How to Finally Become More Consistent With Your Habits
Start creating systems for your habits and use them until you do them without thinking.
If it wasn’t for a pandemic sweeping the nation, the end of this month would mark the 12th month I’ve been going to the gym three days per week consistently.
It’s been a massive feat for myself as up to this point it’s been difficult for me to consistently do anything with regards to my health for this long of a time. The previous time I rearranged my life habits to improve my health stemmed from a health challenge I took a few years ago. The challenge spanned six weeks.
Between these two experiences, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to build consistent habits in any area of life. All that you need to do is build a solid system of habits. Here is how to do that.
Create The Habit That You Want
The first step is an obvious one, however there is a lot that’s going on within this first step that people miss out on. For example, when we think of achieving a simple goal — like say working out more often — it often entails a series of habits that we don’t consider at all.
Most people think “Oh I only need to get to the gym and workout and I’m good.”
But it entails so much more and it’s often difficult for us to even do that. Case and point, my roommate has been wanting to workout for a while now and he has been sitting on that decision for months now.
Pandemic or not, it’s not really an excuse especially in the town we live in.
You see, in our minds we think of habits as these difficult things to create. It’s so hard to create a habit and do it consistently right?
The reality is that it isn’t. We create habits every single day and many of them we don’t even realize.
This leads me to believe that the only problem that we have stems from our own mindset. Despite our desire to achieve particular goals, we’d rather self sabotage in various ways rather than create a habit naturally.
To get past that barrier is to be viewing our own habits and how they are created in a different way. This isn’t to say that we pick up every habit, but rather find meaning and attachment to those kinds of habits. The rest of the system I’ll be sharing with you will help with this area.
Set Several Goals Around That Habit
The easiest way to be invested in something is to be giving reasons that encourage the activity. The first thing that comes to mind is goals. Even if you don’t call them goals exactly (some call them dreams, aspirations, visions), we all have these things that we strive for for the future.
But having well intentioned goals isn’t enough for us to go out and create new habits and achieve success. There’s a reason that 64% of resolutions fail within the first four weeks of the year.
It’s essential that you have three key things:
- Contributive goals. These are goals that focus on multiple areas of your life.
- Challenging goals that require you to create more habits in order to achieve the goal in the first place.
- Ensure the goals are things you’re invested in doing by having “why” reasons to do them.
In my experience, these three things make setting goals and achieving them much easier for various reasons.
But above all, the more that a goal becomes a part of you, the more it becomes a part of your life and routine.
Some other prime examples are brushing your teeth or making your bed or having a specific ritual for getting ready in the morning. They’re all part of a system, a series of habits, that you do without thinking about them. You don’t question whether it’s the most optimal or whether it’s worth it. You do it and don’t think much about it.
Getting to that point is tricky when you’re more conscious about your actions since you’re actively paying attention to them. But having goals that function in this particular fashion make it harder for you to slip out of them and give up.
- If you have contributive goals that are helping you in multiple areas of your life, dropping a goal will not only hurt you in that area of your life but in others as well.
- If the goal isn’t challenging enough then you’ll grow numb to the goal and find it boring to achieve. The chances of you setting a goal further in that area diminishes unless you recognize that the goal was too easy and you need to make it harder. Being able to push yourself is essential despite our apprehension towards failure, loss, and pain.
- By clearly defining a reason to pursue something, you are immediately defining yourself. By quitting, you’re implying to yourself that who you think you are isn’t who you think you are. In those cases, it’s worth taking reflection and making shifts in your goals in life and where you want to go in life.
You’re creating yourself greater consequences to yourself for giving up.
By doing this properly, there comes a point where not doing something could cause you emotional pain. Especially if you come up with excuses.
I skipped a workout that I was supposed to do last week due to the fact I stubbed my toe. It’s pretty painful, but I took it as a sign to not workout that day.
When I told my trainer that, I felt a deep sense of regret — especially since that day I was going to be focusing on upper body strength. Even though it was a day I was meant to come in on my own time, it still felt bad to skip out on it.
Having that kind of emotional pain as a consequence can be beneficial in ensuring that you keep up with a specific habit that you know you want to have in your life.
Keeping Yourself Motivated Long-Term
But despite having goals that are designed to be that way, people can still drop them. It’s usually the early stages or after you’ve achieved some level of success where things can start to dwindle.
You’ve achieved something or you’ve made progress and people ask themselves that key question:
“So, what’s next?”
It’s an important question to ask, but it can also be a trap if you’re not careful. Many people rise and soon fall because they’re often stuck on that question and can’t determine what is the next course of action. People soon reach a plateau and decide to walk on it for the longest of times.
Such was the case with my business as I was figuring out where I wanted to take it and how to go about it. My plateau started around the time the pandemic hit Canada and we were put into isolation.
During those moments of plateau though, it’s easy to forget about all of the things that you did to build yourself up to that point. It’s the reason people often times fall once they reach a peak.
But even though I haven’t reached my own health goals at the moment, I find working out to be the ideal fit to be learning this lesson.
Because once you plateau, the idea is that you still keep working out. You still try to make some adjustments and experiment.
My entire weight loss journey has been about gradual progress before plateauing. I dropped a little bit of weight only to keep at that same weight for a few weeks before it dropped by a bit again.
So how was I able to do something like that?
It’s not so much a matter of perseverance or persistence, but rather of purpose. Habits are all designed to be building up a system and it’s up to you to determine the purpose of that system that you’re building for yourself.
If you’re stalling in some fashion, you use it as an opportunity to reflect but also to remind yourself of the achievements you’ve made and the success you’ve experienced thus far. Remind yourself of the joy and other emotions you experienced along the way.
The idea of building up habits is that they’re not some chore. As soon as you start thinking of them as just another thing you want to achieve on your road to success it doesn’t have as much impact.
When you think about them as habits that you want to be using for the rest of your life and have a deep love for them, you’ll find yourself building up a system that you’ll continue to habitually use and consider as part of your life.
You’ll look back at your past self and think:
“Why didn’t I start doing this before?”
Creating Triggers That Put You Through The System
The final step to building this system is triggers. Every habit that we have all begins from a set of triggers. This is how our brain processes things and how habits are formed. It’s all through a neuron pathway that we create.
The more frequent the habit is, the more powerful that pathway is in our heads.
But in order to strengthen that pathway, one way that I find it easier to do is to create triggers and identify them. Since we create habits naturally, we also create the triggers associated to them without thinking.
Well now we’ve got to be thinking about them and setting them up intentionally for ourselves.
For example, this week marks the first week that I’m working out five times per week. I’ve reached a point in my strength that I’m able to recover quickly the next day and to take the weekend off. It also helps a lot that each workout I’m doing is alternating between upper body and legs.
The reason I’m able to do this is that I use the time as a trigger. Because my workouts are set at a certain time every day, I know that in order to make it on time, I’ve got to leave at a certain time.
So by taking stock of the time, I know when I should be getting into that routine.
This same principle applies to days where I’m not training with my personal trainer. I have booked an appointment through the gym’s app. And even though they don’t really use it that much, it’s still a way for me to get myself back into that loop.
This will become crucial for me after I’m done with my personal trainer and I’m going to the gym on my own time.
Building This System Is A Challenge
Despite how easy all of this sounds, it requires a tremendous amount of effort to pull it off. I used to be a daily writer of my own content and now I find it difficult to find articles to be writing about. I’m implementing this system in other areas of my life — writing included — but I’m still aware of the snags that can happen along the way.
You don’t want to be underestimating this. Take your time with it and gradually build yourself up. I didn’t get to going to the gym five times a week out of nowhere.
- I started with a desire to improve my health and signed up to the gym.
- I vowed to myself to show up three times a week.
- I pushed myself to workout hard, get stronger, and find multiple reasons to keep going to the gym.
- And kept myself motivated and inspired during the long periods of time where things weren’t changing. I saw those as opportunities to challenge myself further to break the stagnation.
- And I kept an eye on the triggers that got me to go to the gym in the first place and took advantage of them.
If someone like me can do that, I believe you can do the same thing with any habit that you want to have in your life.