The Power of Showing up: How to Build Consistency

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Slight Edge" by Jeff Olson. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is one thing you want to achieve that requires consistent effort? Can you think of a time when staying consistent with one small behavior or habit helped you achieve something big?

Big, ambitious goals require consistent effort to become reality. In other words, they require that you consistently show up to contribute towards them.

In this article, you’ll learn how to build consistency in your efforts to grow.

The Power of Showing Up

To develop consistency in a behavior, your must first determine how this behavior contributes to your goal and then take the first step to pursuing it. For example, if you want to become a psychologist, you have to apply for school and consistently show up to class. Consistently showing up is the first step to achieving your goal, as no progress can occur without it. After all, you can’t go on a journey if you don’t show up to the train station.

Why We Resist Taking the First Step 

Showing up and taking the first step in pursuing a goal is arguably harder than Olson allows for. Most of us can probably remember a time when we delayed getting started on something (or chose not to start it altogether). 

It’s possible that a large part of our resistance to getting started is a fear that if we try, we will fail. When we experience failure, we also experience shame, which is painful. As a result, we often choose not to put ourselves in the position to fail in the first place. However, while choosing not to try might protect us from failure, it also prevents us from experiencing the joy of success. 

Keep these strategies in mind next time you want to overcome fear-based resistance to getting started on something:

Remind yourself that people are more worried about their own failures than they are about yours. People are usually thinking about themselves, not about you. Remembering this allows you to release the fear of judgment that keeps you from taking action towards success.

Don’t overthink. The more you overthink preparing to start your goal, the more overwhelmed you will feel, and the less likely you are to take action. Keeping your thoughts about your plans simple helps you to get out of your head and into action more quickly.

Reframe your anxiety. Think of it as a muscle you’re training yourself to work through and work with, rather than a hindrance. This helps you to develop the confidence to pursue your goals even when you’re afraid. 

Be Consistent and Stay Committed

Next, Olson suggests that you commit to showing up for your goals on a consistent basis. Taking the first step on its own isn’t enough—the more consistent you are with your efforts to achieve something, the more likely you are to achieve it. For instance, if you want strong arm muscles, you can’t just do one push-up. You have to do push-ups consistently

Build Consistency Using the “Seinfeld Strategy”

Do you want to learn how to build consistency in your efforts to grow? Let’s explore the strategy of Jerry Seinfeld, one of the most consistently successful comedians of all time. 

Seinfeld has always produced his work at a steady, productive rate. (He may not always produce his best work, but he is at least consistent in his output.) According to young comedians who’ve discussed consistency with Seinfeld, his strategy is simple: He writes every single day, and every day that he writes, he marks an “x” on the corresponding day on a calendar. Overall, he follows one rule: Don’t break the chain of productive days.

You can follow this strategy with any goal using the following steps:

  • Make a list of the consistent actions you need to take to get closer to your goal.
  • Buy a calendar and a red marker.
  • Mark an “x” on every day you complete those actions. 
  • Don’t break the chain of marks.
The Power of Showing up: How to Build Consistency

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Jeff Olson's "The Slight Edge" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Slight Edge summary:

  • Why some people fail and some succeed despite having the same tools
  • How small practices, executed consistently over time, will give you an edge
  • How you're getting in the way of your own growth by neglecting simple things

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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