No. 460 — February 20, 2022
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“The passion for stretching yourself and sticking to it, even (or especially) when it’s not going well, is the hallmark of the growth mindset. This is the mindset that allows people to thrive during some of the most challenging times in their lives.”
“It is up to me now to choose how to live out the months that remain to me. I have to live in the richest, deepest, most productive way I can.”— Oliver Sacks
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 become nearly unstoppable. 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. Turning intensity into consistency unlocks a powerful asymmetry.
Explore Your Curiosity
★ “There’s this premise that the success of player depends on ability, which is made up of technical, physical, tactical and phycological aspects, and that this is then multiplied by their availability,” the doctor points out during the interview. “Many players have told me that Arjen Robben could have been close to Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi in ability, but he didn’t make it because he didn’t have much availability.”
— Exploring hamstrings with Jurdan Mendiguchia, the world’s most in-demand physio
★ What’s the most helpful thing someone has said to you when you’re in a tough spot?
P.S. This is a crazy illusion.