The Consistency Principle

Consistency is the key to the process of change. And I’ve told people for years that the most important thing to do when seeking change is to show up every day in a small way.

I believe the people who just show up (those who do the right thing on a consistent basis), whether it’s showing up at the Y, an AA meeting, talking to a counselor, or shopping for the right foods at the grocery store. Just show up in your circumstances in such a way that you are doing something to grow beyond whatever it is you are battling.

Dr. Arthur Freeman and Rose DeWolf write, “Some people say they want to change their lives, but all they do is sit around waiting for some outside event or person to come along and rescue them.”[i]

I’ve met many people with this mindset, and they rarely start the process of change because they are looking at the big picture of perfection. They want instant change, a magical cure.

Think of consistency as steps.

Remember when Elijah was looking for rain? The nation needed rain. The drought was in its third year. And when Elijah sent his servant to look toward the sea for rain, there was no rain in sight. And the servant reported back, “I don’t see a thing.”

Elijah said, “Keep looking, seven times if necessary” (1 Kings 18:43).

There was nothing magical about looking seven times for rain. Elijah wanted to train his servant’s eyes. Elijah was looking for a sign of coming rain. He was watching for the steps it takes to get rain. The servant was looking for the big picture. There’s a huge difference. Finally, the servant came back and reported a cloud the size of a fist, and Elijah pronounced rain.

Take a new look at your problem. What small steps can you implement for change? What tiny improvement can you locate in the sky of your turmoil? Do you see a fist-size cloud? Do you see a hint of rain? The big picture will never become clear until we take the small steps of consistency.

Here are three things you can do to start and stay consistent in your process of change:

  1. Never give yourself a psychological-out. Meaning, don’t look for excuses. Keep your appointments. Stay on schedule. Don’t tell yourself you’ll get back on track tomorrow. Consistency is a daily attitude that creates a new normality. This is why 90 meetings in 90 days is so important. If I only go to 10 meetings in 90 days, what do you think the chances are for success? Commit to the full 90 days.
  • Don’t hold out for perfection, because it’s just another excuse. Think about it. We are waiting to begin our process of change when the circumstances are favorable—when we feel healthy, when we feel motivated, when it’s convenient. We’re waiting on perfect timing, which may never happen. Consistency means we start, no matter what the circumstances, and in the beginning it won’t feel perfect. Push through the need for a complete big picture. Stay consistent with the steps.
  • Live by the motto: If I do something, then something will change.

Discouragement tells us nothing is happening, and discouragement never comes from God. “… the Spirit helps us in our weakness” (Romans 8:26).

When God announces the need for change, he also sends the strength to meet the need. “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). And if he is providing strength, then you can bet change is possible.

[i] Dr. Arthur Freeman and Rose DeWolf, Woulda, Coulda, Shoulda, (New York: Harper Perennial, 1990), 85.

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