You were taught very early on that 2 + 2 = 4. Think back to how you learned this concept. Your teacher probably provided you experiences with a lot of repetitious counting games and activities, or you might have used your fingers, played with little plastic cubes, or rehearsed out loud over and over again. Eventually, you didn’t need the conceptual reminders and you internalized your basic math facts, realizing that never ever will 2 things plus 2 things come out to anything but 4 things. But what if, as you were learning them, the rules weren’t consistent, and 2 and 2 didn’t always equal 4? Talk about math anxiety! That would have been a lot more frustrating for us as kids because by our nature, humans look for patterns, repetition, security, and consistency to make sense of the world around us.
2 + 2 = ?
I’m a former math teacher, so although I don’t suffer from math anxiety, I do come across my share of challenges when it comes to being a parent, especially a single mom. Consistency in parenting, for me, is one of the hardest parts of single parenthood. Let’s face it; parenting in general is not easy, even in an intact family. Add to that (or should I say “subtract”) an absentee father, and it makes it all the more important to follow a consistent routine for behavior rules, rewards, and consequences. Consistency shows children love, provides structure, and offers a strong foundation to support success down the road, just like those basic math facts helped us later (hopefully!) when we got to algebra and calculus.
Whether you are raising a child, running a business, learning a new skill, or managing employees, consistency leads to better predictability, less anxiety, and more future success than inconsistency will, every time. Kids need to know that 2 + 2 is going to be 4 the same way an employee needs to know the expectations on the job. Many times, it isn’t so much what the expectation is, as it is how reliable the consequences are, good OR bad.
A Tale of Two Pups
When I was younger, we had two little dogs that everyone fawned over, especially my step dad. In his eyes, they could absolutely do no wrong, and this held true no matter what kinds of disobedient behaviors they displayed. One of the dogs had a nasty habit of marking his territory in the most inappropriate places in the house. While mom did her best to train him toward more appropriate behavior, dad would reinforce the marking episodes with mixed signals. The result? A dog who ran the house, and two very frustrated owners. Inconsistency had created a monster.
Beware of making excuses to rationalize inconsistency in your life, as that could do more harm than good. What does a child learn when asked to “not leave the house until your room is cleaned up” one day, and the next weekend when company is coming over, mom quickly does the job for him because it’s just “easier” and she’s in a hurry? What if a boss accepts a project from you and commends you on a job well done one day, then the next time he calls you out for something you did the same exact way as before? In both cases, and in the case of our puppies, the mixed signals lead to bad morale, confused employees (or children or dogs), and eventually a lack of respect for the expectations. After all, if everything is so “muddy”, what is there that we can count on?
Consistency is vital for us all when we are working on personal goals, too. Just as we enjoy a consistent message from a boss or a parent, consistent repetition and rehearsal when forming new habits or learning a new skill leads to internalization, and that can help us personally in many ways, especially with goal-setting. While it’s easy to GET motivated to go for our goals, that motivation usually has a honeymoon period, which fades away in time. Consistent ACTION helps us translate our motivation into achievement. What we do consistently leads to small victories, which lead to bigger ones. Over time, we win with our goals, and in life. We optimize our learning, meet deadlines, lose weight, pay off debt, become more productive at work, and dare I say become better parents?
To be consistent in life requires making choices every day. Don’t misunderstand; no one ever said it was easy, but practice leads to winning with those small goals and winning with the small stuff leads to eventual success with the rest. I challenge you this week to break apart your goals into small chunks that you can be consistent with. In all areas of your life, try becoming more consistent and see what kind of results you get. Consistency doesn’t mean we can’t be flexible, can’t grow, or change. It just means behaving in a similar manner in a given situation, based on your values, what you stand for, and the success you are trying to achieve.
So this week, let’s start being more consistent. If you say you’ll do something, do it. Do what you say, but promise only what is possible. If you have rules, don’t disregard them. Be accountable to others, but also to yourself. By being consistent, you will build trust, earn respect, remain focused on your goals, and gain discipline, all of which will help you achieve your dreams and more!
Step 1: Identify the gaps between where you are now and where you want to be.
Step 2: Develop a game plan to get there by identifying what small steps you’ll begin with to do it.
Step 3: Take ACTION, with consistency, and look forward to achieving your goals!