Let me know if this has ever happened to you before.
I’m about to start something new.
- A hobby
- Exercise program
It could really be a host of things. I come out like a bat out of hell. I’m so excited to get started, I’m reading everything I can related to the “new” thing and I’m buying up any resources I might need.
- You name it and I’m on it. I’m ALL IN baby!
Then it happens…
Two weeks later I’m ALL OUT baby! I’m either burn’t out, no time, other stuff has come up, this happened, that happened, someone else is to blame, yadda, yadda, yadda.
Insert excuses right here ______________________.
A few weeks ago I started practicing Yoga again (mostly to spend time with a cute girl) but hey, I’m doing it right? Turns out I really enjoy it. I’ve already noticed so many benefits.
- Mobility and flexibility
- Proper breathing
- Awareness/Slowing down
- Aches and pains are gone
- A sunnier outlook on life
- Less anxiety
My big fear is that I won’t be able to stay consistent with it long enough to continue to see these benefits.
So I got to thinking. How can I make sure I’m consistent with it?
You probably already know what needs to be done to achieve the results that you’re after but it’s failing to execute those things consistently enough to see those results that is holding you back.
I’ve been taking a look at other areas of my life where I’ve displayed consistency and using some of the success stories on Limitless to see what they did to stay consistent (thanks all).
I even read a frick’n book about it.
WHERE TO START
Every change that you’ve ever made in your life has started in one place… You’re noodle. If you want to change some aspect of your life you’re going to have to change your thoughts.
You and I have talked about it before in an older post but just as a refresher:
- Your thoughts fuel your emotions
- Your emotions spark action
- It is the action you take that leads to your results
You and I live what we think. If we view something as difficult our actions will follow suite.
It you see exercise as a pain stacking process that is difficult, uncomfortable, that hurts, is miserable, is going to take forever, or only as temporary and you doubt whether you want to or can keep it up than you’re efforts will reflect that.
Think about it for a second. Not many of us want to go do something day in and day out that we believe is inherently painful, no fun, or extremely difficult.
Personally, I use to think that ALL girls played games (I also have a friend that assumes all guys cheat). How do you think I (or my friend) approached every relationship we ever entered?
Because of these thoughts we were afraid to be vulnerable and fully invested towards someone else. Our thoughts fueled our emotions, which in turn caused us to act in a way that led to poor results (man, we get personal on here don’t we).
The first step to getting your mind right is to actually believe you are capable of achieving the things that you desire. Do you actually think you are capable of achieving your health and wellness goals?
- Are you capable of staying compliant to the nutritional habits that are outlined?
- Are you capable of finding time in your schedule to commit to exercising consistently?
- Are you capable of making yourself a priority for once so that you can spend time working on you?
- Are you capable of moving beyond excuses?
- Are you capable of doing the work?
DAMN straight you are!
Take a look around the environment that you’re in right now. Maybe you notice a refrigerator, microwave, or maybe you’re reading this guide on a computer, cell phone, or iPad. Maybe you notice some simple pleasure around you like a toothbrush, water bottle, or chair (I literally just looked around my room right now).
All of these things started out as someone’s dream. The point is if you can think it – then it’s possible, don’t doubt yourself… EVER.
WHAT MESSES WITH CONSISTENCY?
Instant gratification for one.
We live in a now, now, now, fast, fast, fast society. Anything less than that is unacceptable.
We’re impatient, demanding, and down right ridiculous about it. It’s precisely this mentality that messes with consistency. It’s what causes us to jump from one diet to another, from one exercise plan to another, from one career, relationship…. you get me.
Success is often derailed because we focus on that flash in a pan instant result rather than consistent and persistent action that over time leads to long-lasting success.
Studies have shown that the ability to delay gratification is possibly the strongest indicator for success in health, work, and overall life.
Enter the Marshmallow experiment:
The experiment was conducted by bringing a child into a room and placing a marshmallow (sometimes a cookie or pretzel) in front of him or her.
Researchers conducting the experiment would tell the child that he was going to leave the room (for about 15 miuntes) and that if the child did not eat the marshmallow (or other treat) while he was gone, then they would be rewarded with a second marshmallow. However, if the child chose to eat the marshmallow already given to him then he would not receive the second marshmallow.
Essentially, the choice was between a reward right now or a greater reward that you must wait for.
Some of the kids ate the marshmallow as soon as the researcher left the room. Others tried to resist temptations, looking like they had ants in their pants wiggling around in their chars or wandering around the room but eventually succumbing to temptation. However, there were a few that were able to resist and avoided eating the mallow until the researcher returned.
The study itself initially might not tell us much but years later what the results show is nothing less than amazing.
What this tells us
As the children grew up the researchers that conducted the experiment followed (not literally, that would be creepy) the children and measured their levels of success in a few different areas.
It was found that the children who were able to delay instant gratification and waited to receive the second marshmallow ended up having higher SAT scores, lower levels of substance abuse, lower likelihood of obesity, better responses to stress, better social skills as reported by their parents, and generally better scores in a range of other life measures (1)
The researchers ended up following each child for over 40 years and the results of this study never changed. The group that was able to delay gratification and patiently waited for the second marshmallow had more success in whatever capacity that was being measured.
Willpower and discipline often get beat by temptation.
One way to help beat temptation is by focusing on progress. Building momentum by just getting started with one small task and measuring your results by tracking how consistent you are will to identify where you are struggling.
Long story short, delaying gratification is essential for success in life.
7-STEPS TO CONSISTENCY
1. Plan: Visualize the process that will help you bridge that gap between what you are capable of and what you currently do. Start this process by actually working backwards. You’ll want to visualize your perfect end results.
So if improving your health is something you’re looking to do what does “perfect health” look like to you? What would some of the behaviors that a person with your idea of perfect health be? What would they be doing on a consistent basis?
Get specific and precise with your plan as a confused mind will always say no. What days and times will you be working out? When will you be prepping your meals for the week?
Doing just 1-2 things consistently is much better than trying to do a bunch of things inconsistently.
2. Consider your emotions: Emotional intelligence cannot be underestimated. Recognize that somewhere along your journey there will be both ups and downs that you will experience.
What are some emotions you’d expect to go through as you progress towards your goals?
Something may not throw you off course today but there may be a wall to climb tomorrow. Are you ready for it? I like to think of this as the “sky-diving effect.”
The first time I jumped out of a plane I was scared as heck. Pretty sure a little pee dribbled down my leg. However, each subsequent time I have gone there is less anxiety, stress, or just being scared in general. I know what to expect.
Simply being aware of what might be can help reduce anxiety, stress, and negative feelings.
3. Steps backwards are still steps forward: Failure or mistakes serve only to make you stronger. They serve as little nuggets of knowledge that help you get one step closer to where you want to be.
Lets say you’ve been exercising and eating well for a few weeks. You hop on the scale and boom… you weigh exactly the same. What may feel like a lack progress can actually be something you can build upon.
What ways are you measuring progress?
- The scale
- Girth measurements
- Bodyfat tests
- Your mood
- How your clothes fit
- Are you tracking how consistent you are? If not, try the the healthy habits and habit tracker that’s free on the site.
Everyone likes to throw out numbers. I’m 80% consistent, I’m 90% consistent. Well you never really know until you start keeping track. You may find that you can get results being consistent 60% of the time or you may find you need to have it dialed in 100% of the time. The only way to know for sure is to keep track and get feedback.
4. Go Zoolander on it: “What is this, a center for ants?”
And by that I mean start small… and I mean really, really small. When you’ve got something big to tackle it can feel overwhelming. What is one thing you can do right now that gets you one step closer to that goal?
- Performing a kitchen makeover
- Setting up an automatic savings account
- Just saying hi to that cute dude or dudette
You may find that you need to start even smaller. Trying to floss? What about just committing to one tooth and building upon that each day.
Establishing clear goals is awesome but a more important step is setting quotas. Quotas are those smaller steps that you can take to get you closer to those goals.
- Waking up 10 minutes earlier to prepare a meal
- Meditating for only 5 minutes to help reduce stress
- Again, just flossing the one tooth
5. Be boring as all get-up: By limiting decision making and streamlining the process you will be able to maintain better focus and minimize distractions.
- You can simplify your nutrition using the 6 recipe method (or 3 recipe method if needed)
- You can simplify exercise by focusing on the exercises that provide the most bang for your buck.
“Identify the aspects of your life that you consider mundane, and then ‘routinize’ those aspects as much as possible. In short, make fewer decisions.” –Harvard Business Review
6. Change your environment: If there are cookies on your counter eventually they will get eaten. If you’re suppose to be doing research for a project but get email notifications sent to you as they come you will check it. If you are in a conversation with someone and you feel your phone go off you’ll want to check it.
“Goals are harmful unless they guide you to make specific behaviors easier to do. Don’t focus your motivation on doing Behavior X. Instead, focus on making Behavior X easier to do.” -BJ Fogg
So essentially if you want to make a change make the change easier on yourself. If you never have time to workout start committing to 10 minutes workouts are home first thing in the morning.
If you want to start eating more real food perform a kitchen makeover or an even smaller step put any food not a part of you plan higher on a shelf, hidden behind something.
To improve my writing and focus I took a tip from my buddy Greg over at Sparring Minds.
- Only using my laptop to write articles
- Only using my iPad to check emails, Facebook, read, etc…
- Only using my phone for communication during “non-work” hours.
7. Fall in love with the process: Don’t view success as the end result. This will only get you thinking about how you can get from point A to point B as fast as possible. When doing this you miss out on the learning experience from being on the journey.
You’ve probably heard that it takes 21 days to build a good habit right? However, thinking about building your habits over a 21 day period might not be in your best interest.
The idea of just doing something for 21 days takes away from the real reason you are trying to form the habit and that is because it is something you are trying to make automatic over an extended period of time. Although it can get you to push towards something for 21 days you may end up just trying to reach the end of those 21 days as quickly and effortlessly as possible. Thus, missing out on all of the learning opportunities provided over the course of that time;
Remember high school chemistry?
Yup, neither do I.
Mostly because the only thing I cared about was getting a passing grade by any means necessary, preferably one that was fast and required the least amount of effort. As a matter of fact that’s how I thought about all of my classes.
Guess how much chemistry I remember… squadush! I never took the time to actually LEARN. The only thing I cared about was getting an A.
When most of us have a goal the only thing we can think about are the end results. We get so fixated on what we’re trying to achieve that we forget to fall in love with the process.
Here are some examples that my friend James Clear gives us:
- Many people see health as an event: “If I just lose 20 pounds, then I’ll be in shape.”
- Many people see entrepreneurship as an event: “If we could get our business featured in the New York Times, then we’d be set.”
- Many people see art as an event: “If I could just get my work featured in a bigger gallery, then I’d have the credibility I need.”
But if you get fixated on only the end product you may just loose sight of all the magic that’s happening along the journey. If you want to improve your exercise and eating habits you have to fall in love with the process of exercising consistently and preparing healthy meals.
This is something you will have to figure out on your own. For me music while exercising and cooking helps me to fall in love with the process (I get down son ☺ ).
Doing these things with loved ones also creates some joy for me while participating in exercise and healthy eating. Being outdoors is another way I fall in love with the process and finding fun ways to be more active in my life
- Dance classes
- Walking the dog
- Biking to the bank or grocery store
- Playing tennis or some other sport
This was an excerpt from the Mindset guide.
DON’T WORRY ABOUT PASSION OR MOTIVATION
I often get asked how I stay motivated all the time to keep exercising and eating well. My answer is always the same. “I don’t, I just make sure I show up and stay consistent.”
Like Matt here, I don’t care if it’s only a five minute walk. If it’s a day and time I’ve committed to exercise then I show up and do the work.
Passion and motivation are often fleeting. It’s nearly impossible to wake up and feel motivated everyday to work out or eat real food. I’m passionate about writing and coaching but I don’t always feel like doing it.
You’re not always motivated to head into work but you do it right?
Both successful and unsuccessful people get bored with their routines. Not feeling “the fire” one day is no excuse for quitting.
The good news is your body and mind want you to succeed. As Weldon Long points out in his book The Power of Consistency, we all have a reticular activating system (RAS) that actually identifies opportunities and resources for accomplishing tasks. This is extremely important to us because there is so much information out there now. It helps us to sort through a lot of the B.S.
However, we often seek out information that reinforces our own personal beliefs and assumptions. Long story short, we all want and like to be right.
One way to combat this is by not only identifying what you want or the goals that you’re after but also thinking about how what you want actually benefits you and others. Thinking this way gets you away from the concern about being right but instead helping yourself and others. You’ll open the door to new experiences and ideas.
Building habits is a good thing but becoming a slave to them and never evolving can be harmful.
ONE BIG TAKEAWAY
There’s a lot of info in this post and as we know a lot of info isn’t always a good thing. If you take one thing away from this article let it be this.
In order to make better decisions, be more consistent, and feel more in control of you life take responsibility for it.
“…A man with financial troubles usually doesn’t put on a ski mask, buy a gun, and rob a bank. He typically will lower his expenses, start working smarter, or begins spending less…” – The Power of Consistency
Where you are today is the sum of the habits you display and choices that you make. You have the ability to control your life when you stop blaming others, circumstances, or your environment and start taking responsibility for where you are today.
- What are some strategies you use to stay consistent?
- Where are you struggling to stay consistent and how can I help?