We look at the 7 simple habits of consistency
Understand your barriers
Have you previously struggled to stick to an exercise programme? Dig about and find out why. When we do a little groundwork, consistent habits are more likely to endure. A good start is identifying any limiting beliefs. Do you think you’re “not the kind of person who likes exercise”? Are you convinced that you come from “an overweight family”? Uncover the precise barriers preventing you from taking positive steps: perhaps it’s going out in the dark for a run, or stepping into the weights area at a gym.
Try this: make consistency easier for yourself. If you don’t like the gym, use outdoor exercise to get fit. If you find cooking a challenge, invest in one simple cookbook or subscribe to an appealing recipe blog. There’s no right way to start being more consistent.
Make use of simple triggers
Consistency and habit are intertwined, and it’s no surprise that regular rituals play a large part in successful consistency. Perhaps your goal is to eat a healthy breakfast every day, to prepare your lunch the previous evening, or to get up and exercise before work. Use a trigger to help develop consistency. Make it something very simple, so eventually it becomes second-nature.
Try this: organise your workout bag, including water, snack, shoes and kit, every evening before you go to bed, and hang it at the end of your bed or at the bottom of the stairs. Or remind yourself that, every time you clear the kitchen after dinner, it’s time to quickly prepare a simple lunch for tomorrow.
Make changes so simple you can’t say no to them
The best goal is the one you achieve. So make each step-change so small that you can’t say “no”. The sense of accomplishment you feel from seeing it through every day or every session will build your confidence. Make it so simple that it would be ridiculous to say no to it, no matter how stressful the day gets.
Try this: rather than committing to an hourly session at the gym, promise yourself that you’ll exercise for 2 minutes.
Remove the pressure
No matter how successful you have been in other areas of life, be prepared to cut yourself some slack, because the best positive habits are for life. We’re after long-term success here, not quick fixes, rapid weight loss, or fad diets. It doesn’t matter if your new healthy habits take a little longer to bed in. Promise yourself that you’ll withhold judgement (of yourself) until 28 days have passed. Think of this as an interesting experiment into human patterns of behaviour. The outcome isn’t known yet – that’s what you’re about to discover! The pressure is off.
Try this: if you find negative thoughts creeping in, use the word “but” to break the flow. For example, if you start to tell yourself “I’m just no good at getting up early to exercise…” try adding on “…but it will get easier and soon it’ll be second-nature.”
Develop daily habits
Small, simple habits done daily are far more useful than grander habits which are achieved less often. They’re also more likely to make lasting neural changes within your brain, leading to success in other areas of life.
Try this: make small but meaningful changes which are part of every day life, for example drinking a glass of water upon waking, going for a walk at lunchtime, taking 10 minutes every night before bed to meditate.
Use visual reminders
Many people thrive off visual reminders of their goals and habits. Highly visible cues, like tick-sheets, calendars and countdown charts, can be very helpful when developing consistent new habits. Seeing a series of ticks on a wall chart serves as a reminder that you’ve been consistent, and helps you see how far you’ve come (rather than dwelling on how far you have to go).
Try this: set up a wall chart, or dedicate a page in your personal planner, to a 4-week period. Agree a personal set of parameters which warrant a daily “tick”, and enjoy seeing the calendar fill up with marks of your daily successes.
Be realistic (what to do when you fall short)
We might be Personal Trainers, but we’re also realists. Nobody is 100% consistent, year round, day after day. It’s very possible that you’ll fall short of your fitness, health and wellness goals. And that’s not failure, it’s just being human. The important thing here is how you react when it happens, and how quickly you’re able to get back on the wagon. So, when you make a plan to succeed, also make a plan for the times when you don’t. How will you get back on track?
Try this: remember that failing once doesn’t mean the entire plan is ruined. Tomorrow is another day. Have a schedule which is simple and comforting, and fall back on it when life gets complicated. It could be a meal plan, an exercise routine, or a set of personal habits which help you minimise stress and get better quality sleep. If you have a Personal Trainer, use them as a support system.