Motivation vs Consistency, and Why is Consistency So Important For Achieving Goals?

Yelnur Shildibekov, PhD
Updated on: February 20, 2024
Reviewed by:
Alexander Tokarev, PhD
Motivation vs Consistency - PSYCULATOR
Waleed Derhem |

What is Motivation?

Motivation is defined as the underlying reason, or "why," behind our actions.

Whether the objective is weight loss, language acquisition, or financial savings, there is always a driving force behind these pursuits, and that force constitutes our motivation. Essentially, motivation acts as the catalyst for human behavior, propelling individuals to set and strive for particular goals. Moreover, it plays a crucial role in sustaining the necessary behaviors and actions essential for achieving those goals.

Recognizing and comprehending both our own motivations and those of others is useful. When we grasp what motivates individuals, ourselves included, we gain the ability to provide encouragement and inspiration, supporting their continuous efforts, and motivating them to take necessary actions.

This understanding is valuable in many fields, particularly in business, where enterprises know about leveraging motivations to influence consumer behavior, from buying good to subscribing to services. For example:

Vegan Options in Fast Food

Fast-food chains introduce plant-based burger options to tap into the growing consumer motivation for environmentally friendly and cruelty-free food choices.

Portion Control Packaging

Snack companies leverage the motivation for healthier eating habits by introducing portion-controlled packaging, appealing to consumers looking to manage their calorie intake.

Ergonomic Furniture

Furniture manufacturers cater to the motivation for space-saving solutions in small living spaces by creating a foldable dining table and chairs set, allowing residents to optimize their dining area and easily create more room when needed.

Motivations Vary

It's important to note that motivations are not always overtly evident in our actions.

Two individuals may engage in identical activities, yet their motivations can differ significantly. This discrepancy highlights the nuanced nature of motivation, where people may pursue similar objectives for entirely distinct reasons.

For example, two friends may regularly take on weekend DIY home improvement projects, with one motivated by a love for crafting and personalizing their space, while the other is driven by a practical desire to increase property value.

The Benefits of Motivation

Achieve Goals Faster

Motivation is a powerful force, and feeling motivated isn’t just a feel-good thing – it's your secret weapon for reaching your goals faster. Picture it like the turbo boost for your actions. Motivation not only kicks you into gear but also amps up your creativity, problem-solving skills, and even encourages you to take some risks. It's like your personal cheerleader saying, "You got this!".

For example, research on more than 127 studies, including a total of 77,560 participants showed that motivation has significantly contributed to sales performance[1].

Enhance your Reward System

When you conquer a task driven by motivation, it's like hitting the jackpot of good feelings – confidence, satisfaction, pride, joy, you name it. These good vibes act like a reward system, making it easier to stay on track and focused on your goals[2]. Motivation doesn't stop there; it's your handy GPS, giving you directions on what to do next and how to get there. Think of it as your goal-setting BFF.

Part of the Golden Duo

Now, here's the golden rule: motivation is fantastic, but it's like the wind beneath your wings – consistency is your plane. If you're consistent in your efforts over time, that's when the real magic happens. It's the combination of motivation and sticking to the grind that turns your dreams into reality. So, next time you're plotting your success, remember: Motivation and consistency are your dynamic duo, and you wouldn't want to leave either tool behind!

What is Consistency?

Consistency is defined as the methodical and dependable execution of our actions over time to achieve set goals.

Contrary to the misconception of daily repetition, consistency can be achieved by engaging in an activity once or twice a week, provided it is executed reliably at the same scheduled time. Over time it becomes a habit.

The importance of consistency lies in following a predetermined schedule and maintaining a systematic and dependable approach. For instance, an individual who consistently puts in extra hours is more likely to achieve the desired result.

Related: What is Conscientiousness? This article explains in detail why some people are significantly more consistent, reliable, and disciplined in sticking to their plans and achieving goals than others.

The Benefits of Consistency

Why is consistency important? There are many benefits of consistency, including:

Attaining Long-term Goals

Maintaining a consistent effort creates a more structured approach. This means you are less likely to give up halfway before achieving your goal[3]. As a result, you position yourself to achieve your goals and objectives faster. Consistency is important for achieving long-term goals in various aspects of life, including:

Enhanced Productivity

Consistent individuals demonstrate higher productivity by focusing their efforts on meaningful tasks, avoiding time-wasting activities, and efficiently completing what needs to be done without unnecessary delays[4]. Therefore, consistent people don’t usually procrastinate.

Greater Focus and Less Distractions

Consistency serves as a catalyst for building momentum over time, enabling sustained focus on priorities and minimizing distractions that impede progress. For example, entrepreneurs who maintain a consistent work ethic are more likely to attain success, as dedication and regularity contribute to enduring habits that propel sustained growth. Athletes practicing consistently witness faster performance improvements compared to those who train less systematically.

Better Reliability

Consistency is a respected trait as it signals reliability. People trust individuals who consistently follow through on their commitments and know that they can rely on them to fulfill their promises. Such individuals are dependable, especially during tough times. Over time, this helps to earn more trust and respect from others.

Reduced Fear of Failure and Burnout

Consistency creates an environment conducive to tackling more significant challenges without succumbing to fear of failure or burnout[5]. This is because consistency allows us to plan and structure our approach and effort, helping us develop a good balance of rest and hard work to achieve our goals more effectively.

Increased Happiness

Research indicates that individuals who maintain consistency in their actions tend to experience greater happiness compared to those who lack consistency[6]. This is attributed to leading a life aligned with personal values and avoiding the constant cycle of starting and stopping new endeavors.

Better Habits

The importance of consistency lies in the development of positive habits, as engaging in repeated actions solidifies behaviors until they become ingrained aspects of one's identity and personality. As the saying goes:

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Interesting fact: This quote has its roots in the 1926 publication "The Story of Philosophy" by author Will Durant. In his book, Durant recounts the contributions of history's eminent philosophers, Aristotle included. While the expression reflects Durant's effort to encapsulate a particular Aristotelian idea in his own language, it is not a verbatim quote from Aristotle himself, who is often incorrectly attributed as the original source.

The Main Difference Between Motivation vs Consistency

Understanding the difference between consistency and motivation is important for achieving your goals successfully. Consistency involves regular, dedicated actions, while motivation is the driving force propelling us into action. Both are indispensable for success, but they require different approaches and strategies.

Consistency demands dedication and discipline, fostering positive habits and routines over time, whereas motivation thrives on enthusiasm and energy, pushing us toward our goals with excitement and a sense of fulfilment for attainment.

A notable difference of motivation vs consistency lies in their duration. Consistency, rooted in long-term behavior, has more enduring power compared to motivation, which relies on short-term bursts of energy.

Sustaining motivation proves challenging over time, hinging on emotional triggers that can fluctuate. Conversely, consistency remains steadfast, independent of emotional states, relying on meaningful, sustained actions and effort for consistent long-term results.

The synergy of both consistency and motivation proves highly effective in achieving any goal, providing both structure and drive for progress. Maintaining consistency ensures steady advancement, even in moments of low motivation, while a motivating factor propels individuals beyond perceived limits by overcoming psychological barriers and unlocking their full potential.

The Benefits of Consistency vs Motivation

Consistency is More Dependable

Motivation vs consistency is always a tough debate. However, in contrast to motivation, which is challenging to sustain and prone to pitfalls, maintaining consistency proves to be a dependable approach.

Rather than relying solely on overarching goals and attempting to stay motivated, a more effective strategy involves crafting a specific action plan with a consistent schedule.

This may include activities such as waking up at 5 am daily for an hour of side hustle work, attending the gym every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 8 pm, ensuring daily water intake by 9 am, and allocating time for daily reading or, ideally, reading 20 pages daily.

Essentially, consistency centers around action, while motivation relates to desire. Although motivation sparks the initial action, it is consistency that ultimately prevails in achieving goals, especially on days when motivation may falter.

Consistency and Physical Health

Consistency matters for maintaining healthy eating habits and engaging in regular exercise. Both lead to better health and physical fitness.

Consistency and Mental Health

Regularly practicing meditation and mindfulness was proven to improve individuals’ mental health.

Consistency and Self-Improvement

Dedicating an hour daily to learning a new skill yields faster improvement than occasional efforts. For example, consistent practicing of musical instruments or dance moves yields significant improvements over time.

Consistency and Writing

Engaging in consistent writing significantly enhances writing skills compared to irregular efforts.

Consistency, Branding and Advertising

Brands that consistently advertise establish robust brand recognition compared to those with irregular and sporadic marketing campaigns.

Barriers to Creating Consistency

The value of consistency cannot be underrated. While it is a straightforward concept, it is not always easy to implement.

The primary challenge to be consistent arises from the fact that the activities we should consistently engage in are often ones we don't particularly enjoy. Whether it's exercise, work, or saving money, these tasks can be stressful, personally demanding, and generally uninviting. When faced with such situations, there's a natural inclination to opt for a burst of intense effort to quickly "get it done," especially when motivated.

Establishing consistency requires a transformation in habits, routines, and behavior. This area falls under the expansive domain of personal development, as altering behavior is complex and doesn't follow a one-size-fits-all approach. It involves adopting strategies, engaging in practical application, experimenting with different approaches, and gaining a deeper understanding of oneself.

Consideration must also be given to momentum. Cultivating healthy and productive habits is highly sought after in personal development, as they offer a reliable means of maintaining good consistency and possess remarkable resilience. However, the same resilience applies when endeavoring to break unhealthy habits.

When trying to break unhealthy habits and thought patterns, there may be a temptation to use brute force will-power short-term approaches. Note that these tactics come at a high cost, as they are usually very energy-consuming, and the resulting payoff seldom aligns with expectations.

For example, individuals often try to quit eating processed food or sugar in an attempt to be healthy and to lose weight. However, most are not able to sustain such a drastic change to their routines, resulting in binge eating behaviors.

5 Tips for Improving Consistency

Undoubtedly, consistency is important when it comes to achieving substantial goals related to your health, career, and finances. However, sustaining consistency demands considerable effort. In practical terms, a substantial portion of this effort involves trying out different approaches and experimenting to determine what suits you best.

Embarking on this journey, explore the following tips to establish consistency in the areas that require it most. While some may resonate more with you than others, this serves as an excellent starting point to initiate the process.

1. Start Small

Consistency matters for building good habits. However, it requires managing expectations and celebrating small victories that can serve as a foundation and motivation for future progress.

Consider flossing as an example—a simple yet healthy habit demanding consistency, often challenging for many. For someone unaccustomed to flossing, adding extra few minutes into the daily routine poses a significant challenge, especially if it causes discomfort to the gums.

Reducing the habit to its smallest details makes it easier to implement and maintain it over time, therefore achieving good consistency.

In this context, starting with the practice of flossing just one tooth proves to be an effective beginning. This takes only a few seconds and build a necessary momentum.

Admittedly, flossing one tooth each day may not yield impeccable teeth or impress your dentist, but that isn't the primary objective. Instead, the goal is to establish "flossing" as a consistent part of your routine. Once this foundation is laid, the habit can gradually expand to two teeth and beyond. Consistency thrives on victories, and initiating small habits provides an avenue for acquiring easy wins and generating robust momentum.

2. Leverage Existing Habits and Routines

A great method for building consistency is to gradually blend new habits with established ones, often referred to as ‘habit stacking’ or ‘habit pairing’ by experts.

Consider the analogy of a "buddy splint" used when a finger is injured. This involves wrapping the injured finger with one of the healthy ones, allowing the injured digit to mimic the rhythm and movement of its intact counterpart. Through this synchronized movement, the injured finger gradually gains strength and flexibility until both are fully functional. Habit pairing operates on a similar principle.

To seamlessly incorporate a new healthy habit into your daily routine, link it with an existing habit in a similar manner. The established habit serves as a stabilizing force, providing consistency to the new habit as it strengthens.

For instance, if your goal is to read a bit more each day, you might "stack" this habit with an existing one, such as brushing your teeth before bedtime. After setting down the toothbrush, pick up the book. By aligning the new reading habit with the automatic nature of the established brushing habit, it effortlessly integrates into your nightly routine.

3. Create a Positive Association

Establishing a positive association with a new habit is a classic technique for cultivating consistency. In psychology, this concept is commonly referred to as Classical reinforcement.

It's crucial to recognize that a significant barrier to consistency arises from the fact that many activities we aim to perform consistently inherently involve challenges. These tasks may be demanding, unpleasant, or time-intensive.

For example, while regular exercise offers long-term benefits, the immediate experience may not be pleasant or inherently rewarding. Often, our focus leans more towards the difficulty and time commitment rather than the inherent enjoyment or health benefits. Fortunately, you can alter this perception by introducing your own rewards.

Taking the example of a workout, you can make the time more enjoyable by listening to a favorite audiobook or podcast. Additionally, you might follow it up with a preferred protein-rich drink or indulge in a beloved TV show. In psychology, this pairing is commonly referred to as classical reinforcement or classical conditioning.

Many options exist to incorporate rewards into healthy habits. The only caution is to avoid introducing rewards that counteract the positive impact of the healthy habit itself. For instance, regularly treating yourself to a milkshake after a day of clean, healthy eating may undermine the intended benefits.

4. Lower the Bar if You Need to

When building consistency, a choice that ensures your return tomorrow holds more value than a choice that leads to an intense effort today. The focus is on cultivating long-term consistency rather than immediate intensity.

Using the example of exercise, imagine a day when you lack the motivation for a full, intense workout. If the only option is a demanding session, you may either struggle through it or skip it altogether, resulting in a lose-lose situation. One option reinforces a negative association with the habit, while the other destabilizes it. Remember, such situations are not false dichotomies, meaning that other choices exist.

That is, you could lower the bar for what constitutes "getting a workout in." This might involve going to the gym, completing a couple of exercises, and leaving. Alternatively, you could do even less, as long as it allows you to mark the habit as completed.

Brittle habits break, while flexible habits adapt.

The key here is reinforcing the habit and maintaining a positive association with going to the gym. There's no need to push for an intense workout every single day if it's not enjoyable for you. Prioritizing achievability and enjoyment proves more valuable for long-term progress.

5. Embrace Accountability

Accountability, which involves the drive to fulfill predetermined expectations, serves as a guiding force in keeping us aligned with our desired outcomes.

Established accountability systems in places like schools and workplaces assist many individuals in adhering to schedules, completing specific tasks, and generally conforming to predefined rules and guidelines.

Beyond institutional forms of accountability, this strategy can also be intentionally applied to personal goals.

Many effective approaches exist for improving personal accountability, often centering around a common theme: Articulate clear intentions for yourself, either independently or with a trusted accountability partner, and periodically assess your progress. Establishing intentions from the outset clarifies your focus, and the knowledge that you'll be responsible for your progress later motivates you to remain dedicated throughout the journey.

Accountability is a powerful tool that organizations leverage to ensure individuals stay consistently committed to tasks for extended periods, even decades. With some practice, you can harness that same power for your personal endeavors.

Stay Motivated But Is Motivation Really Overrated?

Although motivation is often perceived as a crucial aspect to strive for, is it truly as important as it seems? On one hand, it can be argued that motivation holds significance in achieving success by providing a sense of direction and enthusiasm to pursue goals, with some studies indicating that self-motivated individuals tend to outperform those lacking this quality.

On the other hand, there's an argument asserting that consistency might outweigh motivation in the pursuit of success. Consistency involves maintaining regular actions over time toward a goal, and not letting obstacles or failures deviate you from the ultimate objective. Unlike motivation, which can fluctuate, consistency ensures a steady progression, potentially resulting in greater achievements over the long term.

It's crucial to note that an excessive focus on motivation may lead to underperformance, creating a dependency on high enthusiasm levels for results. Consequently, prioritizing the development of consistent habits and behaviors might yield superior results compared to relying solely on motivation as the driving force behind actions.

In essence, while both consistency and motivation play pivotal roles in achieving success, it may be prudent not to view motivation as the sole ingredient for success. Instead, both qualities – the Golden Duo – should work together to give you the best chance to make consistent progress and ultimately reach your goals.