If there’s one skill that sets you apart in today’s world is to be consistent. Train yourself to show up and you’ll be able to achieve value and meaning in your life.
Here’s a common story:
You become fixated on a particular goal. Like writing a novel. Or losing weight.
For the first couple of days, you ride that wave of motivation. You show up, do the work, move on. Another day won.
But then the novelty wears off. You start skipping practice. You stop being consistent. A day here and a day there and before long you haven’t written a word for days or been to the gym this month.
Every year people make new resolutions. Do they follow up on them? Most don’t. Why? They lack consistency. The only thing they are consistent at is starting and stopping.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You need to develop the skill of being consistent. Here’s how…
Step 1: Choose a Goal
This is the easy part: choose something you want to achieve. You have something already on your mind.
Maybe you want to start writing. Or lose weight. Or be on top of your finances.
To maximize your odds of success, tie it to personality change. You’re not looking to achieve, you want to become.
You’re someone who writes. A healthy person that eats clean and exercises. You’re good at managing personal finances.
Connect your goal to a personality change to make it stick.
Homework: complete the following sentence “I want to become_______.”
Step 2: Tie It to an Action
How are you going to reach your goal? What does success look like? This is the rep — the action you’ll be doing consistently to achieve your goal.
Why do we fail to show up? Because we focus on the outcome rather than the process.
But now you know better. You love the process.
A writer writes. There’s really nothing else to it. Your action is sitting down to write for 30 minutes every day.
“The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” ― Mary Heaton Vorse
A healthy person exercises. Commit to making 10 pushups per day, no matter what.
Sit down for one hour every Sunday and go through everything that you spent and need to pay.
Choose easy actions. Big goal, small actions. You’re not trying to become a writer yet. First, you need to master consistency. You need to master showing up.
The habit of consistency isn’t about grand gestures or quick results. It’s about incremental progress over a long period of time. It’s 1% for years.
Homework: “I want to become_______ by ____________ every day/week.”
Step 3: Commit to a Time and Place
Do you know who you want to become and the actions to get there? Good. It’s now time to set intentions: choosing a time and place to perform your action.
The easiest place to start is inserting your new action into your morning routine. This is actually how I started writing: I would write for 30 minutes first thing in the morning. After, I would go on with my morning routine.
You can also do the same for pushups right out of bed, à lá Bruce Wayne style.
Of course, not all actions make sense to practice in the morning or even every day. But it’s important that you choose a non-negotiable time to practice and be consistent.
The location can be as simple as “at the desk” or broader like “the park”.
Come out of this step with a time and place for your habit.
Homework: “I will become_______ by____________ every day/week at_______ am/pm at_________.”
The consistency puzzle is almost complete. It’s time for the final step: tracking your progress and making sure you don’t fall off the wagon.
Step 4: Track Your Progress
You want to make yourself accountable. All you need is a calendar and a marker.
Any calendar will do. Use what you have, make your own, or print one. It has to be physical and you’ll understand why in a minute.
Remember the consistency formula is: “I will become (GOAL) by (ACTION) every day at (TIME) at (LOCATION).”
Write your consistency “affirmation” at the top of your calendar.
When you practice your habit, draw a big X on top of that day. Every X on your calendar is a vote for who you want to become.
Every time you sit down to write is a vote for you becoming a writer.
A visit to the gym is a vote for becoming a healthy person.
Spending your Sundays reviewing expenses is a vote for becoming good at managing finances.
Every rep is a vote for the person that you want to be. And slowly, but surely, you’ll become.
Step 5: Don’t Break the Chain
After a few days, you’ll start seeing a chain of X’s. You’ll like seeing that chain. Visual progress pleases the brain.
Keep the chain going. That’s your entire job. Every day you go and develop consistency, you practice the habit. It doesn’t matter if the end result is good or bad, you just do it. No excuses. No zero days.
If you do fail, get back on track as quick as possible. One day is a lapse. Two is the beginning of a new habit — the habit of not being consistent.
Not showing up hurts you more than showing up and doing a terrible job. Your losses eat into your wins.
Embrace the Amateur Phase
The first 100 articles you’ll write will be terrible. Heck, the first 100 words of every article will be terrible (definitely true for this article).
You’ll struggle. That’s part of the process. Accept it, embrace it, move on. Focus on getting your reaps in.
“It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.” — Elizabeth Gilbert
Master consistency and you’ll be able to master anything.
To achieve your goals, you need to be consistent. How?
- Choose a Goal: think of who you want to become.
- Tie It to an Action: a task or habit that you will repeat every day
- Commit to a Time and Place: choose when and where you will perform your action. Be specific.
- Track Your Progress: get a calendar and mark the days when you perform your action.
- Don’t Break the Chain: but if you do, get back on track the next day.
Follow the steps here and get cracking.
Here’s the one that got me started blogging: “I will become a writer by writing 30 minutes every day 7 am at my desk.”
- “I will become a healthy person by doing 10 pushups every day at 8 am on the floor of my room.”
- “I will become a financial organized person by reviewing my expenses every week on Sunday at 4 pm at my kitchen table.”
Go out there and be consistent.