Consistency is the most fundamental virtue of success.
If you can be consistent, you can create pretty much anything, because consistency turns an “if” into “when.” Once you know you’ll do something every day, it’s only a matter of time before you finish. Writing a novel, starting a business, losing 50 pounds, building a log cabin…if you can be consistent, they’re gonna happen.
If you can learn how to reprogram your subconscious mind, you can become more consistent than ever.
It starts with your habits. Organizing your habits is like organizing your desk — less clutter, more productivity. As my friend David Kadavy once wrote, “Once you make a habit, you don’t have to waste mental energy deciding what to do.” That’s why so many people get side-tracked and lose focus: They have too many things on their mind. Since they haven’t organized their habits, they’re constantly wasting energy mulling over choices that should’ve been automatic.
If you’re constantly asking questions like:
- “Should I go to the gym today?”
- “Should I write more of my novel today?”
- “Should I make some sales calls today?”
- “Should I wake up early tomorrow?”
…I guarantee you you’re not going to be consistent. If you ask yourself the wrong questions, you lose before you even start. If you give your subconscious mind hope that perhaps you won’t put in the work so you can still watch TV instead…you’re not going to do the work.
Fortunately, reprogramming your subconscious mind to help you be consistent isn’t complicated. It’s simple, really. It’s just a matter of organizing your life in such a way that doing the work becomes the easiest option.
If You Give Yourself the Right Rewards, You’ll Run Through Walls to Get Them
In his book The Four Hour Workweek, Tim Ferriss described how he was able to refocus his mind on his goals and consistently put in enormous effort: His reward system.
He realized that if he set the right rewards for himself, there was nothing he wouldn’t do.
For instance: He’d do almost anything for a week-long, all-expenses-paid beach vacation in Hawaii. But if his reward was a weekend in Cleveland, OH, he probably wouldn’t even bother changing his what type of cereal he had in the mornings to get that reward.
If you can set the right rewards for yourself, you’ll find that you’ll do almost anything. If I told you I’d give you a million dollars if you promised to wake up at 5:00am every day for a year, would you? Hell yeah! You’d probably spend a month’s worth of rent buying reliable alarm clocks!
But if I told you I’d buy you lunch, would you put in the same effort? Hell no. (Unless lunch was at the bank and “money” counted as food.)
Now, not all of us can dangle a million dollars in front of us to keep us motivated. But we can find incredibly motivating rewards that break us out of our standard routine.
For me, I started small: I told myself that if I wrote an article a day for a week, I could buy any six-pack of craft beer I wanted. (I like the good stuff, $20–30 range, and I usually wasn’t willing to splurge). It worked; the reward was the right fit for the effort.
I started building bigger rewards. I told myself I could buy any book I wanted. I could buy a jacket for $100. I could go to a fancy restaurant and order whatever I wanted…if I did the work.
Eventually, I found my most motivating reward ever: Travel. If you told me I could travel to Tokyo for a week, I’d do anything. I’d wake up at 3:00am every day for a month. I’d make as many tough sales calls as I needed. I’d do anything.
Once you find the right reward for you, you’ll develop subconscious consistency.
98% is Harder Than 100%
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.” -W.B. Murray
When you begin to read autobiographies, interviews, and memoirs of some of the world’s most successful people, you realize how committed they were.
- Phil Knight (founder of Nike) grew Nike from a small shoe store into a world-famous dynasty because he believed.
- Ray Allen (hall of fame level basketball player) was fully committed to his craft, practicing for thousands of hours over decades in sweaty, dusty gyms.
- Tina Fey had immense competition to get on Saturday Night Live. Her commitment to reaching that goal never wavered — she was committed.
- Steve Martin spent nearly 15 years of repetitive, constant practice before he became the top comedian in the world.
These, and countless other stories of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs, performers, and leaders, all share that theme — they were committed while others were merely “interested”. They didn’t quit when everyone else did.
Of course, commitment in itself is no guarantee to success. There are countless Olympians, singers, actors, writers, and entrepreneurs who are fully committed to their craft, yet haven’t achieved their goals yet.
Thats OK. Although commitment doesn’t guarantee success, a lack of commitment guarantees no success. You can’t be successful if you’re not committed to your craft first.
The truth is, committing 98% is actually harder than 100%.
Imagine an alcoholic who knows she needs to stop drinking. She vows to not drink the entire day. But she tells herself that, as a reward, she can drink for 5 minutes at the end of the day.
The entire day, that little treat — the cheat meal, the sugary coffee, a little porn, a little drugs , whatever your little “treat” is — hangs over your head. That’s all you can think about. In a twisted way, the source of the problem actually becomes the source of motivation.
Giving yourself this little out makes the process of quitting 100x harder.
98% is harder than 100%.
In the words of Tony Robbins:
“If you want lasting change, you have to give up this idea of just trying something, and you have to commit yourself to mastery. That means not just “dabbling,” but fully immersing yourself. Because your life is not controlled by what you do some of the time, but by what you do consistently.”
If you want to truly change any behavior, you need to let go of this idea of “98%” and commit to 100%.
You need to stop dabbling and actually commit. You need to be consistent. Otherwise, you’ll always be wasting energy trying to motivate yourself.
Most people dabble. They promise they’ll be good, but they leave themselves an out. This little safety net is a powerful message to their mind that says, “I probably can’t do this task.”
This message becomes incredibly powerful in your subconscious. Author David Schwartz described it like this: “Disbelief is negative power. When the mind disbelieves or doubts, the mind attracts reasons to support the disbelief.”
On the other hand, he says, “Belief, strong belief, triggers the mind to figure out ways and means how to.”
You are more powerful than you think. You don’t need hidden bottles and safety nets.
You’ll be OK. The process of evolving in a better version of yourself feels like you’re literally killing off parts of you.
The truth is, you are. But that’s OK — you’re killing off the old so the new can thrive.
“Success is measured by the size of your belief. Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success.” -David Schwartz
It takes a lot of reinforcement to build a habit, a mindset, or a belief.
It also takes a lot of reinforcement to unlearn these things.
You’re going to need to remember this as you start. You might wonder why you’re still failing, why nothing seems to be changing, why you feel just as stuck and hopeless as you’ve felt for so long.
Don’t worry. It’s likely taken years, even decades to build your current habits, mindset, and beliefs. As I’ve learned after 7+ years of therapy and counseling: change won’t happen overnight.
But change can happen quickly — if you commit to the following exercises. Changing fundamental parts of yourself is difficult, but not impossible. Many times, you’ll be surprised at how fast things are going.
The amount of improvement you see will depend on your commitment and how much you’re willing to work.
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