Surprisingly, 2017 has become the year of goal-getter. I feel like I’ve accomplished more in the past months than I have in the six years prior, and I still have more plans coming. But for all my goal-digging, I am still lacking in one skill: consistency.
When my mastermind accountability group, Goal Diggers, asked our theme of the month to be consistency in goals, I was nervous. Who was I to answer their questions? Well, I preach what I’ve been thought: what you don’t know, research. Here are ten actionable tips I picked up:
1 | Reframe and write down your “why.”
Behind every goal is a reason why you want to do it. Dig deeper into this. If your goal is to exercise, and your reason is to lose weight, ask yourself why you want to lose weight. Is it for body image issues? Is it because you’re sickly and want to be healthier overall? Does healthier living make you more productive? Dig down into the truest purpose of your goal and write it down as motivation.
2 | Discover your barriers and excuses.
Let’s talk about the difference between a barrier and an excuse. A barrier is something that genuinely blocks you, such as: lack of finances to fund the goal, nonnegotiable commitments. An excuse can also be any of the above, but it’s overcomeable and you secretly know it. Write down a list of reasons why you aren’t doing your goal consistently, and mark it as either a true barrier or just an excuse.
3 | Answer each barrier and excuse with a plan or a reality.
Barriers are barriers, and you can let them be—for now. If lack of finances is stopping you from signing up for gym, then find the nearest month that you think you can sign up for gym and put it in the budget already. Now it can no longer be used as an excuse.
As for excuses, write down a truth bomb that reveals them to be what it probably is: sheer laziness or fear. If your excuse is, “I haven’t cleaned up my closet because I haven’t had the time and I’m always tired,” you can write down next to it, “I haven’t made it a priority, but I can make time for it whenever I want.”
4 | Write down your easiest possible action step.
What’s your smallest first step towards kickstarting your goal? Is there a preparation you can do? Do you just go ahead and do it? Whatever it is, break it down into a task so simple, so easy, and so quick you’ll feel silly even writing it down. If you’re not laughing or cringing at how easy it is, then it’s not simple enough. Make it mindless enough for you to get started without time for any more excuses.
5 | Schedule it!
Write down your first day of your first step in your planner or calendar. Mark a specific time and place and make it nonnegotiable. Arriane Serafico once said, “If it’s not in my calendar, it doesn’t exist.” Set a million alarms and reminders if you have to. Make it a part of your plans by making it a part of your schedule.
6 | Give yourself a head start.
It’s widely preached that it takes 30-40 days to make a habit. While that’s true, it’s discouraging to people who miss a day in the chain. The truth is, a chain doesn’t help until the chain already exists—until the habit is already a habit.
Give yourself a head start on your goals by starting earlier than when the chain is supposed to start. Start your New Year resolution in November or December to give yourself time to discover a comfortable routine, and let the chain officially begin in January when you’ve settled into it. Wake up 5-10 minutes earlier than you said you would to meditate. Leave your closet open a day before you scheduled your clean up. Just get started earlier than you were supposed to, to give yourself time with no pressure.
7 | Use triggers and rewards.
Someone theorized that the science to building habits is setting a trigger to set off an action, and immediately rewarding the action. Most of us have the reward part down (to the point of indulging), but we don’t always have a trigger.
In a habit-building campaign I did in college (the objective was to get people to conserve energy), we discovered that people do want to save on energy, they just forget to do it. So we designed a trigger—an eye-catching branded sticker—that people could stick near their outlets as a reminder to switch off or unplug electronics that weren’t in use. A trigger can be as simple as that: the alarm you set off in #5, hanging your workout clothes near the door so you’ll see it. Anything that will initiate a response from you. All you have to do is respond to the trigger, and then reward yourself. Sometimes the satisfaction of getting the work done is the reward on its own.
8 | Couple new habits with old habits.
You may already have some existing habits and routines in your arsenal, like waking up a certain time, or watching YouTube videos before bed. Use this to your advantage. When you wake up, declutter your room just a little bit. Before watching YouTube videos, squeeze in a 15-minute workout so the videos can be your cool-off period and your reward. Add a habit to your old routine so that the latter becomes your trigger OR reward from #7.
9 | Replace bad habits with good ones.
Alternatively, hack away bad habits by doing a good habit every time you have the urge. If you want to quit smoking, for example, every time you crave a cigarette, drink water instead. The itch for the bad habit is your new trigger. Place a reminder on the object of your old habits—a sticker on your cigarette pack, or on your laptop if social media is your bad habit—to remind you that you’re trying to replace the habit.
10 | Cultivate beliefs and the action will follow.
Related to #1, form a grounded belief or motivation around your goal. If you believe it firmly enough, the actions will follow. There’s some truth in the benefits of surrounding yourself with inspirational quotes; you’re priming yourself to have certain beliefs that your actions should automatically align themselves with.