In the introduction to our Unlocking Consistency series, we defined the word consistency in order to get a sense of its many meanings. That knowledge can help you start to wrap your head around what it will take to act consistently in pursuit of your goals. But just as there are many ways to understand what consistency means, there are also many ways that we can fall short and fail to embody those ideas.
That’s why the second part in our series will uncover some of the pitfalls that add an “in” in front of consistency, and offer advice for how you can dig yourself out of that hole or sidestep certain inconsistency traps entirely.
Nobody’s perfect, so there’s a decent chance you may recognize some of your own past or current behavior reflected here. It’s ok! The most important thing to remember is that inconsistency isn’t a character flaw or a fixed state. Often, it’s just a product of poor planning or an unhelpful frame of mind. And as you’ll soon see, a few subtle tweaks to your approach or your mindset can be all it takes to cultivate sustainable health and wellness habits you can be proud of.
Meaningful success almost never happens overnight. If it only took days for everyone to achieve their fitness goals, gyms wouldn’t sell monthly memberships. Don’t look for the mirror or scale to validate your efforts just days after you’ve begun. Instead, celebrate little milestones along the way and know that the results will eventually follow if you accept — and embrace — the need for consistency.
As Sir Isaac Newton famously declared, an object at rest tends to remain at rest. While that law of motion (or lack thereof) can’t totally explain evolutionary psychology, it does speak to the brain’s tendency to lead us towards simpler, more immediate pleasures and away from harder work whose rewards are often more distant and abstract. In practical terms, it’s why eating pizza on the couch is a whole lot more tempting than hitting the gym.
Staying consistent means keeping that desire for instant gratification in check by keeping those longer-term rewards in mind. True, life would hardly be worth living if we had to sacrifice everything we enjoyed in service of our exercise routines. But if you indulge your every whim, you wouldn’t even have enough time to work towards your goals — to say nothing of how some instantly-gratifying activities can move you in the wrong direction. By keeping your eyes on the bigger prize (while responsibly celebrating small victories along the way), it’s easier to become an object in motion that stays in motion through consistent effort over time.
Moving consistently without any kind of direction or specific destination in mind might make for a fun road trip, but it’s not a formula for turning your daily efforts into something greater. Even with a deep reserve of willpower, not knowing what you want to achieve or what you should do to get there will eventually wear anyone down. Why put in a sustained effort if you don’t know how to define success? Why keep working towards a goal that you can’t achieve immediately if you don’t have a reliable map for how to get there?
Yes, flexibility is a component of consistency on a day to day level. But that flexibility has to exist within the framework of what you want to achieve and a great plan for arriving at that goal over time.
Enthusiasm is the fuel that can help kickstart a consistent habit. But staying in overdrive 24/7 won’t bring you to your goals faster — in fact, it’ll put you on the fast track to crashing and burning. This is where thinking about the meaning of “consistent” from a different angle is useful: don’t just think about it in terms of putting in work, but about moving forward at a consistent pace that you can realistically maintain over time. Listen to what your body’s telling you (especially as you’re starting a new workout routine), and know that pushing too hard, too quickly can only lead to diminishing returns over time. Know that making consistent progress means consistently making time for proper rest and recovery, too.
Starting something new on your own and sticking to it can be tough. Who do you turn to for advice or motivation? Who’s keeping you accountable? Who will help you celebrate your wins? While no one can do the work for you, sticking with a habit and making steady progress is a whole lot easier with someone in your corner who can talk you out of giving up.
Just as you can benefit from the right kind of support, the wrong kind of influences can knock you off your stride. Beyond letting people in your life know about your goals and spending your time with those who understand what they mean to you, think about the temptations you keep around, whether foods that don’t fit your nutrition goals, or distractions that keep you from getting a workout in. What short-term pleasures can you live without to make long-term gains?
The surest way to not achieve something is to tell yourself you can’t do it. With a negative frame of mind, you can end up diminishing your accomplishments as you get going, or even stop yourself before you start. Counter your negative assumptions about exercise or nutrition by giving things a try and seeing what actually happens. Celebrate even the smallest moments of progress. By getting your mind on your side, you’ll start to believe in ways that power consistent action.
Every successful quest to consistency has one thing in common: action. You could spend all the time in the world setting yourself up for success and getting in the right frame of mind. But without taking action, your habits aren’t habits: they’re just an idea, or an empty promise.
That can seem daunting, but the thing to remember is that action isn’t all or nothing. You shouldn’t feel like you have to achieve the ultimate result with your first step, and you don’t have to spring into action without a plan of attack. Think of developing consistency like strengthening a muscle. You (probably) can’t curl 100 pounds if you’ve never picked up a dumbbell before, and feeling like you need to lift that much weight right away will set you up for failure. But by choosing a goal, breaking it into smaller steps, and keeping at it over time, you’ll eventually reach a point where what once seemed difficult suddenly feels a whole lot easier.
While taking action may be the first visible step towards establishing consistency, that action will be more meaningful — and ultimately lead to something successful — if you lay the groundwork behind the scenes first. There’s never a perfect time to get started, but checking a few of these things off the list will make the leap from idea to action a little less daunting.
What is it you want to repeatedly do, and why? For example, the behavior might be something like committing to a certain number of workouts a week so that you can reap the physical and mental benefits of exercise. Put that commitment in writing, and think it through as specifically as possible. Give your actions a meaning and a purpose that’s attached to something greater, and it’s easier to feel like you aren’t just checking some task off your to-do list.
Once you’ve identified that behavior or habit, think about what it will realistically take to sustain it in the context of your daily life. What obstacles, distractions, or temptations do you expect to face? What milestones will tell you you’re headed in the right direction? By breaking that bigger goal into smaller, digestible chunks, taking that first action will feel less daunting, and you’ll be less likely to lose momentum by wondering what’s next.
Accountability and action go hand in hand. It’s a lot easier to take the steps we know we need to take once we’ve made a commitment to ourselves — or a declaration to others — about what it is we intend to do. By starting with an intention and identifying what it will take to get there, it’s easier for us to make a commitment that sticks.
Now, it’s time to act. But not just once — take big or small actions every day that can move you even just a little bit closer to your goal. Keep a clear picture of your destination in mind throughout, but be flexible in terms of how you’ll get there. Adjust as needed but keep the momentum moving forward. Remember: an object in motion stays in motion.
If you don’t want to go it alone, training with a Future coach puts someone consistently in your corner. Your coach will create a customized plan that puts your idea of a goal into action, no matter how you approach exercise or whatever obstacles may be in your way. Through a mix of motivation and accountability, they’ll help you build the right kind of habits by breaking down bigger goals into repeatable steps, pushing you to be your best while showing you how seamlessly fitness can fit into your life.
Ready to leave inconsistency behind and put your plans into motion? Take action more affordably with a deal on your first month of personal training through Future here.