We lack consistency because we tend to focus on the outcome more than the process. Put another way; we’re more drawn to the positive feelings of outcomes rather than the struggle of the journey. Most of us quit during the struggle before we can experience the rewards of staying the course. We don’t stay consistent enough to see the rewards.
Commit to the process you have identified for achieving your goals no matter how you’re feeling on any given day. Start with smaller goals such as waking up 5-10 minutes earlier each day and committing to getting out of bed no matter how you feel.
Understand that the path to your goals is not straight. Anticipate what Seth Godin calls “The Dip,” i.e., setbacks, lack of motivation, unforeseen challenges. Decide ahead of time what you will do when the Dip shows up. If you want to be consistent, decide to persevere through the dip. How do you do that? To quote a certain company, “Just do it!”
“It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at. ~ Elizabeth Gilbert
See if this sounds familiar to you.
You become fixated on some desired outcome: a healthier body, better relationships, or new skills.
You join the gym, buy a personal development course, or take up the cello.
For the first ten days or so, driven by your motivation to meet your goal, you work on your new passion every day. But then you gradually start skipping your practice. A day here. A day there. Before you know it, the gym membership has lapsed, you’ve given up on your coursework, and your cello is in the closet collecting dust.
And the cycle begins all over again.
This is how most of us live our lives, including me. Our lack of consistency can be incredibly frustrating and painful. We know that consistency is the key to progress in all areas of our lives, but somehow we continue to falter. The only thing you find yourself being consistent at is starting something, then stopping before you get any results.
You may beat yourself up for this, but there’s hope. Hope comes from first understanding why we fall into these cycles and then taking the necessary steps to overcome the potential pitfalls.
The reason why you’re struggling to be consistent
Ready for the answer?
You’re focused on the outcome rather than the process.
This is not to say that the outcome is not important, but if we become fixated on the outcome, it will work against us, no matter how compelling. Why? Because any outcome compelling enough to excite you is probably one that won’t be achieved without hard work and sacrifice over a long period of time. Without certain processes in place to help us, most of us cannot maintain the effort needed to accomplish these outcomes.
The plan to Overcome Your Lack of Consistency
If you want to overcome your lack of consistency and achieve your goal, you must build consistency into your plan. But before we get to that, we need to define the plan. For me, the plan consists of four parts:
- Identifying the desired outcome (e.g., “I want to become fit”).
- Identifying the big “why” behind your desired outcome (e.g., “By becoming healthy in mind and body, I will have the energy to meet the physical, spiritual, and emotional needs of my loved ones”).
- Setting goals will gradually get you to your desired outcome (e.g., Lose 10 pounds in 30 days).
- Developing processes to accomplish these goals. (e.g., 3 miles run 5 days a week).
For the purposes of this post, I’ll focus primarily on the fourth step of the plan because it’s most relevant to the idea of developing consistency. It’s in this fourth step where most good intentions fall apart.
How to become more consistent
I started this blog to help myself and others live with greater purpose and meaning. Accomplishing this goal meant developing a consistent writing habit. To say this is a challenge would be a gross understatement. Even now, I struggle to write as regularly as I would like. But I have improved over time, and I’m currently working on taking my writing habit to the next level.
As I share my strategy for becoming a more consistent writer, think of how my story might apply to your own situation.
Here are the steps:
1. Be present To Overcome Lack of Consistency
In the simplest terms, being present means being fully engaged in the task at hand. It means quieting our tendency to waste mental, spiritual, and emotional energy worrying about past or future things — none of which we have the ability to control.
As a writer, being present begins with minimizing distractions. This means waking up early before the rest of the household. It means staying away from the internet and putting away my phone or setting it to “do not disturb.”
But most importantly, it means quieting my mind that says things like:
“What if nobody likes or reads this post?”
“If readers discover embarrassing spelling or grammatical errors?”
“What if someone is offended by something I wrote?”
Instead of allowing these thoughts to stop me from writing that day, I quietly acknowledge them and let them go. Then I sit down and write. That is how you overcome your lack of consistency
2. Anticipate the Dip
Most of us go into new endeavors believing that the path to our desired outcome is straight and clear. The amazing thing is that we believe this even when we know better from experience. In his book The Dip, Seth Godin says that anything worth pursuing will have a messy middle.
What makes the Dip even more challenging is that it typically hits after a period of initial success. This serves as a natural barrier to separating the quitters from those who experience extraordinary success. Quitting is not a bad thing in itself. In fact, the whole purpose of the book is to help the reader know what to quit and when so they can focus their efforts on the things worth pursuing.
By anticipating the Dip, I acknowledged that if I wanted to become a consistent writer, I would need to decide what to do when it showed up. If the answer were “I would quit,” then you probably would not be reading this blog post today. Instead, I felt that my desired outcome and my big “why” for writing would keep me going when times got tough. So far, so good.
3. Uninspired? Do it anyway
Here’s an example of what it’s like when I’m trudging through the Dip. I wake up at 5:30 a.m. After a few minutes of prayer and meditation, I sit at my computer to write. Thirty minutes later, the page is still blank because I can’t decide what to write about. I start surfing the web looking for anything that would spark an idea or inspire me. Another thirty minutes pass. I’m still surfing the web. And I haven’t written a thing.
This happened to me a lot in the beginning of my blogging journey. I would go for days like this, with very little to show for the effort.
Now, instead of waiting for inspiration (or looking for it on the internet) before giving myself permission to write, I just write. Every single day. I’ve tried doing this before but did not keep it up because if I did not reach 1000 words a day, I would consider that effort a failure.
Now, I worry less about word count and more about developing a rhythm of writing daily. Sometimes it’s 100 words, sometimes it’s 300, and sometimes it’s 1000. Some days I write complete nonsense. Other times I can write a post worthy of publishing (in my mind) in one sitting.
In the end, the only thing that matters is that I write every single day, rain or shine.
Uninspired? Hit the gym anyway.
Uninspired? Kiss your spouse anyway.
Uninspired? Write that report anyway.
Do this long enough and inspiration will come rushing in behind you and knock you off your feet.
4. Go back to basics
In any pursuit, most of us are eager to rush through the basics to get to the more exciting advanced stuff. But when we don’t spend enough time mastering the fundamentals, we can easily become discouraged by advanced tactics and strategies.
These things are undoubtedly important, but they can often distract us from the basic skills that must be mastered in order to gain traction and experience success.
When it comes to blog writing, I go back to the basics regularly. How do I write a compelling headline? Or an opening that will draw the reader in? Or good subheadings to make sure the reader keeps reading? Doing this allows me to continually hone my writing craft. The measurable progress I make keeps me inspired and keeps me writing.
5. Find an accountability partner
My best friend loves my blog posts and expects to see them land in her email inbox every Sunday morning. If I don’t produce, I’ll need to explain why I didn’t show up that particular week. Ok, it’s not that dramatic, but in a way, I am accountable to her and every other regular reader who expect me to deliver a post every week.
You don’t need to broadcast your intentions to the whole world to be accountable. Select one or two trusted friends to share your goal. Give them your timeline and ask them to hold you accountable. This can be a real game changer.
6. Forgive yourself and move on
This one is so important because we often beat ourselves up when we fail to follow our plan. Some resist setting goals and making plans to avoid this unpleasant experience altogether.
But instead of avoiding this reality, understand that it’s simply part of the game. For instance, as I mentioned above, my goal is to write at least 100 words every day. The bragging rights alone is a powerful motivator to nail this goal 100% of the time. But I don’t.
I miss days here and there when life happens. I used to beat myself up over those missed days. Now I say, “Ok, you’ve missed a day of writing. Start writing again tomorrow.” If I happen to have ten minutes to spare at that moment, I open up my laptop and begin writing.
In the past, missing a day of writing could demotivate me to where I wouldn’t write for 3 or 4 days. I was effectively punishing myself for missing the first day by missing even more days. It made no sense. Forgiving myself and moving on allows me to recover from setbacks faster than before.
Find Joy in the Process of overcoming Consistency
As you guys may have already realized, David Goggins is my favorite dude in the world. His story directly translates what consistency means, from being 300Lbs to becoming the strongest man alive. He overcame his lack of consistency because he had a why. And his why was strong enough. Staying consistent was the key.
Are you ready to start making traction in your endeavors?
Be consistent. Stay consistent.
Be present, expect hardships, and do the work.
Take your health, your relationships, your career to the next level.
And enjoy the ride on your way there.