20: Three Powerful Ways to increase ConsistencyJul 03, 2023
Everybody understands that being more consistent with the actions that support your goals, will lead to great results. But staying consistent can seem an impossible task when you’re struggling to break free from the shackles of unrealistic expectations and perfectionism.
Today, I’m exploring three powerful strategies to help you increase consistency to achieve your health goals. We look at the importance of taking small steps, banishing perfectionism, and simplifying your journey.
Consistency is officially defined as:
“Acting or done in the same way over time, especially so as to be fair or accurate”.
What you don't see in this definition is the word “perfection”.
When people think of consistency, we always hear people talk about doing things perfectly “seven days a week”, whether it’s being active or meal planning. This creates a super unrealistic expectation with consistency.
In reality, there's some type of logic that's going into it and it's not a hundred percent based on emotion. There's a system that's built out where you do it no matter what. The best example I can give here is going to work. Most people, even though they might not be super excited to go to their job, still get up every morning and go. That's consistency.
But when it comes to ourselves, somehow we just throw ourselves in the dumpster and don't take care of ourselves.
To increase consistency for ourselves and our health goals, there are three important steps we can take.
Take small steps.
This is the same as the 1% upgrade that James Clear talks about in Atomic Habits. Whatever your goal is, whether it's to drink more water or to eat less processed food, you really need to break it down to about a 10th of the goal of what you think. As you do that, you’ll need to overcome the human gut reaction to think that everything's broken and you need a radical transformation (which ultimately won’t last).
Taking small steps means you’re more likely to stick with it. The small things end up as big things that you can actually implement and stick around with. So I would recommend that you always start with just small 1% upgrades.
You have to be willing to “fail” and just come right back and see what else will work.
Kara Loewentheil did a wonderful episode on the Unf*k Your Brain Podcast called Perfectionistic Fantasies + Tomorrow Thinking. My interpretation of this episode is that you keep building up these really idealistic images of what it's going to be like, without actually doing it. You're not actually crossing it off your list. For example, when we say that all our meals are going to be planned and everything perfectly prepped, this really big vision of what's going to happen is a “perfectionistic fantasy”.
Consistency is not perfection but being willing to come back to it. You're willing to keep seeing what can work. For example, if you have worked on the belief of not overeating for fun, it might still happen every so often. You might go past enough sometimes and not be perfect with every single food. But you can still be consistent in someone that doesn't overeat, even if you blow past it once or twice. Perfection is not synonymous with consistency. You can still embody the identity without being perfect at it.
It doesn't matter if there's a day or two, or even a week or two where everything doesn't happen perfectly. This is why it's helpful to redefine what consistency can look like for you if you're not being perfect.
Be willing to keep making it easier and easier and easier on yourself.
A lot of what we do is dictated by this motivational triad to seek pleasure, avoid pain, and conserve energy. The majority of our life is run by this, and the trouble is that if you're not making it easy, you're not going to stick around with these things for life.
Ask yourself what you are willing and able to do and remember that you do not benefit from “hard”. You rarely go down the hard road and think “yeah, that was really amazing”!
Being consistent with my movement became important to me after having children, and making it as easy as possible means I am more likely to do it.
I have not put qualifications on what it looks like. So for me, if it's raining here and I can't get outside, I just walk around the bottom of our house, and do a little loop as I talk to my friends. I have found workout videos online and find ways to stay active with some free weights that I have.
The reality is I'm getting movement in with what I have, no matter what the size of the room, the location, or however it’s looking. I'm going to be active because I'm making it easy. I don't need to get in the car and go to a gym where it takes me a half an hour to get there and back.
Think of every action as a vote for who you want to become. No matter how long you've not been doing what you think is supportive, ask yourself what will you do today? What is the 1% upgrade? Can imperfect still work?
You don't need to sign up anymore for the version where it's insanity and never ends up lasting. You do not maintain consistency doing that, and you just don't need to take that route.
To help you practically implement these things, take a look at my free handout on how to increase consistency here.