The Importance of Being Consistent

The Importance of Being Consistent

GM Troffy

I want you to imagine what would happen if you went a few years without playing chess or doing anything chess related. After all that time a friend challenges you to a game, to which you accept and sit down ready to play. How would you expect your play to be different compared to now? When you get into the differences the list may be quite long or maybe you feel like it is shorter, but either way, I would guess the general expectation is that anyone after that period of time would play worse. When it comes to a period of a few years it is easy to view that as being a long time, and particularly a long time if you want to keep/improve your chess skills. But the problem is that we may not see a week or even a month as any sort of significant amount of time for keeping/improving our chess skills. Truth is it may not be, not everyone is looking to reach a higher level. But if you are then this is a very important principle for you.


One of the best ways I've heard it put before is that we often view improvement as a path. A path that when we are working we move forward on and when we aren’t working we simply stand still. But this is not how it works at all. Improvement is much like a river, and we are rowing upstream. It is work to row, but if we do then we are able to move forward! And when we stop? Well, we don’t stand still, the river will do what a river does and move us downstream. That is a better way to view improving at anything, and that really is the reality of life. We have to be consistent, or we start to lose the ground we have gained!


When I first started chess I can’t say I was too focused on working to get better. I was only 3 when I started playing chess, so spending many hours a day improving was not something I was going to do. As I got older and progressively more interested in chess the amount of time I spent studying increased to 2 hours, 4 hours, and finally 6 hours a day Monday-Friday. I still had a weekend just like anyone else, which was great to make sure I didn’t get burned out. But throughout the week, I had a schedule and things I wanted to do every day to work on reaching my goals and I saw the impact of that. My own experience of moving downstream when I stopped working wasn’t that I got a lot worse at chess. No, my skills were not changed dramatically, but my desire to work definitely was. When I would go and play in a big tournament I often took the day after the tournament off from chess. Which I needed! Because let’s be honest, tournaments (particularly in the US) can be absolutely grueling! But I can tell you that the day after my break day when it was time to get back and work hard once again, was a little bit harder. If I had taken that day off as well, it would have been even harder the following day, and so on until working hard was just a faint memory. Once again, that is the reality. One week may not affect your skills that much, but it is going to make it a lot harder to go back to working really hard. We all need to remember that “working hard” is something we need to practice. So while it is true that we all need some time to relax and not go crazy, it needs to be a balance. We need a consistent effort on improvement and time away so that we don’t burn ourselves out, and we are the only ones that can honestly say what that balance is.


The last thing I would share on this idea is a quote by James Clear (author of Atomic Habits, an amazing book on this very idea):

“If you get one percent better each day for one year, you'll end up thirty-seven times better by the time you're done.”


That’s the goal. When you are working consistently, strive to just get a little bit better each day!


I hope you enjoyed this blog, as always feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below. As a bonus here is the short video I did for my Instagram page on this topic: