Why I'm not worried about consistency right now
How are you doing? You have lots of company if you are feeling up and down. The rug has been pulled out from under us. As the weeks go by it is becoming clear we are in this for the long haul. It can be exhausting just keeping the anxiety in check. It can be difficult to get throught the day without some level of fear creeping in. We all want life to be more predictable again.
I like consistency. I strive for it in my life. I usually send out my newsletter every Friday. I walk every day. I journal every morning. I love the idea of a ‘streak’ in any area of my life. My longest streak was last year when I did at least 5K every day for 10 months. It was finally broken when I pulled an all-nighter when my daughter gave birth in December. There was no way I was fitting in any exercise that day! I got right back at it and I’m going strong again.
I think we all value consistency. We associate it with integrity. If someone has integrity they are a person of their word. You can count on them to always do the same thing. Consistency is revered in our culture. It reassures us when we see behaviour repeated over and over. We look for inconsistency as a rationale for whether or not we can trust someone. And it can be a trap.
I was told I was being inconsistent this week. I interpreted the criticism as being told, ‘Sandy I can’t trust you.” Ouch! Maybe you feel the same way about me right now! I didn’t send out a newsletter last Friday so maybe you also feel like I am unreliable and/or inconsistent.
Here’s my truth. I think we need to rethink consistency as the ultimate measure of integrity and trustworthiness. We like dualistic thinking. We want things to be black and white. You either do or you don’t. It’s yes or no. You are all in or you are not in at all. But life doesn’t work that way.
Consistency by definition is ‘conformity in the application of something, typically that which is necessary for the sake of logic, accuracy or fairness.’ We want schools to have a rubric to grade students so that there is consistency in marking. We don’t want marks to be subjective. But when it comes to living our life there is no rubric.
The original meaning of the word consistency meant to stand firm. It didn’t mean always doing the same thing. The word consistency started to be used to mean a steady adherence to principles or patterns of action in 1716. (Source here.) The difficulty here is that adhering to your principles can look different depending on the context.
And that brings me back to what happened to me. I made two choices this week. In one situation I chose social-distancing and in the other, I chose to have someone over to my house. I was called out on it. And because I value integrity I started to explore how I could make both those choices and still feel OK (as OK as anyone can feel living in this Covoid-19 world where these decisions are necessary).
I realized I chose to live by my values. In the first situation, made earlier in the week I choose to keep my distance. In the second situation, I chose to have someone come by for a visit because I felt that we both had taken precautions in the previous 14 days and we were OK getting together. It may have looked inconsistent. But in both cases, I chose to do what I felt was right in the situation. The circumstances of each situation were different and so my choices were different.
There are times when our values are in competition with one another and we have to make a choice. And it can look inconsistent. There are times when you will have to put one value over the other and the criteria you use to make that decision is what will determine whether or not you have integrity. Not whether it looks consistent.