The rise of toxic consistency: Are your habits ruining your career?


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Consistency is key. Or so we are led to believe. But what if ‘consistency’ is just another LinkedIn buzzword for ‘timewasting’? It’s time to discover whether the phenomenon of ‘Toxic Consistency’ could trap you in a habit of missing out on what you deserve.

‘Mr Consistent’. That’s what they called me.

  • Consistently waking up at 4:30am.
  • Consistently running 15km every day.
  • Consistently answering my client’s requests.
  • Consistently there for my kid’s activities.
  • Consistently managing household chores.
  • Consistently keeping on top of my inbox.
  • Consistently collapsing on the couch with Netflix and a bottle of Shiraz every night.
  • Consistently getting it done.

I knew what I was doing. After all, I’d read books like Atomic Habits and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I thought consistency would bring me success.

What did consistency actually bring me? Covid. Followed by burnout. Served with a side-order of sleeping pills for insomnia.

My consistent habits had delivered a toxic impact upon my life.

So-called experts (usually with a book on ‘habit forming’ to sell) love to shout about the supposed benefits of consistent habits.

But as I lay in bed, with that oh-so-familiar feeling of a nostril impaled by a RAT test cocktail stick, I started to doubt that ‘consistent habits’ were improving my life.

Perhaps we’re doing this all wrong.

In a world of chaos, who says consistency is the answer?

Consistency leads to rigidity

We all know the story of the drowning man who refused the lifeline, the lifeguard, then the rescue helicopter, because he was consistent in his belief that a higher power would come to save him. Daisy the Great White Shark would be the only winner in that scenario.

Developing strong habits can lead to resistance when faced with change or adapting to new circumstances.

In a rapidly evolving business landscape, being overly tied to certain routines and habits can hinder flexibility and innovation. I don’t exactly have a crystal ball, but I’d wager that flexibility and innovation might come in handy over the next few years.

Consistency causes stagnation and lack of growth

Ask any bodybuilder what happens if they never increase the weight they lift. Ask any teacher what happens if they never give pupils more challenging puzzles.

Habits, by their nature, promote consistency and repetition. However, if these habits become stagnant and fail to evolve, they can limit personal and professional growth.

Without challenging our existing habits or exploring new approaches, we can become complacent and miss out on opportunities for advancing our careers and lives. If you’re determined to walk only one path every day, you’ll never have the opportunity to go in a totally different direction.

Consistency creates blind spots and resistance to feedback

The mindgurus love to talk about building tiny, consistent habits every day.

Every day I used to spark up a Marlboro on the way to work and surf the internet until 11am, without fail. It didn’t help my mental health, and my bosses weren’t best pleased either.

Just because you’re doggedly going through the motions every single day, doesn’t mean you’re doing the right things, or being open to learning new ways.

Established habits can create blind spots, making it difficult to recognise our shortcomings or areas in need of improvement. Being too wedded to habitual behaviours usually results in resistance to feedback, and what I used to call ‘career limiting’ behaviours.

Consistency leads to inefficiency and ineffectiveness

There are few more dangerous phrases in the business world than: “But we’ve always done it this way.”

Obviously I would never point the finger at local government departments here. But let’s face it, doing things consistently slowly and inefficiently over a long period of time can be extremely lucrative.

While habits are often associated with efficiency, they can also lead to repetitive or unproductive actions.

If certain habits are not aligned with the most effective approaches, they can result in wasted time and resources.

Imagine you had to carry a bucket around with you all day, yet you decided to consistently fill it with water…congratulations, you’ve created a new habit…and given yourself a painful load to bear.

Consistency breeds a lack of adaptability and resilience

The 5am workout club loves to boast about how mentally tough and resistant they are.
But if you disrupt that morning routine, you will destroy their entire day. You will witness the office Tough Guy (or Gal) become irritable, snappy and weakened because they can no longer have ‘their’ consistent habit ‘their’ way.

Overreliance on specific habits makes it challenging to adapt to new circumstances or overcome unexpected challenges. The inability to break away from established habits can hinder resilience and problem-solving abilities.

Don’t believe me? Try solving a problem if you’ve missed out on your morning coffee, or once you realise you’ve left your phone at home. You might think an innocent habit isn’t doing any harm. But it’s when you fail to adapt to life without it, that you do some real damage to your performance.

Consistency causes you to neglect strategic thinking

Habitual behaviour can be automatic and reactive. We fall into – or out of – habits when we are bored, angry, stressed or lonely.

By allowing ourselves to be led by these habits, we bypass our natural critical thinking and strategic decision-making abilities.

In a dynamic business environment, strategic thinking is crucial. An overemphasis on habitual responses may undermine the ability to devise innovative strategies.

Blockbuster, Kodak and Blackberry all thought they were untouchable because they believed ‘what worked then, will work now and forever’. Ironically, it was the fact that consumers DID allow their technology usage habits to change, that led to these companies’ downfall.

It’s important to say that not all habits are created equal. Of course a 30-minute-per-day reading habit is going to be better for you than a 30-minute-per-day cake-eating habit.
But the habit becomes a hindrance when we start blindly following the advice of so-called experts and doing things over and over without questioning WHY.

Humans did pretty well before they were ever told to stack, build, form or hack their habits. So get crystal clear on where you want to go, the actions you must take to get you there, and the behaviours that won’t help you achieve that particular goal.

Try to do more of the stuff that works, and less of the stuff that doesn’t.

Success doesn’t come from doing everything consistently right. Success happens when you recognise you need to correct course, and make the required changes quickly, to the best of your ability.

Everyone’s allowed to make mistakes.

Just don’t make a habit of it.

Related: Talent to burn? Why staff training is good for your ego, but bad for your wallet

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Freddie Bennett
Freddie Bennett
Guinness World Record Holder, podcast host and bestselling author, Freddie is known as ‘The Profit Hunter’. He helps business owners enjoy more time, money and freedom by discovering and extracting hidden profits in their companies. Freddie@conqueryourmedia.com

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