Today’s LIFEies is a simple write up from Shane Parrish and his Farnam Street blog. I have been sending this piece on discipline and consistency to myself periodically since I first read it in April, and I thought I would share with the LIFEies crew.
Discipline and Consistency are two attributes that could not be more vital to living the Fantastic Life, and you need both of them to get where you want to go. Overcoming the pain of discipline once is nice, but doing it day in and day out is the only way to win.
The Fantastic Life Rule # 9
Recognize There Are Two Types of Pain
The pain of discipline hurts in the moment, but the pain of regret lasts forever. And once you overcome the pain of discipline consistently, you’ll be amazed how quickly that pain disappears.
Discipline & Consistency
By Shane Parrish | Published on April 1, 2022
If small changes create big results, then why is success so elusive?
The answer boils down to a single word: discipline. Not many people have consistent discipline when times are good. Even fewer in times of stress.
Anyone can do something once. Not everyone can do it consistently. Eating healthy for a meal is common. Eating healthy all week is not. Working out occasionally is common. Working out a few times a week is not. Going to bed on time is easy. Doing it for a week is not.
Positioning yourself for future success is simple but not easy. The hardest part is the discipline required to do otherwise ordinary things for an extraordinarily long period of time, even when the results are barely noticeable.
When people say you need to love the process, this is what they mean. Can you do it when it’s hard? Can you do it when other people stop? Can you work on something long enough to let it compound? Can you do it when the results aren’t visible?
Putting yourself in a position for success is simple. Doing it day in and day out is hard.
Extraordinary results come from ordinary people with uncommon discipline (consistency).
One of the most practical life skills that no one talks about is turning discipline into consistency. Discipline will only take you so far. It’s hard to be consistently disciplined.
Relying on discipline to do what you know you should do requires a lot of effort. But what if you could take that discipline and turn it into something that happens without much effort?
Consider my twelve-year-old son who has about an hour of homework a night with his Grade 7 class. If we relied on discipline to get that homework done, it would be a mess. Sure, some nights it would be easy but other nights it wouldn’t. I can almost hear the excuses now. “Dad, I don’t feel like doing it now. I’ll do it later.” In the end, what he did would depend on how he felt.
Doing things when you feel like doing them won’t get you the results you want. If you don’t feel like doing your job, you get fired. If you give it 50% because you don’t feel like practicing, you sit on the bench while other kids play in the game. If you don’t feel like studying, you get a crappy mark. That’s not to say that feelings are not important — they are — but they’re also a luxury when it comes to doing things.
The most successful people consistently do the thing they’re great at. They do it on easy days and they do it on hard days. They do it when they feel like it and when they don’t. Only what I’ve learned is that they’re not more disciplined than you or I. So how do they do it? The answer is they create a ritual.
The power of rituals can be easy to overlook because they seem so simple. Rituals include habits, systems, and even group traditions.
Once started, rituals are hard to stop. Think of rituals as anything structured that creates inertia. Not all inertia is positive. Your rituals can work for you or against you. And their mechanical neutrality is key to using them to your advantage.
Instead of relying on motivation to do homework, we started a ritual after school. Come home, shower, get a snack, and start your homework. As the days turn to weeks the structure takes hold and becomes the path of least resistance. Now, he consistently does homework every day, even when he doesn’t feel like it. The ritual took over.
What looks like skill is often just consistency. While you can’t snap your fingers and become more talented, you can create your own talent. Consistency creates talent. And you won’t be consistent if you only do things when you feel like it.
When people seem uncommonly disciplined, look for a powerful ritual hiding in plain sight. It’s not that they have more discipline than you or I, but they were able to turn that discipline into consistency with a ritual. Short-term results come from intensity but long-term results come from consistency.