All of us have something in common: we, sooner or later, feel an urge to change something (and sometimes the process of change is perceived as difficult).
I observed that there’s a “calling” to become our best versions and simultaneously something that wants us to stay the same. So I began to research and I found out that behind both is the same mechanism: consistency.
Consistency means a lot of things, depending on the context where is used. Today I’ll bring to your attention the psychological consistency, the behavioral consistency, and their meaning in your life.
Behind the curtains
Psychological consistency is defined as the congruency between:
- Thoughts and actions
- Thoughts, actions, and self-image
Shortly, congruency means that you have a natural tendency to run away from cognitive dissonances and to pursue psychological harmony.
Psychological harmony means the lack of conflict between thoughts. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that one is harmonious, which implies many other things (morality, proactivity, kindness, and so on).
Consistency is good because it’s a trait of a strong character and a strong personality. Its flipside is a sort of “inertia”.
The lack of change, although deeply desired, appears because the new behavior contradicts the self-image. From here on, there are two possible outcomes:
- The self-image gets modified to make room for that new behavior (or to replace an old one with the new one)
- The self-image stays the same and the person naturally quits on the new habit (because it “doesn’t fit”)
These things are usually happening at a deeper level, not in the conscious mind. That’s why you hear a lot of people saying “I don’t even understand why I just couldn’t …” (complete blank space; e.g., quit smoking).
From thought to action
Here, we have two levels of consistency:
- Between thoughts and actions – You behave (unconsciously) in line with the self-image of who you are or who you want to become (if you’re currently in transition).
- Between actions – Behavioral consistency
The later one splits into two subtypes:
- consistency between different actions (not to have contradictory ones)
- “internal consistency” of one action (to keep doing something over a long period)
Tips! The last one is the key that can skyrocket your career!
This is the motor that improves your skills.
You either keep doing something, so you keep improving it, or you keep avoiding it because you know you’re not so good at it and nothing moves.
Keep doing it! Even though there are internal or external factors that tempt you otherwise.
Consistency and Change
When it comes to change, there’s no real difference between a big and a small change. The underlying mechanism for both is, guess what?
When you want to change: stay consistent with the new image and the new behavior until it fully immerses in your subconscious.
(Of course, you won’t be able to do it every single time in the beginning. But only because you’ve made a wrong step it doesn’t mean you have to quit. Change is a process, it takes time. But soon it will become easier and after a while, you’ll even forget about the old.)
Basically, behind changing a habit or keeping it is the same methodology: you either keep doing the first one or you keep replacing it with the new one.
And it’s not so difficult. You are either consistent with a self-image that supports the continuation of the habit you want to lose, or you are consistent with a self-image that asks for (or motivates) that change.
Anyway, nothing is easy in life. Neither to keep a bad habit that makes your life harder, neither to change it. But thinking long-term, you know: a short period of “suffering” (of changing) worths the outcome of it.
Sometimes people have “big updates” in their self-images. It can be a cause or an effect of introducing a new habit, but either way, you’ll see a chain of changes.
That’s the explanation behind the “bizarre event” of seeing a friend quitting drinking after quitting smoking after quitting watching TV, and so on, and then adding new hobbies, or even changing careers, divorcing, and so on.
That may seem strange, but nope, he hasn’t gone crazy. It’s just a natural consequence of the modification in their self-image and consistency is doing the rest.
The Show Must Go On
Aim high and keep in mind that change is a process. It takes time, it may be “difficult”, but bring your long-term thinking into the light and you’ll know what’s better: to stay the same or to make that change?
“Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.” – Dwayne Johnson