DEV Community

Thomas De Moor for X-Team

Posted on • Originally published at on

Consistency Over Intensity: The Journey to Greatness

Imagine someone tells you that it's better to better to brush your teeth really hard for thirty minutes once a week than it is for two minutes twice a day. Would you believe them? Of course you wouldn't! Your gums would bleed and your teeth would yellow. It's a ridiculous, unhealthy idea.

Yet we treat our goals and dreams this way. We go on fad diets to lose twenty pounds in a month instead of making smaller, more sustainable changes to our diet. We cram information in our heads a week before the exam instead of studying throughout the year. We break ourselves apart at the gym in January instead of going consistently throughout the year.

We go for intensity while conveniently forgetting that consistency is more important. It's easy to understand why. Remember that time you pulled an all-nighter, fueled by Red Bull, right before an exam? You probably do, because it's a war story. It's something you can brag about to your friends. It's glamorous.

Intensity is not just glamorous, it gives you a sense of accomplishment too. You're proud of yourself, because you just spent three hours at the gym. You lost ten pounds in two weeks. You wrote half a book in a month. You saved millions laying off a third of your workforce with one announcement.

Compare that to consistency: it's boring, it's slow, and you might not see tangible results for months, if not years. But deep down, we all know that consistency holds the real key to success. No one is immediately good at something. Only through consistent, dedicated practice will you ever be great.

This doesn't mean that intensity isn't important. But it should always be secondary to consistency. Your intensity should be at a level where you can keep on doing it without injuring yourself or burning out.

Be careful, though, because finding that level is harder than it seems. We tend to overestimate what we can do in a day while underestimating what we can do in a year (let alone ten years). When in doubt, lower your intensity, so you never break the chain.

How to Be More Consistent

Okay, so you understand that consistency is more important than intensity. But it's possible to fall into this weird vacuum where you do things without a lot of intensity, but you're not very consistent at them either. You feel like you're not doing much of anything at all.

This doesn't mean you're weird or abnormal. Many people struggle with this from time to time. Don't beat yourself up about it. Be your own best friend instead. This is a problem that you can find a solution to.

The first step is to assess your thinking about what it is you're trying to do consistently. What do you really think about it? For example, imagine you're trying to learn C# but you've been procrastinating on it. You start paying attention to your thoughts and catch yourself thinking the following:

  • I'll never be really good at this.
  • This is too difficult for me.
  • I'm so bad at this.

Particularly when you're not yet good at something, your mind will come up with all kinds of excuses for not doing it. You need to identify those excuses and change them for more positive thoughts, like so:

  • I've made a lot of progress already.
  • This is a challenge to really sink my teeth in.
  • I'm getting better every day.

The second step is to realize that there is no perfect. There's no single best way to study, to write, to program, to work out. Do not hold out on doing something because you want to figure out the right way first. In almost all scenarios, it's better to just start and figure things out along the way.

Finally, lower the intensity level if you still find yourself procrastinating. Break things up into even smaller steps. Make it ridiculously easy to do. Program fifteen minutes a day. Read a few pages. Remember that it is always more important to be consistent.

Mozart was the ultimate child prodigy. By the age of five, he'd written his first composition. But even Mozart wasn't a natural entirely. His father was a well-known composer and he'd been training Mozart rigorously from the age of three. By the age of twelve, he was performing in front of royalty, but he'd already been training for almost a decade.

You too are capable of incredible things. But you need to widen your time frame and, most importantly, stay consistent in your practice.

What do you think? How do you stay consistent over time? Let me know in the comments below 👇

Top comments (1)

maura_monaghan profile image
Maura Monaghan

"We tend to overestimate what we can do in a day while underestimating what we can do in a year" -- so true, and very well said!