As the calendar rolls onto February, it’s about time that most people with New Year’s Resolutions have fallen, or are in the process of falling off the wagon, once again showing us all that the excitement with which you approach your goals does not matter if you can’t maintain it for an extended period of time.
Moreso than any other factor in success, the absolute only one that matters and the only one that will truly help you reach any difficult milestone in your life, is consistency.
As I’ve said before; sport – in particular, hockey, has taught me most of what I know about the World around me.
And the most exciting, most grueling time in the hockey season is playoff time. Which, as a matter of fact, is just around the corner as I write this article.
The difference between teams is so small and both teams want to move on so bad that you can never count someone out. Furthermore, most hockey playoffs are either a 3, 5, or 7 game series, meaning you can’t just ‘have a good night’ and move on to the next round.
In hockey playoffs you must prove that you’re the better team by winning 2, 3 or 4 games in a short time frame.
I was lucky enough to hear this advice from a coach late in my junior career, in a year we went on to win a provincial Tier 2 championship.
When things are going well and you’re rolling and you’ve just got a huge win that you know turned the tides, enjoy it. Hoot and holler in the locker room, get excited.
But when you come back to the rink the next day, move past it and get ready for the next one.
And when things aren’t going so well and you feel like you’ve just lost a backbreaker, own it. You’ll have to sit there and hear the other team going nuts in their room and it will hurt.
But when you come back to the rink the next day, move past it and get ready for the next one.
Such is the way of life as well.
Put one foot in front of the other, and continue doing that until you realized you’ve walked a hundred miles. That’s literally all consistency is.
Not too high, not too low. Show up and do the work every single day.
Every. Single. Day.
So as you move through this article and learn about different ways to make sure you get things done and some hacks that I’ll lay out for you, remember this as a framework for everything else you’ll learn.
Put one foot in front of the other. Then again, and again…
Start With Why… Always
As many of you may know, this advice was originally popularized in Simon Sinek’s bestseller, Start With Why. In it, Sinek outlines exactly how to start every new endeavour with a deeply rooted, emotional reason for doing so.
While there isn’t much more to the book than what I just wrote in that one-sentence outline, the premise behind the book is literally the foundation of what I coach all my clients.
But how do you get there? How do you find a deeper level?
The best way to get to why is to start by asking yourself what it is you want.
For example, you want to lose ten pounds.
Got it? Good.
Not sure? I’ll wait.
Next, ask why at least five times.
Why do you want to lose ten pounds? Because I’ll look better in the mirror.
Why is that important? Because I don’t like the way I look in the mirror right now.
Why will changing this make a difference for you? I have no confidence around women because I don’t like what I see in the mirror.
Why is that important? Because it will allow me to talk to women and possibly meet the woman I’ll marry one day.
Why is that important? I’m lonely and need companionship.
To be clear, this exchange could’ve gone several different ways.
Maybe their father had a heart attack and it scared them.
Maybe they don’t care about a wife, they just want to get laid. I ain’t judging.
Maybe they’ve been called fat their whole life and are sick and tired of that shit.
Regardless, it’s important to figure out for yourself that it’s almost never about the thing that you think it is. There’s always something deeper.
It isn’t about the ten pounds in our example, it’s about companionship and finding a wife.
And finding that deeper reason is the first step in helping you stay consistent.
Now take that reason and put it somewhere that keeps it top of mind. For most of my clients, simply being aware of the emotional reason is enough.
Simply having said it out loud to someone else (something we’ll talk more about later), owned it and consistently reminding themselves of it is enough to keep it top of mind.
But there are other options. Write it in your journal or training log or put it up somewhere you’ll see it often, like on the fridge or above your desk.
Something as simple as, “The man in the mirror” may even be enough to trigger that emotional response and force that good decision.
Regardless, find a way to keep it top of mind so that every time a decision is presented to you, you can consciously decide whether it aligns with you goal and move towards it or if it doesn’t align and avoid it.
And just like that, you have done-for-you decision-making built right in.
Once the habit is formed after hundreds of small, conscious decisions, it will become engrained and a habit is formed.
Create a [Sustainable] Plan
“Write drunk, edit sober.” – Ernest Hemingway
A little off topic? Maybe, but bear with me.
When my first writing mentor was waxing poetic about his writing process and explaining to everyone how he wrote a New York Times bestseller, he used this quote to make his point.
You don’t actually have to get drunk (although you can) to write well, but you need to be in what he called a heightened emotional state.
This heightened emotional state is where we just took you in finding your deep, underlying why and is invaluable in getting below all the superficial bullshit we tell ourselves.
Problem is that most people stay in that heightened emotional state and start to make a plan for their next few weeks, months or even more.
Not only do they write drunk, they edit drunk, too.
And that’s an even bigger no-no than writing sober.
If we changed the words but kept the principle of Hemingway’s quote the same, it would read something like this:
“Find your ‘why’ in an emotional state. Create your plan objectively.”
Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it, but you get the point.
You need to remove yourself from the emotional state and get down to exactly what is sustainable because consistency beats perfection EVERY SINGLE TIME.
I’d rather a client follow their training plan and diet 80% of the time for a full year than go all-in, balls deep 110% for 2 months and completely fall off the wagon.
So what is sustainable for you? What can you still manage to do even if your boss is being a dick, your kids need to get to hockey practice and the world feels like it’s falling down around you?
THAT is what’s sustainable.
How many times a week can you ABSOLUTELY make it to the gym no matter what? Start there and see how it fits into your life.
How many meals a week can you absolutely cook at home?
Three? Five? Maybe you can cook up one huge meal or make one big salad that will be your backup for the week if shit goes sideways and you ‘just can’t even’.
The point here is that most people, even when they’ve found a deeply seeded emotional reason for making better decisions, get way too excited. They create a plan that’s not sustainable at all, inevitably fall off the wagon and don’t understand why they never see results.
Whatever you do, don’t edit drunk.
Build a Support Team
I have a relatively new client, who started with me a few weeks back. The plan was to come see me once a week and complete two workouts on her own every week.
This week, we didn’t end up finalizing our schedule and all my time slots were filled, leaving the onus on her to get to the gym three times.
Since she’s still new and the habit hasn’t been engrained yet, I decided to be her pseudo-accountabillibuddy. I asked her when she’d be going to the gym, then put it in my phone to text her and just make sure she made it.
Now, she knows that if she doesn’t go, she’s letting me down as well as herself. It’s not like I’m going to be mad at her, but she knows I’ll be disappointed and she’s made a promise to me she doesn’t want to break.
This is all a support team does. They support you in your goal to change your habits and create a better lifestyle for yourself.
You tell them your why and your goals, they keep you accountable for completing the things you need to be successful.
One caveat here: choose your accountabillibuddies wisely.
To be honest, your spouse probably isn’t the best person to work with, mainly because of all the other undertones that just don’t make it a good idea.
Make sure you choose someone who cares for you but isn’t afraid to let you have it if you don’t hold up your end of the bargain.
And, make sure it’s someone whom you know well enough to understand they’re coming from a place of caring, not a place of unfair punishment.
I can tell you this has been crucial for me in both a business sense (shoutout to Emily Stonecipher) and when it comes to my training and nutrition, where there are too many people to shout out, including you readers keeping me accountable.
Here are a few hacks that I’ve realized aren’t that common, but make a huge difference in helping you stay consistent with ANYTHING.
Put It In Your Schedule
Most of your goals are probably what we call outcome goals. These are based on a specific outcome that, in all reality, isn’t fully within your control.
But, every outcome goal can be broken down into smaller chunks called process goals. These are the ones you can control and at least one of them should be something you can do every single day.
Take that process goal, let’s go with something like meditating for ten minutes, and put it in whatever scheduling system you go to for all your important stuff.
Schedule on your phone? Put it there.
Old school pen and paper? Get it in there.
Now, prioritize the activity as if it’s an important meeting or appointment and resist changing or canceling it unless you absolutely need to.
If you find you’re changing it more than once a week, then you’re not prioritizing properly and it’s either not important enough (go back and review your why) or you simply need to make time for it.
Attach it to an Engrained Habit
Is there something you already do every single day that you can attach this new habit to?
To bring back our meditation example, you may already spend an hour watching TV every night. It’s a habit, and for whatever reason, you make your way over to the couch after dinner like clockwork.
Why not have a seat and hit even 5 minutes of meditation before flipping on the tele? You’re already there and you don’t have to do anything different.
Another timely one is something I’ve used with a lot of clients who are parents of athletes.
If you’re already at the rink for practice, why not get a workout or at least a walk in? If you’re already at the field for a football game, why not go around the block a few times at halftime instead of chirping the refs with the other parents holding their Starbucks?
Think about it…
Think of One Action you can do RIGHT NOW
STOP reading for a second, and think of one easy thing you can do RIGHT NOW.
Can you do 10 bodyweight squats?
Can you make a smoothie if you’re a little peckish?
Can you meditate (i.e. close your eyes and just chill the eff out) for five minutes?
Start right now. Get a little excited about it and get yourself going on the right foot.
No matter what happens, never forget to put one foot in front of the other. Keep doing that until you get to where you need to go.
You have no idea the value of this until you get there and realize that it never took excitement or magic pills or any kind of special talent.
All it took was the consistency to keep taking one step forward.
If you liked this article, then you’ll probably like the webinar that Emily Stonecipher and I are hosting on Thursday, February 8th, 2018 at 7PM Central.
In it, we’ll expand on all the topics covered in this article, add a few more layers and answer any questions you have LIVE.
The webinar is completely FREE and you don’t have to stay for the whole time. You can pop in as you please, but understand that we’ll be dropping knowledge bombs all over the place and you won’t want to miss one.
Yours in consistency,
P.S. SERIOUSLY, DO IT.
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