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Melissa Shanahan

#201: Consistency: Progress, Not Perfection (Part 3)

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When you’re working towards a goal, consistency matters. However, something many people get tripped up on is the idea of perfect consistency and executing a plan perfectly. Perfectionism is a spectrum, and most of us fall somewhere on it, including Melissa. It’s learning to value progress over perfection that really moves the needle.

Consistency isn’t about beating yourself up for missing a day here or there. It is inevitable that your plan will not go as perfectly as you hoped, but the point is that you keep showing up even after you deviate from it. As Melissa said in the first two episodes in this series, your flexibility, adaptability, and resilience are more important than being perfect.

In part three of her four-part series on consistency, Melissa breaks down why striving for perfection isn’t useful and why focusing on making progress is more important for achieving your goals. She shares how to handle falling off the wagon, some statements to keep in mind when facing your perfectionistic thoughts, and why perfectionism actually inhibits the results you want.

If you’re a law firm owner, Mastery Group is the way for you to work with Melissa. This program consists of quarterly strategic planning facilitated with guidance and community every step of the way. Enrollment will be opening soon, so join the waitlist right now to grab one of the limited seats!

Show Notes:

What You’ll Discover:

The difference between consistency and perfect consistency.

Why people get so attached to perfect consistency.

How being rigid and inflexible prevents you from making progress.

The importance of resilience and your commitment to the final outcome.

Why perfection isn’t actually required to achieve your goals.

Melissa’s reminder statements for when you fall off track.

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#199: Consistency: Laying the Groundwork (Part 1)

#200: Consistency: Building Stability Before Growth (Part 2)

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Full Episode Transcript:

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I’m Melissa Shanahan, and this is The Law Firm Owner Podcast, Episode #201.

Welcome to The Law Firm Owner Podcast, powered by Velocity Work. For owners who want to grow a firm that gives them the life they want. Get crystal clear on where you're going, take planning seriously, and honor your plan like a pro. This is the work that creates Velocity.

Hi, everyone, welcome to this week's episode. I'm thrilled that you're here for this part three of a four-part series on the topic of consistency. We did this series to bridge over Episode #200 as sort of a celebration and reflection, and wanted to deliver some really high-level content. I worked really hard on these episodes, so I hope you're enjoying them.

If you haven't listened yet to the first two episodes, I recommend that you do that first. And then listen to today's, which is part three. And today is all about perfectionistic consistency, or perfect consistency. So, we're going to talk about that and dive in. Because many of the people I work with, and I'm sure many of you, as listeners, have a perfectionistic bone in your body. There's a spectrum there, for sure.

But I need to speak to that. I need to speak to those people. I have that bone in my body, and I work with many people who do too. So, when we are thinking about consistency and being successful with consistency in something that we care about, this can get in the way.

Now, next episode is going to be about obstacles to consistency. And this is one of them, but it felt big enough that it deserved its own place in the series. So, that's why we're going to dig into, today, perfect consistency. We're going to talk about the difference between perfect consistency and just consistency, and the power of consistency and the harmful effects of perfect consistency.

I'm hoping that today, for many of you there's something in this episode that will land in a way that allows you to shift into a more productive way of being for yourself, a more rewarding experience for yourself. So, that is what we're going to be digging into today.

Before we dive into today's episode, I just have to give a shout out, a public shout out, to Mastery Group members who participated in Strategic Planning, and also to private clients who have just wrapped, as of yesterday, the final retreat for the turn of the quarter. I am in awe consistently of how you all show up, of the work that you put in, of the progress that you make, of the results that you're creating.

And I love watching, on all of your faces, every single client has moments where their face expresses, and verbally and nonverbal cues of pride, of surprise, of delight, like almost disbelief, that what they're creating is coming to fruition. And it's because of all the hard work.

On the flip side, no journey for any business owner is this perfect up into the right curve. There are hard moments no matter how well you plan, no matter how smart you are, no matter how good you are, there are hard moments as a business owner. And I also love being in the trenches with owners when they are experiencing their unique sets of challenges, and obstacles. It's a really special relationship that I get to have with clients and with members.

So, thank you, to all of you, because you have made this turn of the quarter set of retreats just remarkable. My team and I are inspired to new heights. And so, thank you, thank you, thank you for showing up and doing the work. And thank you for selecting Velocity Work as your partner in that work. It matters greatly to me; it matters greatly to my team.

And times like these, where we really have to show up and perform, this is our time to really help clients dial some things in. And then in between, of course, we have communication and support all along the way. And the whole thing is really inspiring. And that's why we do what we do. But there's something really special about retreats. About reviewing the quarter you just had, being very honest about that in your evaluation, and then looking forward to seeing what needs to come next.

I'm just so thrilled to be a part of the journey for you. And so, thank you, just a huge thank you.

All right, with that, let's dig in to this third, in the series of four, about consistency. Now, we’ve talked a lot about consistency. Again, go back to those first couple episodes if you haven't, but let's just recap a little bit. Consistency is the ability to show up and take action towards your goal, no matter what, time and time and time again.

Even if it's not always perfect, you keep taking action, you learn, you tweak, then you take more action, and then you learn, and then you take more action until there will be a day when you achieve the outcome that you wanted to achieve. That's consistency; just consistently getting up and doing it again and again and again.

I do think plans help immensely with consistency, because you know what to do, it's mapped out for you. Now, the map will never be perfect, never. But it's not the point, making the map to the end goal. The point of making a map or making a really strong plan is so that you have something to execute on.

And you could show up for every day, and you aren't just twiddling your thumbs or getting lost with shiny objects, the steps in front of you, and what's supposed to be executed on. And then, as you're on that journey, typically, you will find things you didn't think of yet. You will have this new understanding that allows you to pivot or shift in a way that will take you faster to the end result.

We talked about the order in which you decide to put your efforts, in terms of consistency. And what do you keep showing up for until you get that end result, until you create that new normal. And sometimes we skip steps, and we start to focus on something and create consistency for something or go for a goal where really, our foundation is kind of crap. And so, we’ve got to come back and look at that.

Where can we get your house in order, so that it's leveraged for you when you really go for the thing that's a little more exciting to go for? But truthfully, and I think this is one thing that I really help my clients with, to me, when I am working with someone, the boring little things are very exciting for me to work with them on. Because I know what it means for them.

I know what they're creating with the wee things. I know what they're creating when they work on the foundation. They are giving themselves the ability to fly in ways that they haven't been able to fly before. And so, I love working with people on the, I used the term in the last episode, and I'll say it again, the unsexy stuff, the “boring” stuff. But that stuff gives life to your dreams.

Whereas, if you skip the foundation, if you don't have your house in order, and you push it at things, I mean, that's slippery. You create really slippery results. Even if you are to create the outcomes that you want to, it is hard to hold on to those because the foundation is crap. You didn't start back early enough in the game.

And I think sometimes, I'm wondering if when you're listening to this, if you're like, “Well, how long are you supposed to stay focused on the beginning stuff? And what is that beginning stuff?” Only you can know that for you. I do think facilitation is extremely helpful in figuring that out for yourself. Only you can know that for you.

But I will say one thing, I often ask myself, just to check myself and make sure I'm not jumping ahead with something that's going to bite me in the ass later. Right? I often ask myself, where are you a hot mess still? By hot mess, I don't mean that in a judgmental way. To me, it's funny.

But where in my business are things a little fuzzy? Where am I thinking are things a little fuzzy? Where in my company is there a gray kind of fuzzy area that isn't killing my business, but it's there? And when I identify those things, and we all have those things, by the way. It doesn't matter how big your business is, it doesn't matter how advanced you are, we always have those.

So, when I look at those things, and I say, “Hmm, okay, what kind of impact will this have as I'm growing, as I'm shooting for bigger things? What kind of impact will this have?” I really play it out all the way to the end, so that I can figure out where I need to get my attention in terms of consistency.

That helps, because sometimes there's something that's gray or fuzzy and when I really play it out to the end, and I really think about the impact it could have as the business grows, if the evaluation isn't really fruitful, and I just don't see, “Yeah, it’d be nice to take care of that thing.” But that doesn't affect me in terms of how great of a business owner I am or how solid the company is or how clear things are inside of my company, for the team and or for clients, then it's acknowledged. It's there.

And there'll be a day that I decide to focus on it. But it's not impactful right now, so it doesn't feel core to the foundation of the success of my company. I ask myself that a lot. Because if there are gray areas in the business, there are things that I just haven't dug into, nor has anyone else, and it doesn't really matter right now, so it's not going to play out to be a problem for me in the future, in any way that I can see, when I give it a strong evaluation. And so, then we're good. I don't need to focus on it.

And it does allow me, it frees up some space to decide what I do want to focus on. What is the next thing that will have the most impact, in terms of focus? And then, I can show up consistently for that thing until it's a new normal for me or until I've created this new standard or new paradigm, within the business, for that thing that will have impact.

So, I'm offering that in case it's helpful because it does matter the order which go, we talked about that in the last episode. And so, today, then this idea of perfect consistency and how people are really attached to perfect consistency, even if they wouldn't say that they are, they are, and their actions show it. And so, that's what I want to dig into today.

Consistency is the ability to show up time and time again, and keep taking actions, even when it's not perfect. Even when things don't go as planned. Even when you let yourself down. Even when you're experiencing failure, you keep showing up until you get to the result that you are looking for.

Now, perfect consistency on the other hand, is the idea that you need to do something perfectly every time in order to make progress. That you need to show up perfectly every time in order to make progress. That when you show up, it needs to go perfectly every time in order to make progress. And if it doesn't, you'll just stop.

So again, consistency, which is the whole point of this whole theme, it's about continuing to show up, to take action towards the end result. And where perfect consistency, which is a trap, is focused on the perfection of the planned path.

I think this might land for many of you, it's almost like we give ourselves a grade on the perfection of execution, versus giving ourselves a grade on progress towards the goal. And if we're going to give ourselves a grade, we think the grade should be in the perfection of execution. And really, what I want to and what I'm hoping to help you switch, is understanding that the grade you should give yourself is on the progress, is on how often you show up.

It's not about the perfection of the execution. And it's not about showing up every day, if you miss a day, then you fail. No, the fail is when you stop. And a lot of us do that. We make headway, we do something every day, we show up how we said we were going to do, or whatever the plan was, we follow it, we follow it, we follow it.

And then there's a day where we don't, maybe it was because of something external to us that totally shifted, and it made it so that we couldn't show up in that way on that day. Or maybe it was just you decided not to, inside. Either way, it's not a fail. If you show up the next day, or the next time, whatever the next step is on the plan, you show up. You don't just stop, that is a fail. That is a fail.

The fail is not the unsuccessful execution on any given day. The fail is when you allow that to derail you. One term that might describe a perfect consistency is “rigidity”. And this implies a strict adherence to a certain set of rules or standards without any deviation. But it's important to know that while consistency is valuable, it's not always necessary or even desirable, to aim for perfect consistency in areas of focus.

And this is because flexibility and adaptability are very important traits when you are working to achieve long term success. This goes back to the idea of resilience; you just get back up. You get back up. You have an adaptability to you. You have a flexibility to you, and that serves you all along the way.

I would go back and listen to, if you feel like this is the part that you need to focus on, in the first episode of the series, I talked a lot about that. And what it takes to actually create resilience within yourself or to generate resilience within yourself. But that resilience, what comes with that, is a flexibility and adaptability.

And it really depends on your commitment to the outcome, instead of your commitment to perfection with execution. There's a misunderstanding that many of us buy into, which is about overestimating the importance of a single day. Believing that missing one day will undo all of their progress. And yes, while consistency is important, perfect consistency is not.

So, missing one day, or even more for that matter, or a day here, a day there, with some sporadic progress in between, that is not likely to have significant impact in the long run. What will have a significant impact, a positive impact, in the long run is progress. And progress happens through consistency. If you make the best laid plans… I’m thinking of Monday Map/Friday Wrap, many of you follow that. You plan your week, and you honor your plan, and that's what you work towards.

And we are actually going to do something pretty incredible, like a hosted intensive for that, coming up soon, that anyone can take part in, not just Mastery Group members. And in that you'll get to practice this. But you make a plan for your week, a really well-thought-out plan for what you're supposed to get accomplished. And for when you're going to get those things accomplished.

And then, let's say, you start out on that journey and things go awry and you don't actually get all the things done, that you said you were going to do. And say, you had to let go of this thing that you were supposed to show up and do every day. Okay, so then the next day, you have another opportunity, and you actually do it, you show up for it. But then the next day, for some reason you get off track again. But then the next day you actually do it.

Now, the people who keep showing up to work with this are the people who will have the most progress. The people who get flustered or frustrated by the fact that they aren't perfectly executing this are the people who will flame out. And then, a month from now, they'll want to get back in the game and then want to try again.

And you can save yourself a lot of grief by just continuing to stay committed to learning, evolving, growing within this thing, and learning how to be consistent. What are your barriers? And how do you need to show up? How can you make this successful more of the time? Not perfection, right? And that's what so many of us strive for.

If we don't hit perfection, we will just flame out, we will go back to default. And then, we'll get frustrated enough with ourselves at some point, or with whatever we're dealing with at some point, again in the future, and we'll say “Okay, okay, okay. I'm going to go all-in on this,” and you flame up and then you flame out.

And it really does come down to this idea that your commitment isn't hard enough to the outcome, and you value perfection over progress. No one likely will say that to me when I'm working with them. No one will say that sentence, “I value perfection more than progress.” But the truth is, your actions speak louder than words, you do value perfection more than progress.

How can you start to flip that on its head? How can you start to value progress more than perfection? And this is a practice. You have to learn to show up as best you can, consistently as you can, and the day that you don't, then you don't allow that to affect your plan for showing up. You try it again; you get up again. This is resilience, right? You get up again, you get up again.

And that resilience, that flexibility, that adaptability, the commitment to the ultimate outcome, not perfection, will allow you to experience progress so much faster than you ever would have imagined. I have seen this in real time when I used to offer Sprints; these were 30-day Sprints. People could come in, they had to say, at the beginning of every month, what is the result that they were going to create that month.

It was usually the completion or the start-to-finish of a project. Maybe it was launching a podcast, maybe it was implementing a new marketing campaign, maybe it was adopting a new piece of software, maybe it was writing a process for something really important in their firm, whatever it was, right?

People had so many creative, awesome ideas for this, and they would come in, they would name the result that we're going to create the top of every month. And then every single day, we would get on the phone every single morning, they had to report in on what they were going to do that day. Just one step, one turtle step, that they were going to do that day towards the end result.

And then the next day, they show up and they had to answer, did you or did you not do the thing that you said you were going to do yesterday? And then they had to give a lesson learned about themselves and how they operated. And then they had to say, what is the one thing they were going to do today towards the result? Every day we showed up and had a check-in like this.

When people would say, “I didn't get it done,” it's not about ‘well, shame on you.’ Although much of the time people have that approach. Instead, it's about inquiry. And so, when they say’ I didn't get it done,’ it's digging in, really, what was the reason? Why? Did they just not want to do it? They were dragging their feet to do it?

And so, they allow something else to win out, something else that they focused on, instead of the thing that they said they were going to do. Is it because a client emergency blew up and they had to go deal with that? But you really dig into why and helping them learn about themselves and overcome their own challenges and their own obstacles.

And then we do it again tomorrow. And then we do it again tomorrow. No one ever got through that entire month with a checked box in every single day. Actually, I'm thinking there may have been one person once, that did that. And it's not what I expected. I don't want that for the participants. I don't want that for any of my clients, or any of my Mastery Group members.

Perfection is weird and creepy. That is not normal. It's about learning and it's about handling obstacles and becoming more resilient in a way that really serves you. In a way that creates more ease along your journey. In a way that reduces frustration and friction towards your goals. That's what the whole thing is about.

And so, whether they did it; yeay, high five. If they didn't do the thing they said they were going to do, okay, let's just dig in; why or why not? It was very objective, very black and white. And if I picked up that they had a lot of judgment about them not doing it, I would try to squash it.

I'm like, “Listen, there's no room for that. That's not helpful here. What is helpful is to evaluate this from an angle and extract a lesson that's like, ‘Okay, I need to give myself more space before I dig into this task. I need to,’” whatever it was. There was always a lesson about helping them or enabling them to be able to show up consistently every day in a way that they hadn't thought through as deeply before. That's what this is about.

It's not about perfection, it's about the progress. And I'll tell you what, I just mentioned to you nobody had checks every single day. “Yes, I got it done. Yes, I got my thing done. Yes, I got it done.” Many people had a lot of holes in their check boxes for the month. And you know what? They still blew their own minds, at the end of the month, with what they got accomplished.

Something that they wouldn't have done on their own because they didn't know how to think like this, they didn't know how to inquire and not beat themselves up when they didn't follow the plan perfectly. And so, they were really learning a new skill set. And it's a meta skill to be able to keep going without judgment and be able to ask yourself the right questions to foster progress.

And at the end of the day, they are so pumped about what they got accomplished at the end of the month. And that is what is possible for each of you, with whatever you want to go after. And yes, accountability helps, we're going to talk about that in the next episode, but it isn't required to experience progress.

I want everyone to really hear that you can start where you are right now. And if you just focus on, instead of placing the value on perfection of execution, place the value on how much you show up, you will be better off.

I was talking to a team member about this episode, about preparing for this episode, and we're talking about a quote that she heard by a woman named Annie Grace, who said, “Isn't 95% or 73%, better than 0 percent?” And this idea of all or nothing, and how detrimental it is to people.

And so, we started talking about this more and more. It's like, why not celebrate the 12%? It's not zero, right? So, 12% maybe seems too low, I don't know. But the truth is, it's progress. You either make zero progress, or you make some. And when people get stuck to this idea of this perfect execution, and if they don't execute perfectly, they just flame out or they give up or they fall off the wagon, however you want to frame it, then they stopped making progress.

That is not good for the ultimate outcome that you are wanting. That doesn't help at all. And so, why not celebrate and acknowledge the percentage of the time that you did show up, versus the percentage of time that you didn't show up. Because that is what will actually give you what you want, not hammering on the times that you should have been more perfect.

The truth is perfect consistency isn't realistic. We are human, we make mistakes. There will be times we fall off track or we don't do something as well as we like, that does not mean that we should give up or stop trying. And by focusing on consistency over perfect consistency, you will allow yourself room for mistakes and setbacks. And you can recognize that progress is not a straight line. And it's okay to stumble along the way.

But as long as you keep showing up and keep taking action, you will continue to make progress towards your goals. This is about creating new normals for yourself. It's not about perfection. Who wants perfection? I mentioned earlier, it is weird and creepy. It's not normal, it's not realistic. And so, shooting for that doesn't make any sense. It doesn't make any sense. And I know that we all know that, intellectually we understand that.

But I want you to use this episode, or a point from this episode, to start to shift so that you actually act in accordance with that truth. Progress over perfection, folks, progress over perfection.

We had T-shirts made for the event that we hosted in Atlanta in February, and one of them was “Progress, not perfection”. I mean, that is something you hear me say over and over and over and over and over and over again inside of Velocity Work. And that's because it's the truth.

I'm not interested in hearing about your perfect journey. I'm interested in hearing about the journey and about how you got back up and about how you're thinking differently now and about how you adjust, and you are adaptable and flexible, and you continue to show up and the consistency that's there. Because that is what gives you what you want in the end. Perfection does not.

And so, I'm always trying to help people bridge the gap over to consistency and progress versus this idea of perfection. In case it's helpful, I am going to give you a few things that you can say to yourself or remind yourself when you do get off track. When you miss a day or you're really frustrated with yourself because you didn't do something that you were supposed to do, and so you fall into this default. Back where you just let yourself fall off the wagon. You let yourself flame out.

And if you want to shift that behavior, that pattern for yourself, then it's helpful to have things on hand that you can say to yourself in those moments or remind yourself of in those moments. So, that the normal way your brain is perceiving what is happening is questioned by you, by the new version of you, by the you that is relaxing into imperfect consistency. And the value that that brings versus perfect consistency and the value that that brings.

So, I'm going to offer you a few statements or reminders, that's the way I like to think about them. Because all of these statements, they are truth. It is the truth. Reminding yourself of the truth, and moments where your brain is shouting very loudly that, “It isn't the truth, that the opposite is actually true. That you're a failure because you didn't do these things. And it's not even worth continuing on because you missed a day.”

Whatever conversation happens in your mind, or whatever the underlying beliefs that exist inside of you that are driving your behavior after you make a mistake, or after you miss a day, we have to start to shift that behavior. If you want to get underneath your behavior, you’ve got to get underneath what is driving the behavior. Which are your beliefs, or what you're thinking, your opinions, your perspective and your brain.

So, I'm going to offer you some new statements that you can borrow and see if they work, in moments, to just reframe what is going on and how you actually need to be looking at this instead of the old way. All right. The first is, “It's okay, setbacks happen. Let's focus on what we can do moving forward.”

You could tell yourself that setbacks happen. “Let's focus on what we can do moving forward. This is just a bump in the road. I will get back on track tomorrow and keep moving forward. I am committed to my goal and will not let one mistake define my progress. I've come so far already. And I know I can continue to make progress with consistent effort. I am capable of achieving my goals, and setbacks don't change that.”

That, I think, is my favorite one, by the way. “I'm not perfect. And that's okay. Consistency is about progress, not perfection.” And I would actually say, “I'm not perfect. And not only is that, okay, it's a good thing, because perfect is creepy. It's weird, and it inhibits the results that I want. I'm going to use this setback as an opportunity to learn and improve my approach.”

All right, everybody. That's what I've got for you this week. I hope you found this episode helpful. I will be here next Tuesday with the fourth in this series, the fourth and final in this series, about consistency and the power of it.

Hey, you may not know this, but there's a free guide for a process I teach called Monday Map/ Friday Wrap. If you go to, it's all yours. It's about how to plan your time and honor your plans. So that, week over week, more work that moves the needle is getting done in less time. Go to to get your free copy.

Thank you for listening to The Law Firm Owner Podcast. If you're ready to get clearer on your vision, data, and mindset, then head over to, where you can plug into Quarterly Strategic Planning, with accountability and coaching in between. This is the work that creates Velocity.

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