Consistency is the secret to changing habits (Habit Series 6/7)
The best way for your habit change to take root is to be consistent with your behaviors. Even when you cannot see the benefits, big dividends will be eventually paid when you put a system in place to follow.
When you make the slightest adjustments to your daily routine, it can alter your life. Let’s say you want to exercise more, and you start with 10 minutes a day, it does not sound like a lot, but it adds up. Jerry Seinfeld, one of the most successful comedians of all time, brought a level of consistency to his daily work that most of us would envy. He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes, and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. He used a wall calendar that had a whole year on one page hung in a prominent spot. For each day he writes, he puts a big red X over the day. After a few days, he would have a chain that would keep growing, the goal is not to break the chain. This method of daily tracking is hugely beneficial for many, but it doesn’t work for all because if you find yourself staring at blank spots that you missed, you can begin to feel bad about your inability to follow a plan and start to get demoralized and give up. Decide if tracking works for you.
Consistency is a competitive advantage. None of us get where we want to overnight, it is a disciplined process, over time of small intentional steps. Jim Rohn says, “what simple to do is also simple not to do.” Successful people are willing to do what others are not. They schedule time in their calendar every day for their habits. Practice allows you to rewire your brain and create new mental maps on how to think and behave. As Tony Robbins says, “Knowledge is not power… it’s potential power. Execution will trump knowledge any day.” It is like a light switch, we have to turn it on to enjoy the effects.
Here are two tips to help with consistency:
1. Control your mornings and evenings. An excellent way to have more control over your day is to have a non-negotiable morning and evening routine so your most important habits are done at the beginning or end of the day, depending on the time that matches your best energy. A million things can spring up during the day that you may have to react to, but designing the beginning or the end of your day will allow for that protected habit time and fewer if any interruptions.
2. Log your progress. The most effective form of motivation for habit change is progress. Each small win feeds your desire, and even if the results take longer to see, you can visualize the work you put in. At age 20, Ben Franklin carried a small booklet and used it to track 13 personal virtues and goals such as avoiding wasting time and trifling conversation and would open his book and record his progress. Following the habit creates a satisfying feeling and a desire to repeat the behavior. Research shows that those who kept a daily food log were twice as likely to lose weight. It keeps us honest because sometimes we have a distorted view of what we do until we see the paper that puts things into a more realistic light. The key is to focus on the process and the progress of whom you are becoming as you move toward your destination. Measurement is useful when it guides you and adds context to a larger picture, not when it consumes you and stresses you out.
Progress leads to momentum, one of the most influential and enigmatic forces of success. Newton’s first law states that objects at rest tend to stay at rest unless impacted by an outside force and objects in motion stay in motion unless something stops the momentum. It’s why couch potatoes can feel like they are in a rut for a while and why the rich get richer, and the happy people get happier.
These steps will lead to the compound effect. When you are consistent, control your time, and log your progress, you ignite the miracle of the compound effect. In the book by the same title, Darren Hardy defines the compound effect as “Changes that seem small and unimportant at first, but will compound into remarkable results if you are willing to stick with them for years.”
Even when you do not see the changes, the benefits are delayed. James Clear offers a striking ice cube metaphor. He says, “Imagine an ice cube as a room heats up in 1-degree increments. 26… 27…28… to 31 and still nothing has happened. Then at 32, the ice begins to melt. A 1-degree shift, seemingly no different from the previous ones, but this one unlocked a huge shift.” The hard work you do is never being wasted, just stored. It’s natural to get frustrated with running for a month and not seeing results, but like all things, you need to give it time and the amount of time can vary from one person to the next.
Habits can compound for or against you. When you are consistently doing your disciplines and tracking your progress, you will be on a growth path, even if it is not noticeable at first, it will yield massive long-term results. If you choose the status quo or feed negative behaviors, you will accrue a deficit. It’s a multiplying effect in whichever direction — and, you get to choose.
Quotes of the day: “ I will win, not immediately but definitely.” -Anonymous
“The secret to success is found in your daily routine.” -Author John Maxwell
Q: How do you support your best habits? How do you log your progress? Comment and share below, we would love to hear from you!
[The next blog 7/7 will focus on maintaining systems for habit change]
As a leadership development and executive coach, I work with people to cultivate habits that serve them, contact me to explore this topic further.