Be Coherent, Not Consistent

Consistency is perceived as a positive trait. We like predictable things and prefer to know what we are facing. Surprises are fun and draw our attention, but when it comes to professional content, lack of consistency seems to confuse us. If the message keeps changing, we don’t take it seriously; we say the speaker is inconsistent, and that is never said as a compliment. Many people think consistency is the key to crafting an impactful message that drives action. I prefer to focus on a different trait. 

Consistent: 

Acting or done in the same way over time. 
Unchanging in nature, standard, or effect over time. 

Consistency is strict. It dictates your next move, and it does so using nothing but the previous move as a reference: you should do the same thing in the same way. The result is, by definition, repetition. Consistency will sometimes cause you to stand in place; in other cases, you will continue moving in the same direction (often at the same pace). This might seem like a desired, positive outcome, but it certainly is not the best for you or your audience. 

Consistency is boring. 

Coherent:

United as or forming a whole.

Coherency, on the other hand, has the quality of plasticity. Being coherent does not force you to repeat the same ideas or actions over time. It allows you to evolve and be open without losing the sense of something bigger, tying all your thoughts and activities together. 

Coherency enables growth. 

Forming a Whole 

You can be consistent and fail to form a whole. Repeating the same ideas and actions does not guarantee a sense of wholeness. Consistency will often push you to create fractured and incomplete ideas because reality (and the problems you address) is more complex and nuanced. In the real world, anything can change over time, and most things do. Being consistent, by definition, does not allow you to respond to such changes and nuances. 

Coherency, on the other hand, focuses on creating a whole. Being coherent does not mean you can capture the complete picture today; you will never be able to. Being coherent means that you gradually build your model with each new idea, insight, or piece of data. All these pieces fit together, and the aggregated value of your body of work grows with time. You can respond to changes and nuances because your past ideas do not confine you. 

When you are coherent, the holistic view you create is driven by evolution and openness. 

Evolution 

When you repeat yourself over time, you are literally stuck. You can use variations and find creative ways to express your ideas, but eventually, you keep saying the same things over and over again. It doesn’t allow growth, and, to be frank, it is boring, both for you and your audience. 

Coherency, in contrast, is perfect for the evolution of ideas. 

What I think and write about today goes way beyond what I wrote about a year ago. What I thought about five years ago didn’t even cover the same domains. Five years ago, I worked primarily on a model for leading a creative life: creating the setup that allows us to be creative in whatever we do. These days, I am focused on communication and writing skills. What started with content creation in mind evolved into communication in general and workplace communication in particular. 

At first, this variety of domains seems eclectic and unrelated, but they all have a shared center and a thread connecting them. Like concentric circles, they are different but coherent. They evolved and were built gradually, one on top of the other. Each idea was built on the ones that preceded it. More importantly, I evolved, moving from one domain to the next one.

Being coherent means ensuring these pieces fit together. They form a greater whole, even if this whole is still far from complete. 

Openness 

Evolution might be internally driven, but focusing on coherency instead of consistency also helps us be more open to ideas from the outside. 


Forming the whole is an ongoing task. It will never be concluded. It is like building a never-ending Lego model. We don’t tear the model apart to create something else, but each brick we add changes its form. These Lego bricks originate in the outside world. When we aim for consistency, we are more likely to dismiss many of them as incompatible with our ideas. Coherency, however, is not strict; it allows us to absorb different views, insights, and pieces of data and use them to create a grander whole. They don’t have to be identical to our previous ideas; they just have to connect to them. 

When I am coherent, any book or article I read, any conversation I have, and anything I experience is potentially shaping my ideas and helping me form the whole without losing the shared core I started with. 

I don’t know what I will write about a year from now. I know it will be affected by everything I will experience until then. I can only hope it will be significantly different than what you are reading now while being in perfect coherence with it.

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