One of the most important skills to master in life is learning how to be consistent with your effort.
Consistency is what separates the winners from the losers. Those who make it to the top of their field and get the life they want are always showing up and checking the box no matter how they feel.
It’s the professionals who get things done even when they’re not feeling it. Amateurs tend to let emotions push them towards inaction.
It’s hard to develop consistency, but it’s not impossible. With a few tweaks to your current game plan for achieving your goals, you can finally become that person who shows up daily and finishes what they start.
In this article, you’ll learn a simple framework for how to be consistent and develop the habits of successful people with ease.
Why We Struggle To Be Consistent
Here’s a common story that you’re probably all too familiar with:
You fixate your focus on a goal. You vow to start exercising, or become more productive, or start getting to bed earlier.
Whatever the case is, your motivation starts off at an all-time high. You crush the first few days and don’t slip up once. You’re on the path towards consistency and re-shaping your identity.
However, something happens around the one week mark. The motivation wave that we’ve been riding is no longer there to make action easier. The new behaviors we committed to feel like chores that we have to force ourselves to do.
We start falling flat and missing days. Those missed days lead to more missed days, and our motivation plummets.
All in all, two weeks later we’re in the same exact position as when we started. Only this time it’s worse because now we have further evidence that our goals are out of reach.
Well, you’re not alone. Learning how to be consistent enough to reach your goals is one of the hardest things to do in life because we’re at the mercy of our emotions.
Most of us are consistent at the one thing that it sucks to be consistent at – starting and stopping new habits. Want to know the reason for this?
Yep, that’s right – we struggle with change because it loses its novelty. We flat-out get bored of the daily grind.
At the start we’re pumped up and motivated. We’re eager to start scratching the surface of our potential.
But once this initial high wears off, our motivation goes with it. When we pull out our computer to write a blog post or put on our workout clothes, it feels like something we have to do as opposed to something we want to do.
This is when most efforts to change begin to go off the rails. We think that change is a process that we’re supposed to enjoy every step of the way. It’s supposed to feel exciting and motivating.
And when it doesn’t feel this way, our progress comes to a screeching halt. The truth is that boredom holds the keys to reaching your most ambitious goals.
Right now, I’m writing this blog post on my couch. My eyes and energy are drained. It’s close to midnight on a Saturday night, and House of Cards is on in the background.
Not particularly exciting right? Yep, that’s the point. This is the 51st blog post that I’ve published on this site, and each time the process is the same.
- First, I think about a topic that I want to write about
- Next, an outline is created in a G doc highlighting the main points I want to cover
- Then a first draft between 2,000 and 3,000 words is created – this takes between 4-5 hours to complete
- Next up are the second and third edits which require searching for grammar errors and improving the overall wording of the post
- Last but not least, it’s time for the finishing touches. Formatting the post in wordpress and adding images to improve the readability.
- Once that is done the post goes live on my site
It’s the same damn process over and over again. It’s boring and repetitive, but it also happens to be the very process that the success of this blog hinges upon.
You must fall in love with boredom if you want to achieve your goals. The feel-good story where you’re putting in work every day because you’re riding on unlimited motivation is for the flat-screen.
What Makes Someone Consistent?
Your level of consistency is determined by your habits. It’s your habits that determine what you do every day and also what you’re motivated to do each day.
Consistent and dependable people are able to embody their desired identity every day because they’ve mastered how to form new habits that move their life forward.
It’s habits that save you from yourself when your motivation spirals. One thing you’ll notice about disciplined people is that it’s harder for them not to show up and put in the work.
Take Jocko Willink for example, who’s one of the most well-known figures in the motivational space right now. He’s an ex-navy seal turned business titan with an intriguing habit – waking up at 4 a.m. every day and posting a picture of his alarm clock on his instagram.
Each day like clockwork, you’ll see a photo like this on his Instagram feed. Now waking up at 4 a.m. might sound ludicrous to you, but to Jocko it’s completely normal.
In fact it’s probably harder for Jocko to press snooze in the morning than it is to wake up and start his day.
Because hitting snooze would go against every fiber in his being. It’s a firmly ingrained habit at this point – which means he’s naturally motivated to maintain his self-image and keep his identity consistent.
That’s the point you need to get to. You need to consistently repeat something over and over again until the idea of skipping days is actually less appealing than showing up.
How To Be Consistent: 5 Steps To Sustained Motivation
Let’s dive into a simple 6 step framework outlining how to be consistent so that you can start making significant progress towards your goals.
You can leverage and apply this process with any goal that you’re looking to achieve.
Step #1: Choose One Long Term Goal
As humans, we don’t do well with split-focus. In the moment, it feels good to vow that we’re going to change 3 or 4 different things about our personality.
Yet often we’re overwhelmed to the point of inaction once we realize the level of commitment it’s going to take.
Extraordinary results come from a narrow focus. You need to be doing fewer things that have more effect as opposed to a bunch of things that each have minimal effect.
So think about a long-term goal that you’re absolutely committed to achieving. The goal can revolve around a specific outcome or a personality change you’re looking to make.
In other words, it can be an identity based goal or an outcome based goal. Here’s the difference between the two:
- Identity Based Goal – I want to become the type of person who is confident in social interaction
- Outcome Based Goal – I want to publish 100 blog posts on my site
In terms of timeframe, think about something that’s going to take you 6-12 months to accomplish.
Don’t stretch the timeline too far out. If you do that it’s possible that the sheer distance between you and the goal overwhelms you.
Step 2: Choose One Habit To Complement Your Goal
Now that you have a goal you want to focus on, you need to tie it to an action that you can repeat every day.
Why do most people set goals and then fail to consistently work towards them? Because most of the time they get so caught up in the outcome that they lose sight of what really matters – the process.
Setting goals is important for providing a sense of direction. They’re great for giving your conscious mind something to aim at.
But the truth is setting the goal is the easy part. Whether or not you actually achieve what you’re aiming at comes down to your daily habits.
You will never change your life until you shift something that you do every day. Setting a well-defined goal doesn’t cover up your habitual behavioral patterns.
So think about one daily habit that will move you towards your long-term goal. Try to make sure that this is a behavior that delivers maximum impact.
If you’re going back and forth with what to pick, here’s a good question that will help you cut through the fluff and pick a high-impact behavior
- “What’s the one daily habit I can focus on daily that would all but guarantee my reaching my goal?”
There’s another element to the consistency equation here that most people overlook. In order to learn how to be consistent, you need to learn how to humble yourself.
When we set big goals, we immediately start rationalizing them. We say things like:
- I’m going to start meditating for thirty minutes every day
- I’m going to start waking up at 4:30 every morning
- I’m gonna write for three hours every day
The issue is that we’re not thinking logically in these moments.
We’re excited and hopeful about the future – our emotions are involved. That’s why despite the incredible level of discipline these habits take to maintain, we tell ourselves we’ll be able to act when the time comes.
The mantra you need to adopt in order to master consistency is this: Big Goals + Small Actions = Mastery
It’s okay to set big goals, but you can’t couple that with big action. After a week or even a few days, the weight of it all will crush you.
So now that you have your new habit, shrink it down. Brainstorm a target that you can hit on any given day no matter your level of motivation. This ensures you’ll maintain the consistency required to turn that behavior into a habit.
#3: Give Your Habit A Time/Space To Live
The next step in this mini-guide for how to be consistent is to give your habit a time and space to live. If you look at most of the routines that you have in your life, they all take place in a similar context.
Cooking takes place in your kitchen. Exercise takes place in whichever gym you have a membership too. Lazy binge-watching takes place on your couch. Mindless phone-scrolling happens at your desk or in bed.
All these types of habits are initiated by the environment that you find yourself in, and that’s exactly the same principle you need to apply to make your new habit stick.
Think about the most optimal conditions for your new habit to flourish.
Is it closer to bedtime or first thing in the morning? Would it make sense to squeeze it in during your lunch break at work? Should it happen in the dining room or at your desk?
These are the nuances that need to be figured out to achieve sustained consistency. Most people walk around with foggy notions of change and then wonder why they’re never able to stick to new habits for longer than a few days.
Get specific about the time and place that your new keystone habit will occur and you’ll be way more likely to take action.
#4: Implement Vertical Flexibility
Remember earlier when we were talking about how consistency is a grind? Well, there are ways to combat that phenomenon by making progress a key component of your new plan for how to be consistent.
Progress is one of the most effective forms of motivation. Despite this, it’s hard to visually see progress without a system for measuring it.
With each change that you make, there’s always delayed returns. You don’t go to the gym for a week and then come home one day with six-pack abs. It’s a behavior that compounds over months until one day you look in the mirror and see how far you’ve come.
But what if there was a way to see progress quicker? Well, that’s exactly what implementing vertical flexibility into your new habits accomplishes.
Vertical flexibility essentially means picking one habit and creating three different tiers of accomplishment – easy, medium, and hard.
Introducing this principle into the mix solidifies the three tenets of consistency that you can apply to whatever you want to achieve.
- One Goal
- One Habit
- 3 Different Ways To Win
Create three different tiers of your new habit that correspond to each of these three levels of difficulty – easy, medium, and hard. Here are a few basic guidelines for what these categories entail:
- Easy – You’ve already come up with this tier. This should be something that’s too easy to say no to – a requirement you can meet on the worst day of your life. It should take you between 2-5 minutes to do.
- Medium – A respectable accomplishment. This should be a fairly big step up from your small habit and take between 15-20 minutes to do.
- Hard – This is the target that you could hit every day if you had unlimited willpower. It should take you between 45-90 minutes to do.
#5: No Blank Days
Before going into the final part of this framework, there’s one phrase that you should always keep in mind when starting new behaviors.
Never break the chain. No matter what you do, never lose sight of the fact that your goal is to get a win every single day.
If you want consistency to be your calling card, live by that philosophy.Each day you mark as a win counts as a rep. And with each rep, you move towards solidifying the habit as a permanent part of your identity.
Once you believe in a certain aspect of your identity, you’ve won. You won’t even need to pursue behavior change, you’ll just be acting in alignment with who you already believe yourself to be.
#6: Track Your Progress
Tracking your progress is perhaps the most essential component of this process. The boost of motivation you get from seeing yourself make strides is a powerful force that can counteract the boredom associated with repeated effort.
Keeping track of your wins is a simple process that can be accomplished using a spreadsheet, wall calendar, or journal.
Here’s how to track your progress and keep your motivation high
- Each time you perform your new habit, make a note of the tier you accomplished – easy, medium, or hard
- Easy wins = 1 point / Medium wins = 3 points / Hard wins = 5 points
- Match the point value to the habit you performed and write down your score for the day
- At the end of the month, add up your score
- Next month, your goal should be to beat your score from last month
- Repeat this process until you achieve your long term goal
Creating a points system like this makes behavior change a little less mundane. An effective process for tracking your habits and beating your former self adds a little fun into the mix.
It’s like you’re playing a real-life video game where the mission is to beat your former self and the reward is that you master consistency and achieve your goals.
Final Thoughts On How To Be Consistent
I hope you enjoyed this simple guide outlining how to be consistent as you pursue your goals.
There’s no secret or shortcut to success. It’s daily action repeated over time that will create the results you’re looking for.
Most people never quite understand the “repeated over time” portion of that statement. It’s a daily, weekly, and monthly grind towards your long-term goals. The framework provided in this article makes that grind a little less boring and helps you continually capitalize on positive momentum.
As long as you’re patient and don’t break the chain, the world is yours for the taking.