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Consistency or flexibility?

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Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Consistency or flexibility?

Scott Miker

In a world that is constantly changing, most of us realize the need to adapt.  We may be slow to take on new technology but over time we find our own way to change.

But change isn’t always beneficial.  In order to benefit you have to change things for the better.  This can be very difficult and many people struggle with determining whether or not a change is for the better or not. 

But time and time again successful people point to their determination, persistence and consistency as key factors for their accomplishments.  They claim that this is why they reached their goal not that they were always changing.    

So which is it?  Is it more important to be willing to constantly change or is it better to be rigid in your ways and always be consistent?

The answer isn’t as clear as you might think.  The reality is that both ways can lead to success and both ways could lead to failure.  The more we want to make it black and white the more gray we find. 

So instead of trying to decipher this code, let’s shift our focus to be on how we can use this to our benefit.  How can we maintain consistency but also be willing to change and adapt at new information?

For me this is an easier question to answer.  The answer lies in whether or not you are improving and making progress towards your goals. 

Because the only factor that really matters is improvement.  Change can be a great way to break out of a rut and jumpstart your progress.  But it could also be a distraction that never allows you to put in enough time for something to stick.    

With football season upon us, I have been reading a lot of football articles and interviews.  I am always curious what teams are doing to try and improve.  The team I follow the most is Ohio State. 

There was an article the other day on Cleveland.com that talked about the coaching changes at Ohio State.  Specifically, the article points to the fact that head coach Urban Meyer is always losing great assistant coaches.  Assistant coaches know that being an assistant at Ohio State can be a stepping-stone to a head-coaching job.  This attracts the highest caliber coach but also means they may only be there for a year or two. 

The article is very insightful, not just about football or coaching but about life.  One line in the article describes the coaching changes as complex and hints at the fact that there are pros and cons to having the best assistant coaches, if only for a year or two. 

It says, “But eventually, they (assistant coaches) will go.  And Ohio State will have to go on, trading continuity for fresh ideas, like it or not.”

To me this line shows the paradox of change.  While there is benefit to consistency there is also benefit to trying something new.  And in the case of Ohio State, this isn’t as much of a problem to fix, as it is a factor to be worked around. 

In Ohio State’s case they aren’t the ones who determine whether they have consistency or whether they have change.  That decision is made outside of their sphere of influence.  So instead of complaining, or doing everything to make it their preference, they find the opportunity in what they are given. 

Ohio State assistant coach, Chris Ash, gave a great quote in the article.  He said, “Continuity is great if the people there are continually trying to improve themselves and each other.  If continuity breeds complacency and you become stale, continuity is not good, in my opinion.”

Ash is focused, not on whether or not we should strive for continuity or change, but on improvement.  The key is to make sure that, regardless of whether there is change or consistency, make sure you are focusing on improving.  Find the positives in the situation and leverage those.  By doing this you can be confident that you are making progress towards your goals and improving.