Why is it so hard to be consistent day-in and day-out, especially with doing the “right things” (with eating healthy, exercising, and other things)? These are things that we care about a lot, and yet something we all struggle with at some point. I know I’ve personally struggled to be consistent with exercising.
If you think about it, consistency is only hard with things that require us to consciously think (and do) something. You see, the more we have to think about doing something, the less we’ll actually do it. We only have so much will power in the course of a given day. This will power draws from the reservoir of conscious thinking, which is limited and depletes over the course of a given day.
If we keep using this limited resource for doing things that we do every day, we’re likely to suffer from decision fatigue, which states that the more decisions we make over the course of a given day, the more the quality of those decisions deteriorates. So, we need to be careful about using this resource and use it only for those things that require us to actively think without using it for those things that we can do without thinking. This is where consistency comes in. If we can work on making the essential things consistent, imagine how much more will power we can save and use for things that actually require us to think consciously.
We only struggle with being consistent for things that we haven’t yet established habits. We don’t think about brushing our teeth every day — we just do it without thinking. This is because brushing our teeth has become part of our sub-conscious programming that drives our biology 90–95% of the time. Ditto with driving our cars. No thinking required there. We just do it. If we had to think about doing these things every day, it would drive us insane.
On the other hand, eating healthy food consistently is something that most of us struggle with because it has not yet become part of the sub-conscious programming for us. The more we think about doing something, the less we’ll actually do it. Because we haven’t yet taken the time to establish habits (that require minimal or no thinking) that lead to being consistent. And even before that, we haven’t taken the time to figure out what we do every day that we would rather not think about (unless we like thinking about it). This is also not to say that you never think about what you do. That would be crazy-making. You can (and should) still reflect/review every week to evaluate the things you do on a daily basis, and then decide if it’s something you want to continue doing or stop doing.
There are a couple of reasons why we want to be consistent:
- Consistency drives results; doing the right things over and over can have a tremendous impact over the long-term. When we make doing the essential things every day automatic without having to think, we gain tremendous momentum in our personal and work lives towards the things that matter to us.
If we do something every day, chances are that we don’t want to think about doing it (unless we like thinking about it); we just want to be able to do it without thinking. When you don’t have to think about doing the same things every day, it helps free up the mental RAM that we can use for things that actually require active/conscious thinking.
It’s hard to be consistent for a couple of reasons:
- As humans, we’re naturally inclined to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Consistency and sticking with something can be painful at times.
Another reason why consistency is so hard is because it can often feel monotonous.
So how can we be consistent with doing things we want to do? Well, the first thing to remember is that progress requires change. If we’re not willing to change, we cannot make progress. Some pain is to be expected with making any kind of change. We simply can’t escape the pain we have to endure because change by nature is uncomfortable. We also know that we get results when our desire to change (with action, of course) becomes greater than the burden of living with the pain.
If we keep doing the same things we’re used to doing, then we’re not changing, as a result we’ll always stagnate/plateau, and stay within our comfort zone. We’ll never be able to move on to the next level. Only when we experience some pain and difficulty from doing things differently on a regular basis can we achieve our goals. We know it’s not going to be easy, and that’s exactly the point. If it was easy, we would be doing it already.
Here are a few strategies for being consistent:
We need to accept that we need to do the work and that there is no escaping that fact. We need to face the reality. No matter what method we follow in trying to make doing something consistent, if we want to be successful in implementing change, we’re going to have to do the actual work. I know it sounds so obvious (and it’s always the obvious things that need to be said), but we can’t escape the work if we want sustainable results.
We need to accept that there are times that it’s going to feel monotonous. C’est la vie. There are ups and downs. It’s easy to take things for granted when things are going your way and everything just works. The question is, what are you going to do when you feel down? That is when we need to pause and ask ourselves if we’re going to cave in to our desires/temptations or do what works. That is the difference between an amateur and a pro. A pro is driven by values, not feelings.
What we do when we are down is what determines how we come out of it. This goes back to being proactive. It is our response that matters most in the situations, and not the situations themselves, because we can’t control the latter.
Find an accountability partner. Get someone else to support you and keep you accountable when you find yourself in a low time. Daily and personal accountability/support can make all the difference in the world, especially when you’re feeling down and low. It can also make the pain a lot more tolerable. The most effective long-lasting changes will come from such accountability that will ensure you stay consistent with whatever lifestyle change you’re trying to make. The effect is extremely empowering.
We forget that small things done repeatedly over a period of time will help us gain tremendous momentum in the long-term. Consistency is the missing piece that can help us get there.
Always strive for consistency, and never worry about the results. When you’re consistent, the results will find you. You just need to focus on showing up and doing the work. At some point, you’ll do it without thinking. If you dwell on the results, you will get shortsighted. If you aim for consistency, the results will be there at the end. Consistency never fails.
Consistency is about doing the right things day-in and day-out, over and over again until they become the new normal. Consistency may not be easy or sexy, though it’s entirely doable and quite effective.
Special thanks to Adam Gilbert for providing the ideas and the inspiration for this piece.