Let’s experiment with consistency
Have you ever wondered what would have happened if you didn’t give up on that one thing?
If you didn’t let an event or the hectic schedule of life strip you of your determination? Oftentimes we let our current circumstances dictate where our attention lands.
The needs of those around us — I’m talking to you kids and spouses! — end up taking priority. Whatever goal we felt we could have accomplished with a little time and attention is quickly whisked away into a pretty little storage box, to be attended to… someday.
I have a few things I could ruminate over, some big, some small. What if I spent 30 minutes a day reading something I enjoyed that was just for fun? What if I took three minutes a day and did 10 push-ups? What if I posted every day to my blog that I began in 2010?
Or what about learning Italian? What if I stuck with it instead of my intermittent Duolingo dabbling? I’d surely be able to carry on a conversation at this point, right?
I think it’s safe to say that if I stuck with at least one of these things, I’d be much closer to the version of myself that I envision. (Sigh.)
Instead, I’m still thinking about those things while life continues to get in the way. (Better yet, I allow it to get in the way.)
The kids need me, my family needs to be fed, I have to wash our clothes and clean the kitchen. I don’t have the time to do it all and run a successful business.
It’s Not Them, It’s Me
The real reason behind it all is I’m not holding myself to a higher standard. I’m limiting my abilities instead of experimenting with them.
I see this in many of the clients I’ve had over the years as well. Our number one excuse is our kids and their crazy schedules — that we have set up for them!
I’ve heard countless times from clients the reasons why they’re not losing weight, getting in the workouts, or feeling better about themselves. (You hear a lot when you’re training, it’s therapeutic for many to workout and vent!)
The thing is, we’re blaming the wrong people.
We’re letting circumstances dictate our actions, handing over our power.
Now I know scheduling your life amid your children’s super hectic lives is no easy feat, but that doesn’t mean you have to pack up your goals and place them high on the closet shelf.
It doesn’t mean we have to give up the chase. Why do we look at it as an “all or nothing” scenario?
What we need to realize is that over time, a little can go a long way. A really long way.
Let Discomfort Be Your Friend
I’ve coached a lot of monthly challenges over the past year and I’ve learned quite a bit about human behavior.
During my 30-day Plank Challenge last year, the goal was to work up to a 2-minute plank hold and within a few days of beginning, a few participants exceeded that goal and went on to crush bigger goals, and longer times. They showed up even though they already exceeded expectations.
And then there are others who got in two, maybe three days and then ghosted the challenge.
More than half never showed up at all.
I get it. Planks aren’t easy, and they’re not all that much fun to do. They require a lot of shoulder and core strength, not to mention back and butt strength! I can see why one would want to avoid that kind of discomfort if their bodies aren’t all that well-conditioned yet.
On the flip side, this challenge requires seconds of your day, so what’s the real roadblock? Giving seconds of your day to this challenge couldn’t have been the challenge. There was something bigger at play here.
It made me think, what would happen if you faced your resistance, hurdled your mental obstacles, and did the things that made you uncomfortable every day?
The things that didn’t give you immediate results, accolades, or applause? Giving only seconds a day to something is neither difficult nor time-consuming, but it could also feel so minimal that it doesn’t make a difference. Or the discomfort of the task even though it’s only seconds, is too much to bear.
It’s easier to throw in the towel and think, Next time this challenge comes around I’ll be in a better headspace to deal with it.
We end up putting off something again because it requires our attention and our discomfort.
What if we decided right now to commit the next 30 days to do that one thing that maybe we gave up on too early? What if we decided to put in the time and effort and get a little uncomfortable?
What keeps coming back to you? What do you keep striving for, wanting desperately to see happen in your life, but you’re scared, confused, or convinced it’s not going to happen for you?
To get better at anything, there needs to be steps taken toward that goal, not thoughts but actual steps. Movement forward. To change your situation, to get better, to improve, you need to first show up to take that first step.
What if we showed up for the next 30 days straight? What do you think would happen?
I have no idea but I’m curious to find out.
If you want to get in on this with me, in order to get into the flow of showing up every day, here are a couple of ground rules to help make the transition from rest to motion a little smoother.
Ease of Entry
What we’re about to embark on has to have a low threshold of pain and discomfort. We don’t want to have to hem and haw about having to invest a lot of time or money or energy especially when we’re feeling strapped for all those things.
If it will create more pain and discomfort, your follow-through rate will nose-dive faster than you can say apple pie.
It has to fit easily into our schedules.
It also has to be easy to document. Tracking our progress is paramount because we need to see where we are, where we’re heading, and how much time and effort we’re actually committing to the process.
So let’s take exercising every day as an example. First, toss everything you know about exercising and all its rules and regulations out the window. We’re starting fresh.
If time is not on your side, then begin with 5 minutes a day. Even though it’s a tiny investment of time, it builds muscle, it creates a new habit, and it helps build a stronger mindset.
Don’t be fooled by the short time commitment. Every moment dedicated to your goal is time better spent. This is why I think many aren’t showing up. They think the time invested is too little, that it can’t possibly make a difference.
Embrace the discomfort and disregard the amount of time. Just show up and do it.
Along with your small time commitment, there needs to be convenience. The more convenient, the higher the follow-through. I workout 5 days a week on my stationary bike, that’s in my garage. I can’t make it any easier. No traveling. No excuses. I can go for 5 minutes or 45 minutes, it’s up to me.
Begin by making the entry point easy and convenient by starting on the path of least resistance.
This is a necessity!
“A goal without real consequences is wishful thinking. Good follow-through doesn’t depend on the right intentions. It depends on the right incentives.”
Tim Ferriss, Entreprenuer
Get creative when creating stakes, and make them hurt. Tim Ferriss offers up the suggestion of committing part of your paycheck to a charity that goes against your values. For example, you love puppies and kittens and support them by fighting for their right to live and your passion runs deep. Well then you would consider donating to a euthanasia foundation or a shelter that kills unwanted animals. (It’s massively extreme, but that’s the point – it’s fuel to follow through!)
Pair this with social pressure by sharing your goals, strategy, and stakes with a friend and you’re really grooving.
Committing to someone else creates even more pressure to stick with it and follow-through.
When I’m held bound by no one but myself, well then please, I can easily bail on myself with some justifiable BS. Give me 5 minutes and I’ll present to you a 500-page master thesis backed with scientific data on why I‘d rather sit on the sofa than do something that makes me uncomfortable.
And I’ll deal with the guilt all alone and in silence. While enjoying a glass of Cabernet and an episode of Real Housewives.
Once we have made a choice or taken a stand, we will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave consistently with that commitment. Those pressures will cause us to respond in ways that justify our earlier decision.
Robert Cialdini Influence: Science and Practice
If I manage to wrangle in a friend, however, then I’d have a really hard time justifying my inadequacy and inability to show up.
It’s a community thing. In the old days, our caveman ancestors needed a community to survive and thrive. Today, we still have those basic desires to belong to a crew, so we’ll avoid the pain of being ostracized in favor of a little discomfort if it means we’re in it together.
The idea is that stakes and social pressure will create the fuel to get you showing up instead of burying your head under the covers.
My Commitment to You
Since I’m in this with you, let me publically declare my goal and create a solid stake of my own.
My goal is to become a better writer.
I would love to increase my reach and be able to pitch stories to publications. I feel certain that if I show up for at least 30 days straight, I can become a better writer and story-teller.
My commitment to you is to show up for 30 days straight and write at least 500–1000 words a day. My tracking method of choice is an emoji thumbs up that I can document in my calendar when I reach my goal.
Setting up the stakes took me a few hours to figure out but I’m confident I’ve found the exact right motivation for me to show up every day and accomplish my writing goal.
If I fail to show up for even one day, I promise you (I’m getting nervous because now it’s going to be out there. I’ll have said it and there is no taking it back — this is psychologically working already!) I will sign up for a half marathon.
(For the record: I despise running. I can last about a mile and then all joy has vanished and my brain is looking for the nearest coffee shop.) I do not want to run even half a mile, so a half marathon is a perfect stake for me.
Now I Ask…
What do you want to see happen in 30 days’ time?
Remember, pick one thing to work on and:
Make sure to keep the price of entry low (as in little to no money invested or time needed to devote).
Create stakes with a friend that will make it impossible for you to justify skipping a day.
Here’s to us making the most out of the next 30 days!