Consistency is something I’ve thought about a lot throughout my life. When you watch the news you never know what’s real and even if it is real if it is probably out of context. Growing up, I was raised in a town where I saw a lot of inconsistencies in what people would say and how they behaved. It had a lot of influence on my young adult life. Here are twelve things I’ve learned in my observations about consistency.
Say what you mean and mean what you say. I won’t let my kids make promises. I think promises are far over used and mean little in today’s culture because they’re so easily broken. If you say you are going to do something, you should do it. Don’t promise, don’t preach, and don’t make excuses when you don’t follow through. If you look at the divorce rate today (40-50% according to the APA) it is pretty clear that promises mean little. Full disclosure, I’m separated from my husband…hoping to reconcile at some point but that’s a story for another day.
What you say today should not contradict how you act tomorrow. If you claim to be pro-life and think abortion is horrendous but then turn around and endorse carpet bombing the Middle East, you’re not pro-life, you’re pro-agenda. I say this because I’m sick of people taking party sides and completely contradicting themselves when they claim to have values that alight with party platforms. The current immigration topic is hugely debated right now and my problem with those screaming about the poor children being separated from their families are the same people who’ve been silent for decades on policies within our own nation that needlessly separates families in the justice system. And for the record, it is despicable to hide behind the law in both cases to rip families apart and keep them apart for years for no good reason. Which brings me to my next point.
The media should not dictate your values. Stop hanging on every word from Fox News, CNN, MSNBC or any other media outlet. We no longer have actual news sources that report facts. It’s all slanted one way or another. To get the complete picture, you have to go to multiple sources and even then it’s often difficult to piece together the facts. So before you jump on the bandwagon with whatever the latest headline is, think about the core issue being presented. If you believe in personal responsibility but think the government should ensure everyone has health insurance, that is contradictory. If you believe in self-ownership and individualism but have no problem with the government throwing people in jail for pot possession, you might want to reassess your line of thinking.
Think critically. I had the great privilege of being raised by a school teacher. My Mom is known for her wild tales and funny stories. In her high school science classes, she would often start the year by telling the kids some crazy bogus story that had them all on the edge of their seat, only to tell them at the end of class everything she had just told them was a lie. Why would anyone do that? She wanted to challenge her kids to think critically and not just accept what she was teaching just because she was a teacher. Her only rule was that if they asked her if she was lying or telling the truth, she had to admit if she was not being truthful. Mind blowing, I know.
Don’t be afraid of being wrong. I have long believed that capitalism is the best system ever devised to achieve personal wealth and offer the best opportunity across demographics, faiths, and orientations but if someone brought something before me with facts that show I am completely wrong and another system is actually proven to be better, I have no issue with changing my thought process. I’ve been humbled many times and proven wrong on many occasions. I think sometimes we’re so stuck on being right we lose the ability to think critically about what we hear and see and accept what you’ve always thought and believed may not actually be reality. And when you’re proven wrong, admit it.
Understand what you’re seeing as face value probably isn’t what’s truly happening. This goes back to thinking critically. If someone tells you there are water shortages in Syria because the United Nations is refusing to lend aid but fails to mention the local militia have been attacking UN convoys bringing in water and supplies, that would be called out of context. Let me let you in on a little secret. The media does it ALL THE TIME. Find a sensational headline and I would be willing to bet there are ten more headlines for the same story you’re not seeing because they weren’t catchy enough to make the front page.
Results mean more than you think. Think about your first job as a kid. Whether it was mowing lawns for neighbors or slinging burgers at the local fast food joint, you probably learned fairly quickly that positive results typically bring about positive rewards. If you did a good job mowing someone’s lawn, they’ll tell their neighbor which leads to more jobs. Conversely, if you were the slacker at your job, always showing up late, spending more time talking to customers than doing your job, you probably heard about it from your boss or worse, got fired. Think that you can just float along and get by in life? Well, that may work for a while but eventually there’s going to be someone who comes along or a new system that replaces you because it costs less and is just as (or more) efficient. Never stop trying to improve.
Know why you believe what you believe. Are your values based on your faith? Why? Do you vote for a candidate based on their party or on what they actually represent? Truthfully, I’m all for honest and open debate as long as we aren’t devolving into name calling and can treat each other kindly and respectfully. Many of my friends and family have very different ideas, lifestyles, values and interests from me and know they are free to express their ideas and thoughts and we can have a civil discourse without it ending up in a fight. I believe strongly in agreeing to disagree because sometimes, people aren’t going to change their minds. And that is okay.
Being challenged on your ideas/values/thoughts is good. Why? It gives you the opportunity to dive into the logic behind your reasoning. When you have to defend a stance, you learn about yourself. Are you capable of being kind while disagreeing? Does someone questioning you make you angry? What does your response indicate in relation to the stance you’re taking? If you believe in loving one another but end up in shouting match with someone who thinks illegal immigrants should be given amnesty, how is that translating to your stance on love? See what I mean? Debate truly gives you the opportunity to show your true colors. I used to often respond in anger when someone questioned me in certain areas and that didn’t correspond with who I claimed or wanted to be. It gave me the desire to grow as a person and evolve into a kinder, gentler human being which is still a work in progress.
Surround yourself with people who grow you. This one can be a challenge because we often like to be comfortable but being comfortable rarely means growth. If your friends always agree with everything you say, never challenge your ideas and believe exactly what you believe, how boring is that? Conversely, don’t be a yes man. Be comfortable enough in your own skin to disagree and mature enough to sometimes agree to disagree. Find mentors who have similar values and have achieved success you would like to achieve personally. Become friends with people outside of your faith or who have different values than you. Don’t stay in your own little bubble because it’s comfortable. If you’re not growing, you’re dying.
Pick your battles; some disagreements aren’t worth having. Someone who has been a Republican their whole adult life isn’t suddenly going to agree with someone who is a Democrat. Chip away at those ideas but don’t get into an argument you know you can’t win. Losing a friend over an ideological disagreement is no fun. I’ve been through it and it is painful and I regretted my insistence on going down a road I knew led to no where.
Above all, be kind. Kindness will take you far in life and costs very little. I will discuss and listen to someone who is kind even if I vehemently disagree with their position. If you’re hateful and condescending you’ve lost me, plain and simple. You can’t convert someone by being a jerk, so why even go there?
So how does this apply to your life? Consistency means so much to people and lends credibility to practically anything you’re involved with. I’ve attended churches who were stagnant because no one would ever disagree with the leadership. In jobs, I’ve seen teams fail because no one wanted to challenge management. Sometimes in life, we have to step out of our comfort zones to challenge others and gain insight into their values. Then we have to ask ourselves, is what they’re saying today aligning with the way they behave? With what they said yesterday? With how they treat others? It gives us the opportunity to hone our own ideas and solidify our beliefs. Or change them if the case warrants it. In the end, being consistent is what gives you credibility so putting it into practice in your relationships, friendships, and jobs will only have a positive impact on your life. Be consistent.