Would you like to know the key to success in fitness?
Here you go:
- Pick a healthy habit
- Be consistent with it.
That’s it. Secret revealed. Problem solved. You can stop reading now and go be the fittest, healthiest person imaginable. Catch us next week for another groundbreaking post. K thx bye.
You’re still reading? Looking for more answers? But we gave you the full lowdown in two bullet points. We really don’t see what else needs to be said here: just be consistent.
Oooh, you want to know HOW to be consistent. As in, how to actually manage to keep doing the thing you want to do, day in and day out, without falling off the wagon.
Alright, here are 5 tips we think will help you do that.
The 5 Keys to Consistency
The main thing to remember is that consistency is not simply a product of willpower. One doesn’t simply DECIDE to be motivated and then boom, they’re forever motivated. Willpower is a requirement, but most times it’s not enough.
Consistency is a function of many things: your intrinsic motivation, your environment, your other habits and the difficulty of the goal you’ve set yourself, among others. In other words, failing to be consistent is not an indictment of YOU or how bad you want it. It can happen for a variety of reasons that have little to do with your willpower.
But you can help yourself become aware of the traps and implement some steps to give you better odds of success. Here are five ways you can improve your chances of sticking with your habit:
- Use a log
This one is straightforward. Write down what you did. Do it daily or do it weekly, but do it regularly. There are two main advantages to this: first, you keep data on your progress, as opposed to just having a feel for how it’s going.
Second, If something’s not working, you can go back and look at your log to figure out why.
Third, if you do skip a day, that screaming blank space in your log will be there to remind you to get back on track.
- Make it easy to decide
Change your environment.
First, move temptations out of reach so that you don’t have to find yourself negotiating with yourself about whether to go for it or not. Because, we’ll tell you, the brain is a really bad negotiator. You love cookies? Great, so does everyone. Hide them, or take them out of your house. When you get that “ghost” hunger pang at 10pm at night before bed and it’s only your willpower standing between you and that stack of cookies, who do you think is going to win that battle?
Second, limit your options so that when it comes time to choose, the healthy options are the only ones. Many of us have access to restaurant/cafeteria food for lunch, a lot of which is delicious but not exactly optimal for you. Pack your own lunch and eliminate the decision making altogether!
- Get an accountability buddy/coach
We like this one. Get a friend to pick up that healthy habit with you, or get a coach to create a program for you and HOLD YOU ACCOUNTABLE TO IT.
Here’s a secret: half of what coaches do is be that voice of dissatisfaction when you’re not holding yourself to your own standards. Mental grit is a huge challenge for all of us, that’s why we need someone else.
Set your ego aside and go get an accountability buddy/coach. (Pro tip: if it’s going to be a friend, don’t pick that one friend you love hanging out with but who needs you to motivate them, we all know how that’s going to end.)
- Make it OK to skip
“Huh? I thought this was about consistency ..” we hear you say. Yes, we know. We do want you to be as consistent as humanly possible. They key word there is “humanly”.
No one is going to be perfect, it just doesn’t happen. And you don’t want to try to be perfect anyways, it’s a lofty goal but most times perfect just ends up preventing you from being very good.
Let go of that pressure.
If you skip a day/meal/workout, accept it and forgive yourself. Tell yourself the occasional mishap is not a big deal and it’s not a reflection of your self worth. Definitely don’t go changing EVERYTHING.
With that said, do try to figure out why you skipped. If you can identify the situation/environment that led you to fail, you’re more likely to avoid it in the future. It is possible that it was truly just a fluke, but we’ve seen this time & time again, we usually need just a small tweak to our personal process. See #2 above.
- Leverage social commitment
This is a powerful one. Telling the world about your goals helps you fight harder to achieve them.
Ok, it doesn’t have to be the world, it can be just a friend or two. The point is don’t just promise yourself in secret that you’re going to back squat X lbs by December or lose 10lbs by May. Promise yourself in front of someone else.
We are influenced by what other people think. When we tell others that we’re planning on achieving a goal, we get two things: (A) other people’s support and encouragement, and (B) a desire to not let them down. Taken to the extreme, worrying about what others think can be a destructive force, but in small doses it’s a useful tool for motivation. So leverage it, it helps.
There you have it. Five tips to become better at consistency. Try some or all of them, stay locked in, make progress. Wash, rinse and repeat.