The Key to Consistency

Tarletta Williams, Marketing Strategist

Not another post about SMART Goals.

Ever wonder why it’s so hard to commit to change?

In the  beginning, you’re sure-fire confident. You grab your pen, your paper, and a calendar and you decide that this time, it’s going to be different. This time, you’re not gonna back down. You’re gonna stick it through and it’s totally gonna work. And then something happens. You look back three months later and see that it didn’t quite go down that way?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone. According to Discover Happy Habits, more than 90% of people that set resolutions aren’t sticking to them. 

In today’s fast paced world of change and distraction, many people find it difficult to find lasting success in making habit changes. So, in this article, I’m going to break down three common pitfalls and solutions to help you keep faith alive.

1. Set Yourself Up for the Win!

Your ability to stay motivated is a big indicator of whether or not you’ll be able to see your goal through. It’s about finding your motivation. (No, I’m not going to go into a long speech about understanding your why.) I’m talking about self motivation, the kind that happens in your brain.

We are all made up of these natural instincts, fight, flight, or freeze. By now, you have a pretty clear idea of what your brain would tell you to do if you were faced with fighting an armed robber or grabbing that last size small off the rack. But did you know that the same battle happens when it’s time to decide whether or not you want to exercise in the morning? Seriously.

Your brain is designed to tell you to do things that you know you’re good at. If you’re not a seasoned runner, it’s probably not gonna like the idea of jumping into 5 miles/day. 

To help your brain cope with the change, you have to train your brain to believe that you can do this, and yes, it takes a little bit more than putting your hands on you hips and saying it to yourself in the mirror. 

The answer: Start small. I mean miniscule.

Your decision making process is fueled by connections in your brain. Every time you face something new, a new connection is created. And every time you repeat that same action or process, that pathway strengthens. The strength of these pathways is typically the way that your brain comes to conclusions – usually based on the path of least resistance and the most success.

Take a look at a goal that you’ve set for yourself. How you can break it down into smaller pieces? If your goal is to run five miles per day, can you start with one? If you want to exercise for 30 minutes a day, can you start with five?

Your brain will more readily accept the job well done of running one mile than the daunting defeat that you haven’t aced all five just yet. Your body will too.

By breaking down your bigger goal into small changes, your brain begins to believe that change isn’t so hard, or scary. Your body will thank you, too.

We all like feeling like we’re crushing it, and your brain relies on consistent positive feedback and growth.

 

2. Check Your Mindset

Do you ever find that you absolutely hate yourself for trying to make yourself better? Don’t worry, yet again, you’re not alone. By the time I hit day 10 of a relentless five am alarm, I’ve had the same thought more than a few times.

So here’s the problem. Much like your brain doesn’t like being reminded that it hasn’t learned to do something, it doesn’t like spreading the news to your body either.

If you’re constantly thinking to yourself: why am I doing this to myself, this totally sucks, and what’s the point anyway, your brain will revert to the path of least resistance and you’ll fall off the wagon, fast.

 

 

The solution: Positive redirection.

When you think about your goals, how do you feel about them? How do you answer the questions I mentioned in the last paragraph? Ever thought about why you feel that way in the moment, but not when you set the goal in the first place?

No, this isn’t where I tell you to write down a bunch of affirmations about why this thing you’re doing is so awesome. 

The key to positive redirection is learning to find the good side of the change you’re making. I’ll tell you now, it totally comes easier to some than it does to others.

Try to find a positive impact the change will make in your life, and don’t lie to yourself in the process. Make it personal.

Here’s a quick personal example: waking up at 5 am. My alarm inevitably goes off and my brain starts thinking…

Option A: If I get up now, I’ll just be cranky and not do anything. I can just wait and lay here. I don’t feel like exercising anyway.

Option B: If I get up now, I can get my exercise out of the way and not be so cranky when my kids get up. And I get a little bit of me time.

Pick a goal, your turn.

3. Prepare Yourself

Ok, so you’ve found a starting point for your goal and you’ve found a reason to keep hope alive, now for the ‘you’ part.

Before you head off to buy some new workout gear or sign up for that new meal plan, this has absolutely nothing to do with that. This is more about your environment than your closet. 

When your brain has to push out the extra effort to make change, it doesn’t like it. Again, the path of least resistance usually wins out, and willpower has its limits.

Your brain doesn’t just consider the amount of work to do something. It relies on the number of connections and decisions that are required to finish it.

Have you ever decided that you’re going to go to the gym three mornings every week, but you never quite seem to make it? Or on Monday, you decide that you absolutely have to try this new restaurant this weekend, you’re excited all week, and then you find yourself on your couch all day?

That’s because your brain has spent all it’s energy trying to decide what you’re going to wear, what machines you want to use, what traffic is going to be like, or if you’re like me, all the other stuff I’ve gotta get done before the day ends.

Your brain works on convenience. That’s why habits are so powerful.

The solution: Optimize your environment.

Have heard of people that want to lose weight making sure they don’t buy cheat snacks when they get their groceries? Or those who set alarms and then put their phone across the room?

Yes, it’s time to be like them.

It’s not about giving yourself as out so much as it making sure your brain knows you have a way in. If you want to exercise in the mornings more, decide what to wear before you go to bed. If you want to watch less TV, take the batteries out of your remote and put them in a different room. Trying to read more, put books you actually want to read where the remote it (the one with the missing batteries.)

Your brain doesn’t compute the amount of joy, amusement, or benefit you’ll get from whatever activity you’ll start doing. It’s only focused on what’s convenient, so make positive changes just as simple.

So that’s it!

If you try any of the things mentioned, or can totally relate, leave a comment. I’m interested to know. And if you can’t tell by this article, I’m totally human. Chat soon!

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