You’ve heard it before. You’ve read it before.
Tons of short, viral, generic articles or videos on how to stay consistent.
The problem is that from first glance, they look like they were churned out by a robot. Or you have no idea why you should trust this random person’s advice.
Who is this girl? Why is she giving me advice on consistency? Perhaps it is to get views and visitors with no regard to how helpful the advice is.
Is there any science backing up these directions or are they vaguely referenced “studies”? Are there any citations from very successful people supporting advice? Almost always, there isn’t.
I hope to be the opposite of that.
I have studied the world’s most successful people, including billionaires like Warren Buffett and top salespeople like Brian Tracy.
I have looked over scientific research on habit formation from books like The Power of Habit. I will cite studies.
And I have managed to effectively stay consistent at numerous things I struggled at for years. This includes a daily gym routine and a consistent blog and Youtube publishing schedule for years.
1. Realize It’s OK If You Screw Up
Have you ever heard a preposterous belief like this:
“If I can’t get to 100 push-ups, what’s the point of even starting?”
Or…. “I give up on working out! I caved and ate some chocolate cake.” (He gives up his whole routine for just one mistake…)
Don’t let a perfectionist attitude stop you from even getting started or moving in the right direction.
Understand that you don’t have to do something monstrous and commit to it instantly.
In fact, it’s very difficult to do.
As long as you’re moving in the right direction, pat yourself on the back.
For example, I used to commit to outrageous amounts of time at the gym when I was starting out and could barely bench press the bar.
Going from zero hours a week to 5 hours burned me out, especially since I had a personality that pushed me to spend extra time there. I ended up spending two or three times as much as I committed to.
This was all fine until it was time for me to return to the gym. My memories of spending so much time there overwhelmed me. I burned myself out and didn’t go for weeks.
When you’re starting from scratch. You’re not going to be perfect.
- It’s ok if you screw up on your diet every once in a while.
- It’s ok if you have a cheat meal.
- It’s ok if you miss a day of meditation or exercise.
- It’s ok if you forget to work on your craft today.
What’s important is that you are slowly getting better and moving in the right direction.
Reward yourself for spending 3 more minutes today on a task. Such a small thing is exciting because I know I will commit to it because it’s such a marginal increase.
If you’re getting just 1% better every week, over 10 to 30 years, your long-term results will blow your mind.
Once you become advanced at staying consistent, you can worry about the small details. But not yet.
2. Set Baby Steps
As hinted at in the previous section, you want to make small moves toward your target.
Rather than some obnoxious goal of going from zero hours to 15 hours a week of meditation, how about just 2 minutes when you wake up?
What’s amazing about this is that the commitment seems obnoxiously small. It’s so small that you might even scoff at it. You might think it’s not worth your time.
It’s like if I asked you to take one extra step today as your exercise.
But that’s the beauty of it. It pushes you to action rather than hold you back
You’ll be tempted to do more, but stop yourself.
You must set a healthy limit so you don’t burn out. For me, I exercised a maximum of 5 minutes a day at the gym. I did this for around 2 weeks. The next week, I went up to 10. Then I stayed at 10 for a month. Then, I moved up to 20.
You should understand what you can handle to maintain long-term consistency to map out your short-term schedule.
3. Be The Turtle, Not The Hare
Most people are programmed by modern society to do things fast.
They want to get rich fast.
They want to get fit fast.
They want everything fast.
The most successful people I’ve studied did it slow. And they were more than willing to be patient.
The problem with going fast is that you burn out your ability to be consistent. Any fitness expert, for instance, will tell you that it’s better to have a consistent exercise routine of 30 minutes a day rather than a sporadic routine of 4 intense hours every 1 to 3 weeks.
A couple years ago, I saw a man who looked like a Greek God at a pool.
He had a chiseled body, perfect face, brown hair, and six pack abs. He could have been a model. I really wanted to better myself so I eventually worked up the courage to ask for advice on how he got his body .
He told me two things:
- I’m a lot older than I look. I’m in my late 20’s and I’ve been exercising for over 15 years consistently.
- On a daily basis, my routine isn’t that strenuous. It’s about 30 minutes lifting weights and 20 minutes doing cardio, usually swimming. But I’ve done it consistently for years.
It’s not rocket science.
Fitness experts have told us this for years. It’s better to be patient with slow, consistent gains than sporadic, intense workouts for a week or a couple months.
Personal finance experts tell us the exact same thing with money. If you’ve read any book on the topic, it’s the same. I recommend I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi, Common Sense on Mutual Funds by Jack Bogle, The Millionaire Next Door or any book by Dave Ramsey.
Warren Buffett made 99% of his money after the age of 60.
You make more and more over time if you’re patient and slowly move forward.
As James Clear said, it’s about the average speed you drive, not the maximum speed. Especially since life is so long, it doesn’t matter if you can go 100 mph for 10 seconds when you have your whole life to drive.
What’s more important is how long you keep at something.
Think long term rather than short term.
4. Preserve Your Willpower
Studies have shown that we have a limited supply of willpower that we use up on a daily basis.
Any temptation or tough decisions drain this.
Experiments have shown that even something as small as resisting the smell of cookies can have an effect on your cognitive ability.
It’s important to understand this to successfully navigate your willpower.
Eliminate unnecessary obstacles. For example, have your clothes ready so you don’t have to grab them when you go to the gym.
This helps eliminate excuses.
Willpower has been shown to be a muscle that can be improved over time. There are studies on how you can increase your willpower you should look at.
If you want more information on strengthening your willpower, check out my video below:
5. Have Accountability
Have one or more people who will hold you accountable.
Get them to do what you commit to with you or check up on you on a weekly or daily basis to make sure you’re doing things. Having someone you respect or don’t want to let down do this adds more intensity to the commitment.
Another great way to hold yourself accountable is to use negative consequences to keep you committed.
Some people do this by giving away money to the point that it hurts. They commit to donating to an organization they despise if they don’t do something, like the KKK or Nazi party.
You can try something less extreme too, like telling your friend he gets $100 if you don’t push your comfort zone this week and talk to a stranger.
Some people use a small physical punishment. They will slap themselves with a rubber bracelet each time they fail to do something they commit to.
A group cash pool is another alternative. I learned this from Ramit Sethi. He had a bunch of his friends each contribute $100. If he lost over 25 pounds in a year, he got to keep all the money. If he didn’t he returned the money and paid them how much they contributed.
This acts as a positive and negative influence to keep things going.
6. Make a Conscious Decision
Make a conscious decision and put your goal somewhere public.
The point of this is to make sure you have consciously committed to it. In the book Mastery by Robert Greene, I found that Ben Franklin publicly announced his crazy goals before he started to be more accountable.
For more personal goals, it could be counter-productive to tell too many people. Unsuccessful people can discourage you by giving you bad advice or telling you to give up, even when you could succeed.
The point isn’t to necessarily showcase your goal to the world. It is to make sure you have decided to commit. Do this by writing it down in a journal.
7. Don’t Let The Future Overwhelm You
I was reading the well-known productivity book Getting Things Done by David Allen.
While there were things I disagree with in the book, there’s on point I must tell you.
David said that in his 15 years of working with clients he found that the smartest people procrastinated most. Why?
Because intelligent people tend to spend more time imagining the future. They let the results that they have to accomplish and the obstacles in front of them consume their mind. This leads to overwhelm and intimidation.
Dumb people are too stupid to even think of the future so they just move forward, unaware of the obstacles ahead.
I don’t know if this is actually true, but I do know that you can be intimidated of what’s to come. I know I have.
A journey of a thousand miles starts with one step. If you catch yourself thinking too much about the future, stop. Just focus on the next step forward.
Set crazy, big, outrageous goals. But don’t spend too long thinking about how to get there.
Rather than think about how you’re going to climb this huge mountain. Just focus on the next step. And then the next.
Rather than focus on how you’re going to build this huge business, focus on getting your first customer.
Rather than focusing on how you’re going to get completely jacked and becoming overwhelmed, focus on adding just one more minute to your daily gym routine.
Rather than getting overwhelmed with how you’re going to meet the perfect spouse who is a great parent, successful, kind, honest, and loyal…
focus on meeting one more person a week at an event with successful people.
8. Pace Based On A Sustainable 90-day Period
People have come up with a false belief that it takes 21 days or 30 days or 67 days to form a habit based on rumors and hearsay.
In reality, a University College London study showed that on average, it takes 66 days to form a habit.
The keyword is “on average.” There was considerable variation. Some people took 20 days, but they add an easier habit of eating a piece of fruit.
Others had a difficult time getting into an exercise routine, even after 254 days.
This is the study that everyone based their theory of habit formation length on! It’s not even the best study since it covered a small sample size of 96 participants.
You shouldn’t be extrapolating too much about all types of habits from this one study.
In fact, the study inferred that harder habits take longer to form – up to 254 days.
I’d like to err on the side of caution and put myself as the person who takes longer than average to form a habit.
That’s why I set my pace for 90 days as a general rule of thumb. You can make it longer if it’s an exceptionally tough habit.
When you set a consistent pace for doing something, ask if you can keep it up for at least 90 days. If not, lower the pace.
It can be easy to get burned out by setting too strenuous a pace initially.
I can exercise every day for 5 minutes for 90 days. But definitely not 30 minutes a day.
Once it becomes a habit, it will feel weird not to do. Also, you’ll build momentum to keep going and doing more.
According to the book The Power of Habit, an examination of people who changed their lives by forming great habits, found that exercise is a keystone habit that paves the way for other habits to form.
Therefore, consider using exercise as one of the first habits to get consistent at. There are tons of studies that show how consistent cardio lifts your mood, makes you happier, makes you more productive, increases your focus, makes you more confident, makes you more attractive, releases endorphins, and gives you more energy.
10. Make It A Morning Routine
I’ve studied hundreds of millionaires and quite a few billionaires. A good amount of them all seem to have a morning ritual.
There is a certain magic to doing the most important thing at the beginning of your day and prepping for a great day.
Some of them meditate. Others exercise immediately. Others eat a great breakfast. Others do all three.
If you’re trying to get consistent at something, try doing it in the morning.
Note: this won’t work for everyone. I realize that some people just have different environments that work best for them. See what time period works best for you, but don’t rule something out before you’ve tried it at least twice.
11. Have Subconscious Reminders
Napoleon Hill studied 500 of the wealthiest people in the world in person for over 25 years.
He’s written best-selling books that have made more people rich than anyone else.
One thing he constantly advocates is to use subconscious programming to remind you to stay on track.
Write down your goals on paper with emotion and in the present tense as if you’ve already accomplished them. Make sure you do it with emotion as nothing great was ever accomplished without emotion. Make the goals very specific, with a definite deadline.
Say it out loud and feel like you’ve already accomplished it. This will help program your mind to stay on track, move towards your goal, be more aware of opportunities that might help you, and keep you away from distractions.
I also do small hacks like make the screensaver of my phone a vision board, picture, or single word to remind me to stay on track.
I’ve found that successful people, like Richard Branson or Eminem, stick to writing things on paper and/or speaking them out loud. Avoid typing your goals on a computer or phone. Use paper.
Brian Tracy is a multi-millionaire businessman who went from no high school education and sweeping floors to making millions. He credits Napoleon’s subconscious programming for a lot of his success. He would drive to expensive houses before he could afford it and pretended like he owned a house.
12. Do It Now!
Brian Tracy’s #1 trick for getting rid of procrastination is to boldly say with emotion out loud, “Do it now!”
The danger of dropping the ball on a consistent routine is to defer it to 2 minutes or 1 hour or 1 week into the future.
Say out loud numerous times to do it now, and you will get it done before you even realize it.
If you can’t say it out loud because of your environment, say it in your head. Maybe even push yourself to say it out loud in a somewhat inappropriate setting to encourage you to do it. You might realize it’s not as inappropriate as you think.
If you’re busy, do it now.
If you’re unmotivated, do it now.
If you’re unsure, do it now.
If you’re “not feeling it”, do it now.
13. Plan Ahead
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
If you have a plan for what exercises you will do at a gym, what you will eat, and how long you will spend there, you’re ready to go. You won’t waste unnecessary time wondering what to do or whether something is actually effective.
It also helps eliminate obstacles or barriers that will drain your willpower or give you excuses to defer the task and do it later.
14. Don’t Multi-task. Focus on One Thing. Be in the Present.
Studies have shown that multi-tasking actually decreases performance. That’s because our brains don’t actually multi-task. We can only focus on one activity at a time and flit between them at ultra-rapid speed.
To prove this, try thinking of the memory of your last fight with a relative and your birthday at the same time. It’s hard.
In fact, the people who have grown up doing it and do it often performed the worst on tasks.
Do things one thing at a time. Focus on the task.
Warren Buffett and Bill Gates were both asked what the #1 thing was that lead them to their success. Both said it was focus. And I believe them.
I read in his son’s book, Life is What You Make It, that Warren would look himself in a room for hours and focus on his readings with the intensity of a Catholic Priest or Tibetan monk.
I’ve also studied many millionaires who emphasize the importance of being in the present. In fact, many musicians, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers, have said this as well.
When you’re doing a task, don’t think about the distant future or past. It’s a distraction. Focus on the moment at hand.
Michael Jordan wasn’t thinking about a future game when he was playing the game. He was in the moment.
Russell Simmons is a hip-hop mogul worth millions. He stumbled across meditation and it ended up changing his life. He quit drugs. His business exploded. He has constantly emphasized how being in the present moment can increase your success in almost any endeavor.
I recommend reading Russell’s books Super Rich and Success Through Stillness for further advice and lessons on his journey.
As I mentioned, your willpower is limited on a daily basis. It’s not recommended to try and do two strenuous things at once because you’re spreading that willpower too thin.
For example, you shouldn’t try to quit smoking and quit fast food at the same time.
If you want more information on the science of willpower, check out my video below:
15. Have A Strong “Why”
Have you ever read the book Start with Why?
The point of the book is that successful people have a strong reason they’re doing things beyond just making more money. It pushes them to persevere when everyone else gives up.
Two strong Why’s are:
- Deep passion
- A life-long dream you’ve always wanted.
Steve Harvey went from a homeless college drop-out to a multi-millionaire comedian. Then, he found out he owed several million in taxes his accountant didn’t pay. He got through that.
In his book Act Like A Success, Think Like A Success, he mentions how your dream must be bigger than your fear.
To overcome your fear and anxiety, your dream has to be bigger. Steve wasn’t fearless. He was petrified. He was scared when he had to interview Obama. He was scared when he went on Oprah. He was scared to bomb every comedy routine he went to.
He did it anyway because his dreams and ambitions were bigger. He wanted it so bad that he pushed through the fear.
Find a dream or interest that will push you through.
Steve Jobs has said that most of his competitors quit because they were sane and didn’t love it enough. He kept going because he loved it so much. He persevered through the dip and succeeded.
16. Ignore the Animal Brain
All of us have animal brain thoughts. These are genetic pre-historic thoughts that have been wired into our brain.
In the past, this was great for us because life was different. But not anymore.
It was good to eat sugar because it was rare to find and helped you survive. Now, sugar is in abundance and will make you sluggish and fat.
It was good to think short-term because we died much earlier. Now, medical advances have allowed us to live much longer.
All of us have animal brain thoughts we should avoid. Successful people acknowledge them and dismiss them. They continue doing what they should.
Here’s what you should avoid:
- Short-term thinking that sabotages long-term success, like eating junk food, doing unproductive things, and sacrificing long-term profits for short-term “vanity metrics.”
- The feeling to be lazy and don’t do anything.
- The feeling to stuff your face with sweets and fast food.
- The feeling to spend all your money.
- The feeling to skip your work-out or doing things you should do.
17. Make It Fun
I had been very successful at staying consistent at things I didn’t want to do for years in school. I set up a routine. I got ahead.
But when I started taking very advanced courses, things changed. I didn’t like reading 50 to 100 pages of dense material a night on a boring subject like Biochemistry. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get through the material.
It was only then that I learned that some things, you just can’t brute force it.
No amount of tactics on earth will help you if you hate a subject. It took me months of banging my head against the wall and wondering why before I figured it out.
Find a topic that you LOVE. That you can’t help but talk about. It will make things ten times easier.
If if it’s something you have to do that you don’t enjoy, try to make it fun somehow. There’s a concept called gamification, which pretty much means making a boring task into a fun game so you can get through it easier.
An example would be seeing how many emails you can get through in 20 minutes and trying to keep beating your high score. Or turning a tedious task into something that is in sync with music you listen to.
Turn your task into a fun video game!
As you can tell, effectively staying consistent at something you don’t want to is a huge measure of your potential for success.
The great news is that you can get better at this.
These techniques will serve as your secret weapon. Most people don’t have a clue on how to even get started.
Important: please share your thoughts and ideas directly in the comments.
Thank you so very much for watching, commenting and sharing. You make Thursday’s one of my favorite days of the week.
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