Think for a moment about an area of your life that feels like it is moving in the right direction. Now think of an area of your life that you are not seeing the progress you were hopping for. What is the difference between those two areas? What is missing from the area that is stagnant? I bet you’ll come to the same conclusion I have.
The end of June through the middle of July is one of my favorite times of the year. For me, it begins a series of milestones and anniversaries that are wonderful to reflect on. The end of June marks the half-way point through the year – a good opportunity to reflect on and recommit to goals. My wife and I celebrate our birthdays at the end of June, my work anniversary falls on July 1st, and the best of all – our wedding anniversary is July 15th.
During our recent anniversary dinner, Christina and I reflected on the “crazy” events of the past 14 years. At first glance, many of these things just seemed like events or opportunities that just “fell in our laps.” In many cases we weren’t even pursing a specific outcome, but God’s hand and timing was certainly evident in all of them. And as we talked about each meaningful moment, two things stood out – two ingredients that made all the difference.
The Key Ingredient: Consistency
Have you ever left out a key ingredient to a recipe? There are some ingredients that you can reduce or replace and still come out with a good result. However, try forgetting the yeast in your bread. Flat. Or try skipping the salt in your soup. Bland.
The first and most important of the two ingredients we saw is consistency.
Consistency in certain areas of life happens almost automatically. You wake up each day… eventually? You keep responsibilities like staying home with the kids or heading to the office each day. And I bet you, like me, eat fairly consistently!
Now, let’s make things a little more complicated by saying you’ll wake up at a specific time each morning. Or you’ll exercise a little bit each day. Or you’ll watch your calorie intake. You take on these challenges because they relate to some goal you have made for yourself.
What happens when you actually do those things on a daily basis? The needle starts to move, and you make progress toward your goals. Yes, sometimes it is slow progress. But if you keep on keeping on, you will reach your goal. If you stopped now and tried to coast on what you’ve already done, you will stop your progress.
Let’s take a look at the word consistency for just a moment. The first part of the word is consist. What does consist mean? To be made of something, to be comprised of – the ingredients, the building blocks, the raw material. Progress, success, achievement – whatever you want to call it – is made up of the little raw materials you add each and every day. Your goal to lose 20 lbs consists of eating the right foods, amount of foods, and exercising each day. Your goal of writing a book consists of writing words each and every day. Your goal of having a good relationship with your spouse consists of you showing up each day – sacrificing, loving, communicating, serving.
Do you see why consistency is the KEY ingredient to your progress towards a goal?
The Spice: Focus
The second of the two ingredients is focus. Focus is like a spice. You can sometimes leave it out of a recipe and still have an enjoyable meal. But if you add just the right amount of spice, you get a five-star dish. Oh, but add too much and you can make it unbearable!
If you want to make quick, tangible progress on something, you will want to add some focus along with your consistency. The more focus you add, the more successful you’ll become, but you need to count the cost. Focus needs to be handled with care and balance.
NOTE: Focus here refers to a longer-term, exclusive focus rather than the mental focus that we can employ while working on a specific day-to-day task.
In 2008, I decided to focus on becoming debt free. In 10 months, my family paid off over $25,000 in debt which took quite a bit of focus. Working a second job, eating beans and rice, putting every spare penny towards debt, etc. At the end of it, the time came to quit my second job.
Warning: Too Spicy!
As some of you may be able to relate, I actually wrestled with the decision for a moment. It was bringing in money for the family and could help us get our savings. But my wife let me know – clearly and unequivocally – that we had given enough focus and that anymore would be detrimental – a step backwards in the overall scheme of things.
If the conditions are right, focus will be the ingredient to add to create huge momentum and gain major progress on a goal. Because our time, energy, and attention is limited, that means life will be out of balance for a little while. However, if you approach it correctly then focus plus consistency will serve you well.
Before you commit to focus, go through these four steps:
- Establish the value of achieving the goal
- Communicate the desire to focus
- Count the cost of focusing (to the exclusion of other things)
- Set a deadline to stop focusing
Out of the two ingredients here, consistency is the one you should commit to first. Lack of consistency will keep you from your goals. Consistency will move you in the right direction and it will help build the character and habits that you need to succeed in other areas.
Question: What is one area of life where you have seen the benefits of consistency? You can leave a comment by clicking here.