Welcome to part 3 of our ongoing Unlocking Consistency series. In Part 1, we took a closer look at the meaning of consistency. Part 2 looked at some of the causes of inconsistency and explored that crucial first step: how to turn a goal or an idea into an action. Now, it’s time to see how you can make it easier to turn a single action into a consistent, beneficial habit by setting yourself up for success.
If there’s a (simplified) equation for consistent progress, it’s essentially an action multiplied by the number of times you repeat it. One action by itself won’t get you where you want to go. But when you multiply a single action by dozens or hundreds of times, the product of that action becomes much greater. And once you factor in that you’re getting better at performing that action over time, the impact of your repeated efforts is really exponential.
Of course, the challenge is that the act of repeating an action until it becomes a habit can be a bit of a slog, especially as the novelty wears off, the signs of progress become less obvious, and life’s other responsibilities complicate your schedule. But just as we’ve already covered some of the things that make it harder to be consistent, there are plenty of ways to make it easier to turn an action into a consistent habit.
The strategies you’ll see here fall into two broad categories. The first is about creating the environments and processes that make it easier to repeat a healthy habit you want to adopt. The second is about adopting a frame of mind to keep things moving in the right direction no matter what setbacks or success you may encounter. Together, these steps can help you create a set of external conditions that minimizes your likelihood of encountering obstacles along the way, while shifting your internal thinking in order to persevere whenever setbacks or snags happen — which is an inevitable part of the process.
With that in mind, here are eight ways to simplify the process of repeating the right actions, making it that much easier to build up the momentum that can propel you towards your fitness goals.
Just like there’s value to finding the right people, it helps to put yourself in situations that can make consistent fitness a more frictionless experience. Planning to exercise before or after work? Find a gym that doesn’t require you to detour from your commute. Rather get in shape from home? Create a dedicated, distraction-free area where you’ll always find the equipment you need. Miss playing a favorite sport from your youth? Find a local league and let your rekindled passion push you in the right direction. The less work it takes to work out, the easier it is to make it a consistent part of your life.
There are many benefits to connecting with a crew of like-minded exercisers, but motivation and accountability are at the top of the list. Not only will they expect you to literally show up and work consistently, they’ll create an environment of support that celebrates progress while pushing you to greater heights. Whether gym buddies, rec league teammates, or a personal trainer, there’s definite strength in numbers when it comes to forging consistent habits.
Flexibility helps you deal with the things you can’t control. But a little foresight and planning can go a long way towards avoiding some of the obstacles that might derail you. Is there a particularly busy day in your weekly schedule that might function best as a rest day? Do you have any upcoming travel that will force you to change where, when, or how you exercise? With a little forethought, successfully working around less-than-ideal circumstances can actually strengthen your commitment to consistency by showing you how adaptable your habit is to a variety of challenging situations.
Willpower is a muscle. Every time you do the hard things you know you need to do, it gets a little bit stronger. Over time, you’ll gradually feel more comfortable being uncomfortable, and you’ll develop a sense of internal motivation that can reframe how you think about the actions you may have once wanted to avoid. That not only helps you keep your eyes on the prize when obstacles are in your path, you’ll develop a sense of resiliency that serves you well in other areas of life.
Consistency is about the unwavering pursuit of your goals through persistent, repeatable action. But unless you’re a cyborg sealed off from the outside world, it’s unrealistic (not to mention undesirable) to expect we can take the exact same ideal action in the exact same way every single day. Once you acknowledge that obstacles and setbacks are a part of the journey towards your goals, you free your mind to think more flexibly about what you can do to keep moving forward. Given your present circumstances, what’s the next right thing to do? If you’ve gone through the effort to break down your desired habit into smaller parts, it’s easier to find a way to do something that creates or sustains momentum, rather than waiting around for the perfect set of circumstances.
While the goal that inspired your consistent habit should be defined by measurable results, that doesn’t mean that you’ll see results after every action. In fact, sometimes the outcome (or lack thereof) of an action can feel discouraging if it’s the only way to judge whether what you did was worth the effort.
Whether you’re working on something creative or working towards a fitness goal, you can’t control whether an action creates an immediate, positive outcome. But you can control and should measure the effort you put forth. It sounds like a cliché (and it may or may not be the best way to assemble an NBA roster), but trusting the process will serve you well. Just consistently put one foot in front of the other. Even if your path involves an occasional detour, you’ll be surprised where you can end up.
Consistency requires certain sacrifices, but that doesn’t mean that every step of the journey should feel like a long, monotonous march to some distant goal. To stay motivated, take honest stock of your progress. If you’ve hit some of the milestones you laid out when you broke down your bigger plan into smaller parts, don’t be afraid to celebrate them — so long as your reward doesn’t completely undermine your progress. Sometimes, that extra little bit of short-term motivation can make the difference when the going gets tough and that bigger goal starts to feel out of reach.
But no matter how much you plan ahead, some obstacles will inevitably sneak up on you. Unexpected setbacks happen. When they do, the best way forward is to learn from them — without dwelling on them. One mistake or one bad day doesn’t define you. It’s how you bounce back from it that will.
Hopefully this installment of Unlocking Consistency gave you some strategies that can start to simplify the process of turning an action into a habit. about what you can do to make the actions you want to turn into habits a little bit easier to repeat.
While each of these tips is helpful for reducing the resistance you’ll face as you try to make your healthy habit stick, there’s no magic formula for removing all of the obstacles you’ll encounter over the course of your journey. That’s why so many of these strategies fall under the umbrella of adopting the right frame of mind. When it comes to building habits, the right mindset can both keep you moving ahead when the going gets tough and create positive feedback loops that help you recognize and stick to what’s working.
To expand on some of those ideas, part 4 of Unlocking Consistency will hone in on the how and why of self-discipline. Because no matter how much support you have in your corner or how optimized your routine may be, doing what it takes to create a consistent habit will always come down to whether or not you’re ready and willing to act — again and again.
If you want some help creating the conditions that can help you consistently thrive, working with a Future coach can be an excellent habit to adopt. They tackle those external factors by creating accountability and helping you follow through on a fitness plan that’s designed to make the most of your workout environment and your busy schedule. Though Future coaches specialize in many things, every single one is a master of motivation. They’ll help you to both shift your thinking in the face of setbacks, and recognize what’s working. No matter who you are or where you are, Future is all about truly personal training that makes it easier to move in the right direction, one step at a time.
Ready to act? Take the first step towards healthier habits for less with a deal on your first month of personal training.