How to Take Consistent Action: 7 Powerful Tips

by Henrik Edberg


Image by vramak (license).

“In essence, if we want to direct our lives, we must take control of our consistent actions. It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.”
Anthony Robbins

Maybe the biggest problem people have when trying to improve something in their lives is that they never take much action at all.

Perhaps the second biggest problem is that they don’t take consistent action over a longer time period.

Now, consistency isn’t really the sexiest or most exciting word in personal development. But it is, coupled with time, what will give you real results in your life. Sticking with the program and doing something consistently – and not just when you feel inspired or something like that – is very, very powerful.

To me it’s also – at least at the moment – one of the most frustrating parts of personal development. Some days go great. Some days really don’t. Quite a few days wind up somewhere in between.

I’ve been able to become more consistent in many areas and there is no thing as perfection where every day is plain awesome. So no point in striving for some illusory perfection in any part of life. And variation and setbacks are stimulating and valuable parts of life. But still, improvements can be made.

These tips can be used to make it easier to get through the period that is needed to establish a new habit in your life (about 21-45 days or so in my experience). They can also be used after a habit is established because even then you will have bad days or slip up.

1. Use a morning ritual.

This is perhaps the most powerful tip I have found so far in this area. You simply set up a routine in the morning that you do as soon as you wake up. This works so well because what you do early in the day often sets the context for your day. As humans we have a strong tendency to want to be consistent with what we have done before. That’s one big reason why a bad start often leads to a bad day and a good start often leads to a good day. Read all about my and other people’s morning rituals in this article.

2. Do things even if you don’t feel like it.

Your inner voice and feelings can be disregarded if you like. You can do whatever you want to do anyway.

3. Don’t hurt yourself.

Realize that when you disappoint yourself and don’t think and do as you really deep down want to you hurt yourself by lowering your self esteem. Whatever you do during your day sends signals back to yourself about what kind of person you are. Do the right thing like being effective, kind or go to the gym and you feel good. Get lazy, negative or just plain mean and you tend to feel worse after a while. You don’t get away, there is no escaping yourself. And there is always a price to pay. This is a powerful motivator to become a better person.

4. Focus on and take responsibility for the process, not the potential results.

I use this when I workout. I don’t take responsibility for the results in my mind. I take responsibility for showing up and doing my workout. The results – 26 pounds lost during this spring – has come anyway from that consistent action. And this makes it easier for me to take this action when I know that is all I need to focus on. Instead of using half of the energy and focus I have available on hoping that I “reach my goal real, real soon”.

Focus on the process and you will be a lot more relaxed and prone to continue than if you stare yourself blind on the potential results that never come as quickly as you want to and puts you on an emotional rollercoaster from day to day.

5. Find and do what you love or like to do.

It always easier to stick with the program if you love or at least like what you are doing every week. So experiment and find what suits you best.

6. Let go of old self images.

A few years ago I saw myself as someone who didn’t eat healthy food or was athletic and worked out. Even when I started to do that a bit more I still kinda felt like the person I used to feel like when I was living in an unhealthy way.  Over time I started to think more and more of myself as someone who was healthy. But I still shifted back and forth between the two self-images of being a healthy person and an unhealthy person.

So since sometime around the beginning of this year I let go of that past image of myself that felt kinda comfortable but didn’t help me. Since then, as my self-image as a healthy person has become consistent in my mind, I find it much easier to work out and eat healthy food. It seems like the natural thing for me to do now.

7. Use reminders in your environment.

I have been posting about this concept for years now. What you do is simply to write down what you really want to make into a habit or a natural part of your life on a post-it, on your screensaver on the computer etc.

At the moment I use a small whiteboard on my wall that has stuff like “I make $5000/month” and “Remember to have fun” written down on it. I have found this to be very useful to keep myself on track, to keep my focus on the essential stuff and not get so distracted by everything around me.

What is your best tip for taking more consistent action?

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{ 48 comments }

Lisis June 16, 2009 at 8:30 pm

Oh, Henrik! I am so inspired by your #6. I have all but convinced myself that I am just not one who exercises. Period. But maybe you’re right. Maybe I could create a whole new self image in which exercise is just a normal and (gulp!) enjoyable part of my day.

It’s certainly worth a try! :)

Henrik Edberg June 17, 2009 at 11:02 pm

Thanks! Yep, I agree, try it out. It may seem a bit scary but it’s doable and the benefits are huge. :)

Small Footprints June 16, 2009 at 8:35 pm

This is a wonderful post. I especially like #3 and have never thought about not meeting a commitment as something which ultimately hurts myself. Brilliant!

Thank you for sharing these ideas. I’m going to put them in action!

Small Footprints

Henrik Edberg June 17, 2009 at 11:08 pm

Thank you! Yes, #3 is really powerful and something that I think is a bit underrated. Good luck!

Matthew | Polaris Rising June 16, 2009 at 8:46 pm

For me, I find awareness of energy and chakras really helps. It may seem flaky to some. Consistent action is about 3rd chakra energy, being in the body, making movement and above all taking space.

Many, many people – especially women – feel they don’t have a right to take up space. They need to conform, to fit in. When you can’t take up space, it’s almost impossible to feel productive, because making movement and doing things is *about* taking up space and having an impact.

I find imagining myself to be huge and having that be welcomed and perfect does wonders.

Henrik Edberg June 17, 2009 at 11:07 pm

That’s a real interesting point about taking up space. I think that can be a big obstacle to get anything done and grow. It’s not always easy and it’s easy to slip back into old patterns of shrinking yourself to not upset anyone. Thank you for sharing that!

Positively Present June 16, 2009 at 8:49 pm

This is GREAT post filled with so many wonderful ideas. I wrote today about taking action (though in a very different type of way) and I really think the ideas in this post tie in perfectly with the idea that I need to take action in my life now. Thank you so much for these tips. They will definitely be put to good use by me!

Henrik Edberg June 17, 2009 at 11:08 pm

Awesome! Thank you.

Vi | Maximizing Utility June 16, 2009 at 10:29 pm

Two thoughts:

1.) Accountability helps. Some people have taken to Twitter to help them stick to their goals.

2.) Making it measurable. Whatever your goal, if you can find some way to measure it and write that down, then you’ll see progress. It’s easier with something like exercise, but more difficult with something like being more social.

Henrik Edberg June 17, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Two excellent additions, thanks for sharing them!

Keith Cook June 17, 2009 at 12:39 am

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and views. I can read about this stuff all day. Much success in all you do. Thank you again.

Henrik Edberg June 17, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Thanks for comment! Much success to you too.

Rob June 17, 2009 at 1:26 am

Reminding myself regularly of my purpose, focusing on why I am here on this earth is the thing that really helps ensure I take consistent action. I keep it at the front of my journal and I have poster of it on my wall!
I love this post because I 100% agree that you can do all the personal development in the world but if you dont take action there are no real tangible results or positive change. Thanks for this!
Rob

Henrik Edberg June 17, 2009 at 11:10 pm

Thanks, Rob! Sounds like you have found some really good ways to keep yourself on track.

Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome June 17, 2009 at 11:15 am

I used to have such a problem with patience – if I couldn’t so something perfectly with lots of accolades right away then I wouldn’t bother. Now I’ve learned to be patient and to take things slowly and know what? The rewards are so much bigger! It’s like the more patience I have the faster the rewards come.

Great post!

Henrik Edberg June 17, 2009 at 11:11 pm

Yeah, it’s funny how things work like that sometimes. :) Patience doesn’t sound too exciting perhaps, but it’s awesome.

Daniel Richard June 17, 2009 at 2:37 pm

Sticking with the program all the way is definitely the hardest. Even tougher when the 1st 2 months show a high potential yield of results, only to reach zero on the 3rd, losing a bit (whole lot) of momentum. Gotta push myself again. :)

Great post!

Henrik Edberg June 17, 2009 at 11:13 pm

I agree, it’s not always easy to stay patient and persistent when you have ups and downs like that. Good luck, Daniel!

alex - unleash reality June 17, 2009 at 2:47 pm

Hey Henrik!!

Inspiring read. really well written. the best i’ve written of yours! :)

number 2 was the most powerful to me, because not doing things just because “i don’t feel like it” gets you into an incredibly difficult habit.

number 6 also. every moment is new, nothing is the same – and yet we judge ourselves based on the past. it’s irrelevant. can i let go of wanting to edit the past?

inspiring stuff
gave it a stumble :)

all the best
alex – unleash reality

Henrik Edberg June 17, 2009 at 11:13 pm

Thank you , Alex! I’m glad you enjoyed the article that much. :)

Pia | Taunaki June 17, 2009 at 4:46 pm

One thing I’ve found that also helps is to once in a while it’s OK to just let go and relax that day. And not be consistent and fight myself into action all the time.

We all need a pause once in a while to recharge and relax. I found that by the beginning of the day, when I can feel it will be one of those days, I simply make it my decision that this is how my day is going to be. I’m going to be lazy, take it easy, do something I feel like and not just something I have to. And in most cases, the day after I have energy again and the drive to dive back into my projects, my business and my tasks.

Granted. It can be very hard to know when it’s old lazy behaviour speaking up and when it’s truly because you do need that break and chance to re-charge. What might help is to lay a plan for those days, so you do stuff that’s useful and productive, even if they’re not part of any of your plans. It takes self-discipline and self-knowledge. It can be done once you’ve established the good habits and behaviours and can recognize when it’s your own self-destruction kicking in again and can overcome it.

Eg. when I feel completely uninspired to do work on my start-up, I instead tell myself that today is a time to catch up on sleep, to read that book that’s been waiting, heck, even make it a day of laundry, gardening and other house chores. This way, in my mind, I still did what I set out to do, even if it wasn’t the ‘official’ projects/chores/tasks and things to do to grow and reach goals. And I get a break from what I ‘should’ do and a chance to find my drive, motivation and energy again.

Henrik Edberg June 17, 2009 at 11:15 pm

That’s some really good points. Sometimes we not just need a pause. Thanks for sharing the tips on how to handle those odd days.

Mark Foo | TheBigDreamer.com June 17, 2009 at 8:06 pm

Hi Henrik,

This is absolutely brilliant! I especially like the morning ritual advice. I’m going to plan one – a productive one – for myself. Thanks for the tip!

Cheers~

Mark

Henrik Edberg June 17, 2009 at 11:16 pm

Thanks and good luck with the morning ritual!

Chris Edgar | Purpose Power Coaching June 18, 2009 at 1:56 am

Thanks for this post. I particularly liked #4 — I’ve found enjoying the process helpful for keeping up my exercise routine. When I’m doing a form of exercise I really enjoy, like rock climbing, I don’t even need to think about the health benefits to keep it up regularly.

Todd Wilson June 18, 2009 at 2:30 am

Good Points Henrik, I like #7 as it helps to keep you in the middle. When I think of consistency I think of it working both ways, good and bad. We are all consistent, just not always in a positive direction. Jim Rohn said it best, it does not take but a subtle nudge consistently to move you way off track over time.

Sean June 18, 2009 at 2:38 am

Henrik,

Thanks for the wonderful pointers. This seems so obvious when we read it but in practice it is not obvious at all! I like the morning ritual the best. My wife and I have ours which is going over our daily goals and schedules together over coffee.

I’ll be sure to bring this up over tomorrow’s morning coffee!

Todd Wilson June 18, 2009 at 3:07 am

P.S. I have to comment on the picture. Very Cool. Is that you Henrik??? :-)

Srinivas Rao June 18, 2009 at 7:14 am

Hey Heinrik,

It’s really cool that you wrote about consistency. It’s very timely for me because I just finished reading outliers, and one of the things that they mentioned about all successful people is 10,000 hours of practice time perfecting their art. This included Bill Gates and the Beatles. I’ve definitely done everything in this post in the process of building my blog, but this is a helpful reminder :)

Rebecca Powers June 18, 2009 at 2:52 pm

Very well written and it’s absolutely great feedback to being sharing with people. I’m very big into the visualizing and goal setting. #7 really stood out for me. It’s funny that you mention writing things on a white board. I started writing my goals on my mirror with a dry erase marker about 2 yrs ago. My life more and more is becoming a reflection of my thoughts. Good stuff!
Thanks for sharing.

Vincent June 19, 2009 at 7:13 am

Hi Henrik,

Using reminders everywhere in our environment helps to remind ourselves daily of our goals. It helps to motivate us and keep us going. This is something that I do myself too and I definitely recommend others to try it too.

Cheers,
Vincent

Kaizan June 19, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Hi Henrik, this is a great post with some brilliant points.

I also believe that reminders can be really powerful. I’ve found that with reminders, there are four good things to remember:

1. Bright colours are better.
2. Somewhere you see every day is ideal e.g. when you wake up in bedroom, bathroom mirror etc
3. Change them around every few days. Your mind gets accustomed to where they are, so you need to move them around.
4. When ever you see your reminder, stop, read it out aloud and really feel the emotion.

M.S June 19, 2009 at 4:59 pm

another great article … go mr. henrik
i like this one very much .. full of valuable information and actions waiting to be done by us …

morning ritual.
just do it
motivate urself
process
improved self-image
vision board
… &voila !!

Sun-shine June 20, 2009 at 3:46 am

Hi Henrik,

good stuff as usual!!!!
1. How do you put notes on the screen saver?
2. how do you use twitter as reminders
Am going to start with post- its.

Have a wonderful day!

Henrik Edberg June 23, 2009 at 4:15 pm

Thanks!

1. I don’t really know, maybe there is some program at download.com?
2. I haven’t got a clue about that one either. :) But there is probably some way to do it.

Louis Williamson June 20, 2009 at 7:05 pm

Hi Heinrik,
This is the first time I have come across your blog and have spent the last 30 minutes looking through it. It is really insightful, I love the content. This article has hit the nail on the head for many reasons. You’re so right about consistency! I – like many people – find it hard to establish a level of consistency over time. Point #1 is something I can relate to – when my day starts badly it all seems to have gone belly-up by midday :(
Keep up the great work, i’ll definitely be on the subscription list.

Louis

Chris Phone June 21, 2009 at 1:48 am

Nice tips, I like about don’t hurt yourself and set morning routine. Good night routine is important too. The happier you are when you go to bad, the better dreams you will have and happier will be when you wake up.

Jannie Funster June 21, 2009 at 7:23 pm

What an amazing blog to have Stumbled Upon.

All points so good, it’s hard do tknow where to start. Number 6 and losing old self images is a great one. Clean the slate. From this moment onwards – that’s what we have!

Ann June 23, 2009 at 5:19 pm

This really a great post. It sure got me on my feet knowing that I wont achieve anything if I dont take action. Though the palns may be plenty, it will only work if I move- take action. God Bless you Heinrik.

Can I share this on my blog?

Business Communication June 26, 2009 at 1:18 am

I enjoy this blog for its topics and insights as well. Yes, share it!

N June 29, 2009 at 6:37 am

I stumbled on your site when i googled ‘fear in life’. I am really happy I found your blog and will be reading it to help my path in becoming the person I want to be.
I liked your last tip (which is a common tip for achieving goals) posting what you want around your house.I have never done this because I do not feel comfortable with others reading them, but I know it can help me.
Any tips?

YourNetBiz | Chris Marper June 29, 2009 at 11:38 am

Great post. I watched a behind the scenes programme on a UFC fighter recently who trained in Karate all his life. His father made him rise at 5am every morning. The reason… he said your first battle of the day is with yourself. If you can beat yourself wanting to stay in bed then you can beat anybody. (I’m still struggling with that early start though). The early morning routine is so true, if it doesn’t flow then the rest of the day goes bad.

Dr. Jennifer Howard July 3, 2009 at 1:23 am

Yes, consistency and discipline need to be part of overall strategy in personal development. To truly change, grow, and become all that we came to be we want to stay focused on our overall life goals. Our deeper passion for our purpose needs to be at the forefront in planning our daily goal. These 7 tips (1) Use a morning ritual, (2) Do things even if you don’t feel like it, (3) Don’t hurt yourself, (4) Focus on and take responsibility for the process, not the potential results, (5) Find and do what you love or like to do (6) Let go of old self images, (7) Use reminders in your environment are so helpful.

Thanks

Dr. Jennifer Howard

Full Contact Living July 7, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Only just discovered this blog, but this is definitely one of my favourite posts!

Love the early starts too. I used to hate them, but now by the time the rest of the world is getting up, I’ve had a 4 hours head start. That’s about half a working day for most people! And it’s just such a great time of day too, whatever the weather.

And I totally buy into “You can do anything you want to do”.

Solid gold, sir!

Joy August 12, 2009 at 5:59 am

Great post. I especially like # 5 – Find and Do What You Love To Do. Thanks for sharing, and keep up the fabulous work.

zsa zsa December 11, 2009 at 2:08 pm

I totally agree with what you said that what you do early in the day often sets the context for your day. Starting the day fresh, energized and with lots of positivity is what we should all aim for. I would also like to add that it’s always great to begin the day with exercise, such as yoga. =) Great tips, thanks for sharing! Keep ‘em coming!

Bryan April 12, 2010 at 10:35 am

Great ideas!

I’ve found it useful to use a reward system. If you usually can’t stick with something for more than a week or two then every two weeks reward yourself with a little gift or treat. After a while you might forget about rewarding yourself but by then you’ve already created a new habit.

zar May 25, 2010 at 1:45 am

hey great ideas n tips i would be thankful to u if u culd give me ur email adress m 21 years old girl and i have been struggling for da past 3 years to b cosistent and it just dunt work…i have been trying to do a split and get a better body but due to lack of consistency i keep failing and now at this age i have actually given up but ur ideas motivated me. It would be a great help if you could be in touch i need some motivation and support……

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