I am nothing if not consistently inconsistent. At least, that was my excuse. I used it all the time. The ‘I have a family and a job’ excuse was helpful. So was the excuse, ‘I’m a slow writer.’ After I used those excuses, I beat myself up. I was a failure for not being consistent, for not making my writing goals. I went through this a circular reasoning day after day after year. Until I decided to change.
I’ve tried to change many, many times. And I’ve failed many, many times. This time I was determined to make it work. So I did some research—of course! The internet is full of well-meaning but useless advice. I turned to some trusted experts: Marie Forleo, James Clear, Stephan James, Dean Anderson, and Henrik Edberg. From their insights, I’ve compiled a list of things essential for developing consistency.
Know Your Why
Marie Forleo lists this as her number one key to being consistent. Being consistent over the long haul is hard work. She encourages you to have a clear compelling vision for what you want to achieve and why you want to achieve it. Knowing what and why makes it easier to stay focused on your goals.
Isn’t The Same Thing As
Oh, boy howdy, did this one resonate with me! Some say I am obsessed with perfect. If you, too, are obsessed with perfect, it’s time to change your mindset.
No one is 100% consistent. Life happens. Surprise and change interrupt every intention. I used to think I must function at 100% or I’m not successful. So when something knocked me off course, I was a failure. I’d curl up in a metaphorical, if not physical, ball and quit trying because I was a failure. How did I overcome this?
Aim for mostly consistent. Choose an achievable percentage that means winning to you—80%, 85%, 90%, 95%. There will be days or weeks when you are 99% consistent, but there will also be times when you’re 80%, or less. Keep your eye on the average.
Don’t Hurt Yourself
How many times have you thought that you aren’t motivated enough to do this thing? Stop listening to that! Telling yourself you’re not motivated is giving away your power of choice. Lack of motivation is a way to say you had no choice. It is a choice, you know. But you have to choose to work on your goal every day.
So, when you have a “I don’t wanna—“ day, don’t listen. Train your brain to ignore that voice. Get up and do it anyway. Pay attention to how you feel at the end of the day. And those days when you choose not to be consistent, to do the thing. Pay attention to how you feel on those days, too. Learn from that.
Focus on the process. Love the process. Acknowledge the process is work, but don’t associate the work with negative thoughts. Negative thoughts will beget negative progress. After all, if you do something that causes you pain, why would you choose to keep doing it? I don’t know how many times I have heard a writer say, “I hate to write” or “I can’t write when X happens.” Change your mindset. Associate the process with positive feelings and you’ll want to repeat the process.
Have a Plan
Without a plan, you won’t succeed. Steven Covey said, “The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but schedule your priorities.” How you schedule is up to you. I have an allergy to rigid schedules, so I don’t schedule by hour. I schedule by day of the week.
Dean Anderson recommends building momentum slowly. For example, if you want to exercise more, plan for a ten minute session once a week. Do that for a while (at least three weeks), then increase it to two days a week. After you’ve worked that into your schedule, increase it to include another day or more time each day. The key is to move forward step-by-step.
Many experts recommend that you take 5-10 minutes each evening and make a plan for the next day. It’s a flexible way to schedule your priorities. I know that my days are much more successful when I choose to take that evening time and plan for the next day.
If you have trouble scheduling your priorities, ask yourself Edberg’s three questions. What is the most important thing I can do right now? Is doing this bringing me closer to my goal? Am I keeping things extremely simple right now?
HAVE A PLAN B
Plan B is for those days when life surprises you. This has been my downfall over and over. People who are not consistent usually fail to have a Plan B. Plan B would have saved me angst during our power outage last week. Yup, this is a habit I’ve not had as successful with, but I’m working on it. (Confession: My first thought was that I failed at this habit. I’m working at changing my mindset!)
Life is a work-in-progress. So is being consistent.
Tell me, about yourself. Do you struggle with consistency? What steps do you take to be consistent?
As always, thanks for taking the time to read this blog. And thanks, in advance, for sharing your thoughts.
Credits: When something goes wrong quote and image courtesy of zerotalking.com (TinEye attributes first use of this on August 6,2013 to shadowfax42.soup.io however, I found this on dated July3, 2013 on zerotalking.)
Public Domain image “Success Golden Key “by Animated Heaven courtesy Flickr