Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequence of consistently applying basic fundamentals. – Jim Rohn
If you’re to succeed with any personal challenge in life you have to be able to measure your progress and the outcomes of your behaviors. One of the strongest indicators of success in any avenue of life is your level of consistent practice.
- How many diets have you started and bailed on in a week or two?
- How many exercise programs have you begun only to find a few weeks later those 30 minute sessions 5 days per week have now turned into a few minutes here and there?
- How many times have you committed to saving money only to run out and purchase that bag, pair of shoes, or sporting event tickets?
For me I always would complain about two things:
- Not having enough money: It felt like I was always trying to save but then “something” was always coming up where I couldn’t.
- Not meeting that special someone: No matter what I did it felt like I could never meet anyone to spend some quality time with.
I remember sitting down at a coffee shop (you’ll see this as a theme here. Coffee shops and conversation is all I seem to do now :D) with a traveler from Australia I met while I was in Paris a few years back.
We were talking about why we were traveling at the time and specific life struggles we were going through. I just so happened to mention the two above.
He asked me what I was doing to achieve those goals and I told him I was trying to save, trying to go out and mingle.
“Trying,” he said to me. “Either you’re doing it or you’re not.” He then asked me how consistent I was in my efforts.
As I thought about it I really wasn’t that consistent at all. I’d save a little here and there, spend it on something, or simply stop the automatic process from my checking to savings account because “I needed” the money for something else.
I’d go out and meet people here and there but I’d stop because “other stuff came up.”
I realized that there will always be something. Some excuse, some reason, some lack of motivation that I could call upon as to why I wasn’t achieving the things I wanted to achieve but the real reason would always be that I wasn’t consistently practicing enough of the behaviors that would lead to the outcomes I wanted to see.
This is something that I’ve taken with me in my coaching practice as well. Especially those that I work with who are trying to achieve health and wellness goals.
- I workout a lot but I can’t seem to lose any weight. What can I do?
- I eat really well but I still have this layer of fat I want to lose. What can I do?
After getting down to it with them it typically always comes down to one thing. CONSISTENCY. They just are not doing the things that will lead to the results that they want consistently enough.
Todd Smith over at little things matter reminds us that there will always be an excuse:
- There are a million other things I have to deal with. It’s impossible for me to focus on just one. (It’s too difficult.)
- It’s hard for me to be consistent because I’m just so busy. (I’m overwhelmed.)
- Sure, __________ was important last week, but my priorities are constantly changing.” (I’m not in control.)
If you’re consistent with your workouts and nutrition you will make progress. If you are consistent in your relationships you will make meaningful connections and they will grow. If you are consistent with your finances you will be financially more independent and secure.
So how can you be more consistent in your life to accomplish some of those big goals on your life list?
DISSONANCE & CONSISTENCY THEORY
Consistency becomes like a form of human gravity. It holds everything down and together. It helps us to understand the world and our place in it. (1)
Dissonance is the cognitive, emotional, psychological, and even behavioral state where certain things do not happen as we expect them to – missed, incorrect, surprising, etc… In music this may be a lack of harmony amongst musical notes and in our lives this may be a state of mental conflict.
To help understand this a little better we can look to psychology.
I love psychology. Psychology, psychology, psychology. Here it goes down… down into my belly…
In the psychology circle there is a theory know as the cognitive consistency theory or cognitive dissonance theory.
- Cognitive dissonance theory: Both positive and negative outcomes help us to reduce stressful decisions in our lives that may lead to unpleasant, uncomfortable, or emotional, physical, spiritual, etc… tension and discomfort. A conflict between your behaviors and outcomes.
One of the more popular examples that is used to describe CDT is when people smoke (behavior) they know it causes cancer (outcome) yet they do it anyway.
Another example might be when a woman or man says that financial security is a priority for them but they are in a relationship with someone who is financially unstable.
Yet another example is that you know what to do to get healthier (exercise and nutrition wise) yet you are not doing it. This one specifically be known as counter-attitudinal behavior (behaving in a way that is counter to our true attitudes, values, and beliefs.)
We typically make decisions in our lives to reduce unpleasantness. Like if you are hungry… starving in fact you know you feel that the fastest way to reduce this unpleasantness is to eat or drink something. You know that there are healthy options that can fill this need for you but if the unpleasantness is too much you are more often than not influenced to reduce that tension as quickly and conveniently as possible… hence vending machine syndrome so to speak.
However, there is a shining light here. When you see inconsistencies in your life you are at a heightened state to make changes. This is because as humans it is in our nature to expect consistency, we like it, we love it in fact because it makes us feel safe and secure and those are two very primitive instincts for us.
Inconsistencies in our lives create unwanted tension and this tension motivates us to create change. I remember a client and now friend of mine that received some unwanted news from a doctors visit. It was inconsistent with previous visits and this is the motivation he needed to start making some lifestyle changes.
However, you may often struggle with these inconsistencies and it’s time you start getting better with them. After all, circumstances will arise that will be uncomfortable, confusing, and unexpected.
That’s life for ya.
By understanding that it is our attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors within these events that often cause these inconsistencies in our life we can better learn how to find more consistency to avoid them.
WHAT DO TO WHEN THINGS GET CONFUSING
Here’s the one big kicker when trying to create change in our lives… it creates inconsistencies. This creates tensions and uncomfortable feelings and that’s one reason change is so damn hard!
Pow! Right in the kisser. I just hit you with a right hand filled with inconsistency in your life. What do you do?
Typically there are 4 things that happen:
- Deny it: Pretend it didn’t happen
- Eat it (not literally): By consuming/referring to as many good feelings as we can remember to outweigh the bad ones.
- Change expectations: Hypothesize new outcomes from certain behaviors
- Change interpretation/perception: If you have a negative experience, the ability to spin it to a positive one through your thoughts and actions.
We desire consistency in all areas of our lives:
Once you decide something in any given area of life you most likely try hard to make all future behaviors and decisions consistent with that decision. This is one reason why good habit development is so important.
A great example I found online the other day discussing this is how as consumers we stick with certain brands regardless of price, quality, or customer service, etc… Once we’ve decided that we like that brand and have chosen it we try very hard to stay consistent with it. Often, if we change we’ll complain about how we don’t like this “new” brand.
Like if you were to go from the Apple iPhone to a Galaxy. You’re so use to the consistency and familiarity of the iPhone that if you do change you don’t like it simply because it’s different. It’s not familiar, you have to learn the new interface.
Maybe this is a reason we stay in particular relationships for much longer than we should, or struggle when we try to change our nutritional approach, or jobs for that matter. The new ones are just unfamiliar.
We stay with things like this because they act as short cuts for us to making decisions and that’s how our brains like it. Short, simple, and sweet – as little work to be done as possible. Once you’ve made a decision you never have to come back to it again because you can simply refer to the previous decision to avoid the unpleasantness and tension that may come with making a new decision.
What’s making this even more difficult for us is the wealth of information that is out there to be learned and understood. There are so many opportunities for us to gain wisdom and knowledge now that it can be easy for us to fall into the “Amazon effect.”
These opportunities are a blessing and a curse. Because we can get out hands on so many different theories, ideas, and thoughts we create more tension, questions, and inconsistencies in our lives.
HOW DO I CREATE MORE FRICKIN CONSISTENCY?
First thing for more consistency is establishing the ability to commit. Commitment is usually achieved through personal and/or interpersonal pressures.
I remember when I first thought about starting this website (now business, how cool!!). I contacted a few writers that I really respected for some advice. I wanted to know what it took to create a successful blog.
One response I got back stuck with me. It was from Chris Guillebeau, he simply told me to create a writing/publishing schedule for myself each week and to never miss a day no matter what. Then any lack of progress in my writing would entirely be my fault for not being compliant with my schedule (cough) not being consistent (cough) (cough).
Reading has also become such a big influence in my life these last few years and one book in particular that I have found helpful in building more consistency in my life is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini.
In order to find more commitment in life you need a few things:
1. Social Proof: You need to know this is possible. I’ll let you in on a little secret. Anything… anything is possible. Everything is this world once started out as a dream The microwave, your refrigerator, your car, a simple tooth-brush. They all started out as someone’s dream – and those dreams eventually came to fruition.
What are you trying to achieve? Do you have examples from your past, friends, mentors, heroes, videos, anything really to remind you that this can be done?
How about these examples if you’re looking to get fit or improve some other are of your wellness.
2. Announce that MOFO!: Out loud (shout it from the roof tops is you have to), in writing, verbally, just make sure to refer to it often. I use a commitment journal as a way to keep me in check day in and day out.
3. Use the power of scarcity: We want what we can’t have or at least what we tell ourselves we can’t have, plan and simple. Love, food, the body, money, you name it. There are two ways you can deal with this.
One is to embrace it and to naturally allow it to motivate you. However, if you don’t respond well to this strategy you can reframe it and change the way you talk to yourself. Instead of using words like I can’t eat pizza you would start saying I don’t eat pizza. You’re essentially creating a new identity for yourself. This framing effect is very powerful.
4. Approval: Feedback and approval from others is very important to us. Whether it is actually important or not can be argued but the facts show that we care what other people think and when approval for our actions is shown we get extremely motivated (1). But how about seeking approval from yourself every once in a while. Check yourself out in the mirror and give yourself a “damn, I’m looking fine today.” Or let yourself know what a great job you did today. Be proud!
5. Create evidence to refer to: “What gets measured gets managed.” You can’t make any changes if you’re not aware as to what changes you need to make. One way I do this with clients is by using a food log to see what’s really going on nutritionally.
Most often what happens is this. “Oh shit!” I didn’t even know I was eating like that. You can use a log for just about anything going on in for life. Take notes of time you spend with certain people. Are those relationships toxic to your well-being or are you both contributing positively to one anthers personal growth? Track you spending using awesome resources like Mint or simple excel/google docs like this from my boy J-Money.
6. Focus on your behaviors rather than outcomes: You’ll never be able to control what the scale tells you, if someone will love you, or if you’ll be able to get a certain job. But you can control the behaviors that lead to those outcomes.
You can show up and commit to taking action and responsibility for your life. You can choose to get a 10 minute workout in at home if you had a busy day, you can show gratitude to someone, and you can choose to work on a side hustle.
What are some small, regular, and manageable action steps you can take right NOW towards a goal of yours?
7. Use multiple measures of progress: For example the scale is not the only way to measure weight loss success. Are your clothes fitting looser? Did your body fat percentage drop? Do you have more energy? Are you in a better mood?
FINAL THOUGHTS AND INSIGHT FROM YOU
Check in today, do you actually want to be HONEST with yourself. Do you really want to commit to consistency and to making big changes. Look, if you don’t then you don’t and that’s fine but at least be honest about it.
Ask yourself questions… tons of them? Hell, I talk to myself all the time (not in a crazy creepy sorta way but more like an awesome self-awareness sorta way.)
Are you satisfied with where you’re at? If not, how close are you?
You don’t need inspiration, motivation, or experts to tell you what to do. Do those things help? Absolutely! But you won’t wake up everyday inspired, every so often you’ll lack motivation, and experts don’t always get it right. But you can control whether or not you show up everyday and do the work.
Just get started on whatever it is you want to do. Just a few short weeks ago I noticed our front and back yards at the house needed a complete overhaul (looked like a tornado hit them) I committed to just pulling the weeds out from some of the bushes in the front. What would have been a 15 minute job turned into a five-hour job in which I completely cleaned up the entire front lawn.
BOOM! The power of simply getting started. More often than not once you just get started you’ll find your mojo rolling and you won’t want to stop.
So let me here it. What do you need to practice more consistency with in your life? What are you planning to do about it today?
Did any of this not make sense? Need help getting started? Holler at-cha boy!