, become more a more objective observer, and reinvent yourself. Focusing on the things you do each day is a great way to start.

Maybe you are like me, and you had a lifetime of behavior you’ve labeled “inconsistent.” Perhaps you also have a story about how you are “only consistent at being inconsistent.” Sam Moulton’s (@sammoulton) tweet captures the belief I held for decades and this tweet also inspired this post.

What is most consistent about me is that I am not consistent. I can see both sides, but, from one day to the next, one may have more power over the other. Does this resonate with anyone else? Image credit to @Snorgtees.

— Sam Moulton (@SamMoulton) January 29, 2020

You might even argue that inconsistency is who part of who you are, but it’s only who you’ve been. Also, who you’ve been is up for debate, too. Chances are your judgments aren’t based on data or indisputable truths. Fuzzy memories confirm biases about who you are and who you’ve been. Being inconsistent is not part of your identity; it’s a limiting belief. A belief that you are free to question at any time.

Why would you even want to question this belief?  Consistency matters! We become our habits, and habits can create meaningful change. Consistency doesn’t equal perfection. Consistency is doing what you’ve committed to doing the majority of the time. But you can only judge consistency if you measure it.

Meditation is a habit that I strive for daily. What if 89-days into that meditation streak, you lose track of time watching Ricky Gervais YouTube videos and miss a day? Or you miss three days in a row while attending Storage Field Day? The specificity is probably a big tip-off that these are all real personal missteps for me.

Will you beat yourself up, or will you pick up where you left off and continue? Do a few missed sessions undo all of the work that you’ve done on being consistent with this habit? You get to choose how you interpret these inevitable missteps. You might think your slips require tough love, but the truth is self-love and self-acceptance will propel you forward.

If you are ready to start questioning your consistency beliefs and ability to sustain habits, here are some tips:

  1. Pick a habit. Make sure your habits start small. Fuck all of those “SHOULD” habits, and pick one or two that you value. James Clear’s Atomic Habits is an excellent read on habits and getting consistent.
  2. Track those habits. Data is critical for keeping track of improvements, but also proving to yourself that you can be consistent. For me, my 89-day meditation streak is proof that I can be consistent. Without data, it would be easy for me to invoke an inconsistency cop-out.
  3. You will break your streak, and it’s okay. Maybe, you’ll need to change some things to support this habit. For instance, every time that I’ve missed a day of meditation, it was because I left it for the evening. When you falter, keep on keeping on.
  4. Find an accountability partner. Promises that we make to ourselves are easy to break. There is something powerful about making promises to someone else. Knowing that I will disappoint someone else is always a good motivator for me. In fact, you are 90% more likely to stick habits and goals when you have an accountable partner.  Here are some super useful podcast episodes if you are interested in setting up an accountability partner relationship.

I’ve spent most of my life settling. Whenever it came time to be consistent with habits, I’d convince myself that this time would be different. I’d start a new practice (like visiting the gym). Do it for a few weeks and then stop. When I quit, there was proof that I couldn’t be consistent. Wiser me now recognizes that we look for ways to confirm the negative things that we believe about ourselves. The truth was that I didn’t have the right mindset, and missing days is a bullshit excuse to abandon your quest.

In Feck Perfuction, James Victore says that your mission in life is to overcome yourself every day. How do I think we do this? Recognizing that we are all works-in-progress, creating habits that support the best you, and relentlessly questioning those self-limiting beliefs and the stories that hold you back. How do you overcome yourself?

PS — Meditation has played a massive role in allowing me to step out of inner dialogues and view situations with more objectivity. Meditation is a keystone habit that can affect multiple areas of your life and also make creating new habits easier. It’s not the only Keystone habit, to learn more (without reading Charles Duhhig’s Power of Habits), check out this article.