Many people want to be successful in different areas of their life. It could be with a career or a relationship, with money or with a hobby such as golf, tennis or dancing. They set out to ‘get all the gear’ they need to help them feel the part, dress smartly for their job or buy the most fashionable gym gear as they set about reaching their goal.
But weeks later, when they have neither gained the promotion they sought, or achieved the body of their dreams, they revert back to old habits of thinking and action, either blaming other people or conditions that surround them, for the fact they have ‘failed’. And yet, if you ask them if they took consistent action towards their goal, you can bet their answer will be ‘no’.
And yet, of all things, consistency is the key to success that many people find eludes them in their endeavours.So they give up too early and move on to something else.
There’s an old panto song that I knew from a very young age called “High Hopes” which talks about an ant managing to move a rubber tree plant because he not only had the ‘high hopes’ of the title, but because he consistently set about tackling it one part at a time.
“One Brick At A Time” is another panto favourite in a similar vein – usually sung when the hero is in a tight spot and feels depressed at his lack of progress, these songs are wheeled out to convince them to keep going and that all will be well.
And you know what? They may have a cheesy words, but their message is true: consistent action leads to consistent improvements which leads to the results you are seeking.
No one is going to lose 3 stone in weight overnight, but by consistently sticking to a diet plan, a 3-stone-weight-loss becomes achievable.
Athletes don’t go from running the 100 metres in 15 seconds to running it in under 12 in a few weeks: it takes a consistent plan of action and dedication to train and improve 1% at a time. But the key is consistency.
If you train for a week, then leave it for a month, you will be back where you started. Training a little and often is a much more effective model. That is the same for most things.
So here are my top five tips to help you take consistent action towards whatever goal you have set yourself.
1. Set a SMART goal
SMART goals are a great way to help you focus your attention on what you need to do to achieve your goals. I have written a separate post on my affiliate marketing site about the importance of setting SMART goals which includes a free template to use. Research shows that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them than people who don’t, so don’t skip this step if you want to be consistent about something.
SMART goals are specific, measurable, achieveable, realistic and time-bounded and you really need to be consistent in order to achieve them.
2. Break the goal down into manageable steps or a realistic plan of action
Just like the ant and the bricklayer in the panto songs, understanding that things can be broken down into a series of small achievements is vital to keeping your consistency. Otherwise, you can become overwhelmed with the enormity of the task.
I remember feeling this way just after I had moved house for the second time in 6 months. I felt completely overwhelmed by the unpacking I had to do and would walk into a room, see the piles of boxes facing me like a wall a mile high and a mile long, and simply not know where to start. For a week I moved the boxes from one side of the room to the other, without unpacking a single thing.
Then one day, a friend of mine said to me that I just needed to unpack one or two boxes a day and it would all be done in a month. She was right, or course – it wasn’t rocket science – just my procrastination and feelings of being overwhelmed holding me back. As soon as I broke the task down and set myself the smaller goal of unpacking just 1 or 2 boxes a day, my self-imposed ‘block’ cleared and I actually managed to unpack everything in less than a fortnight.
And it was much easier to be consistent with the smaller task than when faced with the enormity of the whole thing.
3. Take some action every day
The importance of taking consistent action every day cannot be underestimated. It really is the key to getting things done. Ten minutes dead-heading and watering the flowers will ensure that you have a beautiful garden because you will stay on top of the tasks and they will not reach the ‘unmanageable’ state. Leaving things and not tackling the tasks can lead you to feel despondent and either try to fix it all in one go, or to give up too early. Fifteen minutes exercise per day is better than 2 hours once a week, and it will be much better for you.
It’s like trying to cram for your end of year exams in the last week of term: it just doesn’t work. Little and often is the key so find something to do each day that will lead you a step closer towards your goal.
4. Create a schedule and stick to it
This is a simple but very effective way of making yourself do an action consistently: set yourself a time and a place and let everyone else know, so that they will leave you to get on with it. Whether this is brushing your teeth immediately after breakfast and last thing before bed, we all respond to schedules as we are creatures of habit. It makes us feel secure that we have the time to complete our actions because we have allocated time to them.
If you want to do 15 minutes of exercise a day for example, you could set your alarm 15 minutes earlier than normal and schedule your exercise session then. Or you could decide that you will do it at 3pm each day, before you collect the children from school; or every Sunday morning. The timing of the event does not matter and will change necessarily with each individual person, but what is important however, is that the actions are scheduled in.
Be realistic with your timings too and include time to set up and pack away so that the action is enjoyable and you don’t feel stressed from the pressure of thinking you should be somewhere else.
5. Keep a track of your progress
Tracking your progress over time with small tasks and successes will not only help your motivation, it will allow you to celebrate those successes, however small, along the way. This is crucial because it can help you chart your progress over time and you will see where you started from, and how far you have travelled towards your goal.
You can use whatever method you want to chart your progress. When my sister was trying to lose weight, she put a bag on her kitchen table, and every time she lost a couple of pounds, she put a tin of beans in the bag. Pretty soon she had a heavy bag of beans on the table, but she said it was a visual reminder to her about how much excess weight she had been carrying around that she had now shed, and it helped keep her motivated.
Another friend of mine set up a complicated Excel spreadsheet to track her progress.How you do it is not important, what is important is that you track it and update it regularly after your consistent action.
6. Start and end your day by reviewing your goals and your progress
This is really part of the SMART goal-setting technique, in that you should regularly review your goals as you track your progress. It just keeps everything in focus and at the forefront of your conscious mind as you juggle all the other things you need to do throughout the day.
I have found that by starting the day and ending the day, reminding myself of the goals I’m trying to achieve, helps my mental attitude to the whole thing.
In law of attraction terms, if you are consistently and deliberately focusing in a positive way on your goals and intentions, then you will begin to change your vibrational energy towards the thing you want. And then, you start to get the leverage of universal energy working for you, helping you along the way.
7. Surround yourself with visual or auditory reminders
This is a quick and easy tip and can really help you to stay consistent because it reminds you of what you want to achieve and why. There are many ways to do this and how you do it will depend on your own style, situation and preference. You could make a mood board, or put up photographs or magazine cutouts of a holiday destination, house or body shape you are aiming for.
You can stick these around your house or create one display board or even take pictures and store them on your phone as your wallpaper too.
One thing that works well is to set yourself a daily alarm on your phone, tablet or computer which pops up to remind you or ask you if you have taken the action you need to today. You could even set 2 or 3 alarms if you really want to be consistent and keep yourself motivated during the day.
8. Avoid temptations and distractions
Most of us suffer from procrastination at some point or other in our daily lives. We know what we should do in order to keep on track with our goals but then there’s all the other things that we would rather do instead. Procrastination really is a big problem for many people and getting distracted by other things and other temptations is one of the main causes.
There are no simple answers if you are a procrastinator – self-discipline is key to stopping yourself, but there are a few things you can do to alleviate temptation.
Don’t buy things you don’t want to eat, play with or get distracted by – be it sweets and biscuits, technology or clothes. If you have to get in the car and go to the store every time you fancy a biscuit, then chances are you will resist the temptation more times than not.
If you get distracted by the television, technology or games, then move the controls or laptops out-of-the-way so that you really become ‘aware’ of when you are using them, and need to go out of your way now in order to do so. This holds true for anything that distracts you; computers, books, laptops. Put them in a place that is not easy to reach so that you become more conscious of the distractions they cause, then you will be in a better position to resist.
And if you’re phone is continually bleeping, put it on ‘do not disturb’ until you have finished your task. At the very least, turn off your social media notifications – there’s very little nowadays that can’t wait a few moments and we do not need to be on call 24/7!
9. Make yourself accountable to someone else: get yourself a coach or buddy
As a life coach, my clients tell me all the time about the benefits of having someone they are accountable to when they are trying to reach their goals. The very fact that they have to check in with me every week or two is a motivator, helping them to remain consistent with their actions.
A study by The American Society of Training and Development (ASTD but now ATD) found that you can increase your chance of completing a goal by 65% if you tell someone else about it. And if you have a specific appointment or meeting with someone who will hold you to account, then you are 95% more likely to complete the goal than if you just decided to do something and kept it to yourself.
So find yourself a coach, buddy or anyone who will actively hold you to account and you will dramatically increase your chances of staying consistent and achieving your goal.
10. Don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon: just get back on again
Finally we all have times when life gets in the way of what we planned, but as the saying goes; “it’s not what happens to you that is important, but how you deal with what happens” that makes the difference between success and failure.
There is not a project or person who has achieved anything worthwhile that has not come across problems or challenges in the pursuit of their ultimate dream. How you react when things go wrong though, will determine your future.
I have written many posts on how to deal with things if they go wrong in your life or you feel you have failed, and you can read some of them in more detail below:
However, the main thing to remember is that the best thing to do is get up, shake yourself off and begin again. Being consistent with things does not always mean things will go smoothly, but you will have a better chance in the long-run if you consistently pick yourself up and carry on.
An athlete never wins every race; the person ranked number one in anything in the world, can have an off-day. But what makes them number one is that despite this, they continue to move forward towards their ultimate goals with perseverance, dedication and consistency.
I wish you all the best with your goals; the only person standing in your way ever, is YOU!