My Struggle With Consistency
After 15 years of doing flying trapeze as a flyer, last week I climbed the rope to the catcher’s trapeze for the first time. It was a huge milestone for me. Just a month earlier, I had struggled to get any traction on climbing the rope.
I thought I had turned the corner on it: before climbing the rope to the “catch trap,” I climbed the practice rope three times. I had been working on my upper body strength, and it seemed to be paying off.
I rode the high of the accomplishment all week, and was eager to get back up there, so I could practice working up a bigger swing.
But this past weekend, I couldn’t get traction. I couldn’t maintain my grip on the rope with my hands, and I couldn’t get my feet locked on the rope.
I had waited all week for this, and I was determined to make it up the rope. I kept trying.
Unfortunately, no amount of willpower or desire was enough to overcome the fact that my body just didn’t have it.
I was frustrated. I felt dejected and demoralized.
The Consistency Challenge
We teach what we need to learn, right?
What was preventing me from gaining consistency in climbing the rope?
The obvious answer was that the cause of my challenge was a lack of proper rest and fatigued muscles. And that’s certainly part of the lesson here. Proper rest is important, and I know that.
Looking for What to Fix
Of course, there is only one thing to do in that case:
Figure out what you’re doing wrong and what you need to fix.
My friend Jeff has been a catcher for 10 years and has been teaching the weekly catching class over the past month. As we watched my video from last week’s successful climb, he could see the problem immediately.
The goal is to climb with my feet and use my upper body as little as possible.
Jeff pointed out that in my climb last week I was using about 90% upper body strength to pull myself on the rope, and using my feet only to stabilize myself.
On Saturday, my body was fatigued over all, and my upper body was really hurting. It was no surprise that I couldn’t get up the rope when I didn’t feel at full strength. My body simply couldn’t hold on.
But this isn’t just about fatigue or the need to rest. It points to something deeper: technique.
Consistency Requires Technique
As I wrote recently, the key to consistency is having the right recipe.
A recipe is ingredients + proportions + process.
I had the ingredients, but I was using the wrong proportions: using 90% upper body strength and 10% with my feet, instead of the reverse. The proportions were at the heart of my faulty process.
How do I know this was a function of technique and not fatigue?
After failing at several attempts to get traction on Saturday, I did some drills to work on the foot position without a rope. After practicing that technique I was able to climb the practice rope. My body was still fatigued; in fact, it was more fatigued after my failed attempts at the catcher’s rope.
The right technique can carry you through adverse circumstances.
The Link to Sustainability
If the result of applying your recipe is that you deplete your resources, you won’t be able to call on those resources to execute.
You can’t have consistency with a recipe that isn’t sustainable.
Desire, Discipline, and Willpower Have Limits
There’s a common myth that we can do anything if we have enough desire, a compelling reason, and healthy dose of discipline and willpower.
This myth sets us up for self-criticism and self-judgment when we fail to meet our goals.
Maybe I just didn’t want it enough.
Maybe I lack the willpower to see it through.
Maybe I don’t have the self-discipline.
No amount of desire, motivation, discipline, or willpower will get you to your result if your resources are depleted. Those traits can take you far, but they cannot carry you all the way. They, too, are in limited supply.
At the heart of consistency lies technique. Building the right foundation, with the right technique, is what allows you to do things sustainably. And sustainability allows for consistency.