I had a client ask me about this the other day - is there a difference and why does it matter?
I'd say, yes they're different: one is potentially more useful in terms of our holistic, long term health and fitness.
So let's dive in.
Consistency tends to looks like:
doing things every day/week/month
doing something more than not doing it
doing something regularly
Consistency is helpful, until something happens to disrupt it:
you can't keep it up every day/week, it's too much effort to sustain
something happens like a life event, illness, a holiday etc. that disrupts the habit
This can lead to us feeling:
we need to reset/start again/get back on it, which feeds that all-or-nothing mindset
we start calling ourselves lazy, unmotivated or undisciplined because we haven't been able to keep it up
we idealise that time when we were 'consistent', setting up unhelpful comparisons e.g. "remember when I was running three times a week, I'd really want to get back to doing that" (even though that might have been fairly unsustainable for us at the time, or our life, time, energy and resources looked very different back then)
Persistence, on the other hand, might look a bit like this:
this is important to me, so I see the value in doing it for myself
That means the persistent person has room for:
stopping and starting: because every time they do it, there is value to it. If we stop, if it's important to us still, we start again.
something is better than nothing: because the smallest, simplest, paired down version of that action is still valuable and meaningful and contributes to the bigger picture
seasons of life, where changing time, energy and resources mean doing more of one thing and less of something else
seeing how the action they are doing fits into the next TEN years of their life, (all of a sudden, missing a week or even three months of training doesn't seem disastrous when considering a decade of training - but this would be seen as very inconsistent)
flexibility and changing our mind: if we know what's valuable to us, we see different ways of achieving the same thing. All of those different actions add to the bigger picture (again, not consistent where you'd need to be repeating the same thing!)
You might wonder then if persistence just actually means doing something when you fancy it and not when you don't. Nice excuse huh?
Not really, for me, at the heart of persistence is seeing and knowing the value within yourself. That means each action is about showing up for yourself, and that means there is self-accountability built into that, no?
So if we're aiming for more persistence, then I offer these to you now:
I nourish and invest in my mind, body and soul equally, not pursuing any at the expense of another
I appreciate and honour the seasons of my life. My focus, capacity, goals, abilities, mind and bodies will all change.
I know I'm investing in myself for life, and so that I can create and live life more.
Letting go of the all-or-nothing: I know life will always be lifey. I will meet ourselves exactly where I'm at, and exactly as I am amidst the challenges and chaos.
We practice imperfection and are unstoppable: no matter how many times things fall apart, if it’s important to us, we start again, however small and imperfect that might look like.
I am persistent, and that doesn't have to look like consistency.
What do you think? How can you reframe some of your thoughts, goals or expectations this week to make room for more baggy, comfortable, compassionate persistence?
I'd also end of this: it's not persistence OR consistency. It's absolutely not that the idea of consistency is unhelpful. I'm saying use BOTH. And know when you need to lean more into consistency, or persistence.
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