Learning how to be consistent can be tricky.
When I was about 14 or 15 I decided that I would begin doing pushups every morning. Every week, I would increase the number of pushups I did by ten—some weeks, I had to repeat the same number as the week prior, but I never missed a single day after I decided that I would complete this task.
That is, until I did.
I woke up one morning and decided that I “just didn’t feel like it.” I had been doing about 150 pushups every morning and every night.
After that one cheat day, I never did them again.
That’s because consistency is the secret to real change. Change that sticks. Change that makes a difference in your life.
On average, it takes about 66 days for a new behavior to transition into habit. That’s a little over two months of sticking to it. And that’s just the average—your actual number might be way higher or lower than that.
Either way, the secret to creating habits is consistency.
You want to know how to be consistent? A short answer: commit.
The fact of the matter is, if you don’t actually commit yourself to whatever it is that you’re trying to accomplish, you won’t follow through.
Consider what it is that you’d like to be more consistent with. Whether it’s something regarding your health, like a change to your diet, or a regular workout schedule, or a personal growth endeavor, such as journaling every day or consistently pursuing a hobby, you need to be firm about your decision.
If you give yourself too much wiggle room, you’ll inevitably put aside your endeavor after it gets too hard, or too boring, or too inconvenient. When you decide to really commit, you’re declaring your intentions to yourself. And that can make a bigger difference than you may realize.
When you’re taking a look at the change you’d like to make, be clear about what your goals are. Why are you doing what you’re trying to do and what are you actually trying to accomplish?
When you answer these questions, you can find resolve in knowing what you’re working towards. Treat this overarching goal as a touchpoint throughout your efforts—something to return to if you’re feeling weak or like giving up.
This can give you strength while you change your habits; If you know that you’d like to save money for a big purchase, it’s easier to sacrifice the smaller ones.
It can help to quantify your goals with some sort of benchmark: reading four books in a month, shaving time off of your mile, cutting your frivolous spending in half.
Don’t spread yourself too thin. It can be easy to want to make sweeping changes across all areas of your life at once, but this might actually make you less likely to follow through. If you’re trying to say, wake up earlier every day, and also quit smoking, try one before the other.
Getting one good habit down can also be encouraging for your future endeavors. If you make one change consistently, you’ll know you can do it—and you can return to that success to motivate your next positive choice.
That being said, it’s possible that your changes might be interrelated. For instance, if you want to wake up earlier and also want to practice meditation to be more mindful, those two habits may compliment each other and make both easier to accomplish.
So many of the positive changes we want to make boil down to time. Are you making space in your life for the time that it takes to be consistent in this area?
Don’t be afraid to put what you’re trying to accomplish on your schedule.
Whether it’s doing a weekly budget assessment or getting a walk in on your lunch break, having your new habit written down—and making sure not to book over it—can make a huge difference.
With my pushups resolution my downfall was that I was thinking in terms of all-or-nothing. Even if I had fallen off the wagon for a few days—or even weeks—I should have been able to haul myself back on track.
Instead, because I was aiming for perfection, I felt like I had failed completely. This is a quick way to sap your motivation and discourage you.
Rather than thinking in all-or-nothing terms, think instead in terms of progress. Learning how to be consistent involves forgiving yourself when you fail to follow through. Even if you mess up sometimes, you’re on the way to better habits every single time you successfully follow through on your self-improvement initiative.
And remember, it’s never a waste of time to try to better yourself. Whether your track record ends up perfect or not, you’ve made a decision and have committed to a positive change—which is a small accomplishment in itself!
Fear of accountability can keep us from making decisions to change. On the flip side, accountability is a huge factor in learning how to be consistent.
For some, self-accountability is all it takes. For others, it can really help to seek out an accountability partner. This could be a close friend, partner, or family member. Regardless of their relationship to you, they have to be comfortable calling you out when you fall short of your goals.
When you let someone else in on your journey, you could be more likely to hold yourself to a higher standard—it’s one thing to let yourself down, it’s another thing to do so with an audience.
Sometimes, these people will even be trying to make the same changes you are, and keeping up with one another will be its own source of motivation.
Remember, this is a process.
Learning how to be consistent is a journey that doesn’t really have a destination. Every day you have to recommit to doing your best with whatever you’re hoping to accomplish.
With the right mindset—and a little patience— you can achieve anything.
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LAWYER & ONLINE ENTREPRENEUR
After graduating from law school and passing the bar, I struggled to find work, pay my bills, and make ends meet. That's when I decided to take control of my future and start working for myself. Now, several years and a handful of companies later, I'm sharing how I launched a successful business, and how you can do it too.