26 Jul Quality, consistency, persistence
These three words are key to any achievement process!
Eureka Nick, you have just discovered America! You are telling me that if I do something with high quality, consistently, I might achieve something in life? No s…, Sherlock!
I know, and also, I agree that this sounds super obvious, boring and taken out of a self-help book, but there are two reasons why you will not waste four minutes of your life if you read this text. Firstly, because this overconfident statement above is really true and it’s never exaggerated to keep constantly reminding ourselves of something which can help us improve, and secondly, in the world of sports these words are very popular and everybody knows their importance, but practice shows that those are exactly the things in which we all fail the most. This inspired me to write this text, because I want to share some of my experience, thoughts, and go more into details.
Ok, first of all: quality. We all have our own interpretation of what it means to do something with quality. Let me try to explain mine by example: imagine you have a finance exam in a couple of days and you plan to study today for three hours in a row. What parameters will determine whether you did quality work or not? For me, the answer is intensity and focus. In fact, in some types of mental efforts, intensity and focus could be more or less the same thing. If you’re deeply focused on a problem, it means you’re doing it also with high intensity. Well, things are a bit different in sport. Intensity and focus are not mutually inclusive by default. You can do an exercise with high physical intensity while your focus can be elsewhere, and therefore you are perpetually making mistakes and not doing quality work. Or you can be highly focused on the task but you’ve hit only ten balls in five minutes, which shows your intensity level is very low and again you are not doing quality work. For the most types of work, only if both, your focus and your intensity, are strong enough, it can be presumed that you are really doing quality work. However, there are types of trainings in sport, like recovery or specific technical sessions, in which intensity is not necessary.
The following question arises: what if we do something with intensity and focus, but in a wrong way and we thus compromise our improvement? Is this quality work? What about the famous quote: work smarter, not harder? I don’t want to underestimate the help of good coaching or teaching, because it can surely make things easier and faster. A good coach or teacher can really make a difference. However, a good coach can only make a difference if he’s coaching a client that has a passion for what he does. And without a doubt, passion includes intensity and focus. In science, there is never a question of how good your professor was on your way to becoming a physicist or a doctor (maybe just a little bit). You can do your own research when you feel that you are stuck somewhere, all information you need is out there. Many famous scientists have learnt things on their own. My point is that the ability to bring out the quality from within ourselves is crucial for any improvement.
Consistency. Now, this is tough. I have been coaching for more than 15 years and I don’t remember anyone who failed to do quality work when they felt motivated. The question was always: can we do it long enough or as many times as possible? And here comes this word consistency. It’s probably the most powerful word on anybody’s improvement curve/path. In order to understand its power, we just need to compare a week of a tennis practice with two high-quality practices and five practices where you did just ok to a week with six out of seven high-quality practices. Multiply this by fifty-two weeks per year and you will see how much improvement you missed out on. This is the true power of consistency. The magic skill, or you may call it ability, that you were NOT born with. It’s something that requires mental toughness that we need to work on for a long time, preferably from a young age.
Persistence. What does persistence really mean? I actually haven`t been able to pinpoint the difference between consistency and persistence until recently. Let me ask you a question: was Simona Halep exhibiting high quality and consistency in her work before Roland Garros 2018? Yes, of course she was, otherwise she would have never reached three Grand Slam finals till then. But did she also need something else, something more to help her rise again and keep going after all those disappointments and failures? Yes, she needed to be persistent! Persistence means continuing to do something despite difficulties, challenges and failures. The Oxford dictionary defines it as “continuing firmly or obstinately in an opinion or course of action in spite difficulty or opposition”. In other words, it is not how many times you fall down that determines you, but how many times you get back up. This is what makes you a winner in life and in sport. Persistence is the mother of consistency, the ultimate consistency. It means not giving up until you make it. Many times, I`ve seen quality work being done with good consistency, but just before it was about to generate result, “the giving up” occurred. In some cases, especially in sports, improvement is not a constant uphill/linear line. You can work consistently and with quality for longer periods of time and improvement is just not happening as you would have expected it. That’s the point where “the giving up” starts to become an option and persistence a much-needed saviour. Consistency will get us far, but for reaching the very top, we need to be determinately persistent!
To recap: you can do something every day but if this work is just average quality – you can’t expect much. If you’re doing high quality work just twice a week – you can’t expect much either and once you give up, the show is over. However, if you combine quality, consistency and persistence, wait for the miracle to unfold.
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