There’s a real misconception about consistency. The paradox is, you want to know how to stay consistent, yet you practice consistency every day.
You have habits that you perform without question every single day. Certain aspects of your life are practically wired into you, to the point you don’t even think about them.
Developing consistency isn’t the challenge; it’s breaking consistency.
Cialdini, a psychologist, globally known for his expertise in influence, theorizes that consistency is a short-cut for your brain to simplify decision making. It’s what gets you through your day-to-day without having to make conscious decisions about everything.
When we decide we want to start anything new, say a new gym regimen, our lazy brain wants to stick to our usual commitments. It doesn’t want to have to deal with the thought process:
“Should I go to the gym?”
“What will I do when I get there?”
“what will I wear?”
When you’re already consistently engaging in a routine, it’s ingrained in your brain. You don’t have to think about doing it, you just do it.
For this reason, the challenge isn’t to start being consistent, but change what you do consistently.
It is the process of breaking your bad habits and trying to rebuild new ones. To achieve your goals, you have to learn how to recommit to them. Here’s how to do that:
Use instant gratification
We learn to like what we repeatedly do, that’s how habits are formed. However, you can’t just rely on repetition, at least not in the beginning. Psychologist Wendy Wood who studies how habits guide behavior, suggests when implementing a new action, find a way to reward yourself with instant gratification. It’s not about resisting temptations or exerting self-control, but changing perspective and tweaking your environment.
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Align your short and long-term goals
Long-term goals don’t exist without short-term goals leading the way. Come up with an action plan that compels you to think about your short term goals every day and how they fit into a long-term strategy. Too often, our goals are short-sighted;; we don’t think far enough ahead or just the opposite. We think too far ahead with no action steps in between.
It’s essential to think both in the short and long-term in a cohesive way. To accomplish anything, your short and long-term goals have to be aligned. Check out this goal-setting PDF to understand how to align your goals.
Consider your attainable goals
One popular theory is that your goals have to be attainable.
But why? Why should long-term goals be “attainable” if the abilities you have now will likely change over time? Who is to say what is attainable in 5 years?
Setting “attainable” long-term goals stunts your growth potential. We are growing and changing, making new things possible every day. Look at what steps you have to take right now. Make the short-term goals attainable. Work on taking small but consistent action.
Understand the impact of short-term goals
You should focus on setting attainable short term goals. If you know you don’t have time to go to the gym 6 days a week right now, don’t make that your goal – that doesn’t mean you should call off your 5-year plan of running a super marathon. The best way to accomplish anything is by breaking it down,
“If I don’t break it down, I find it overwhelming to get started and figure out what I need to do. Break [goals] down into bite-sized pieces, in a way that feels manageable.” – Coley Life Goals Mag
It’s learning how to pace your goals now, so your ambitious goal becomes attainable later.
Enter the state of really wanting it
As cliche as it sounds, you have to believe in yourself if you want to accomplish anything.
When you enter the state of fully committing because you believe you can succeed, you will change your habits.
You will challenge your excuses
You will challenge yourself
You will change your routines
You will do whatever it takes to get to your destination.
Tap into that mindset by answering why. Why do you need to accomplish this?
When you can picture what your life will be like when you have it and can’t imagine living any other way – that’s how you find a deeper sense of commitment.
Accept failure but not defeat
When you fail at your commitments, consistency, intentions, or goals, accept that you failed. Understand why you failed and then work to correct it.
I used to keep a log every week at what I failed that week. I wrote down one success and one failure. 95% of those failure entries said: “need to be more consistent.” That realization of confronting my inadequacies forced me to face my failure. It made me understand where I was lacking so I could correct it. Don’t be afraid to fail – be afraid of accepting defeat from your failures.
Consistency isn’t easy; you will fail more times than you succeed. There is no 30-day secret to forming habits. You have to have the drive to stay motivated towards your goals and make an effort to rebuild new, better habits. Stay focused and find what works for you.
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