“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.”
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?