What would I say to you, over cappuccinos and biscotti, if you told me that you have trouble with creating a new habit and then consistently following through?
Yeah, me too.
Consistency is tough for 99.9% of the people on the planet. It involves knowing what habit you want to change, knowing how to change it, and then changing it, which are three steps that can feel almost super-human.
When I first started working with my coach a decade ago, he told me from session #1 about the value of daily practices–and I resisted it. Daily practices? Ugh. I’d been inspired before to begin new daily routines, and I’d started and stopped, or just never started. Sometimes I’d leave a session with my coach all lit up and ready to go on those daily practices…starting tomorrow, of course. You know how that always goes.
Consistency: Such a draaaaag, man.
I didn’t get consistent mostly because consistency felt like such a drag. Instead of seeing these daily practices as something that would help me, they felt like “another thing” that I had to figure out how to fit into my day. My thinking: I didn’t have the time. They probably wouldn’t do much of anything, anyway. I’d tried this before and failed, so nothing would be different, this time.
And then, after two years of working with my coach and never doing the damned daily practices, I “got” it. I finally understood that if I continued to go to sessions with him and not actually follow through on what he was saying might help me, then I was wasting money, wasting my own time, and furthermore–it was a new year, same old issues.
Choosing not to do daily work to change negative habits into positive habits, I was actively conspiring in my own suffering, in my own life not getting better.
Consistency: But how?
I wanted to get consistent with these practices. “Trying to remember” wasn’t cutting it. So in the back of my Moleskine notebook I created a checklist. I checked it every single day. The daily practices he was asking me to undertake involved things like gratitude, daily joy, an integrity check-in with myself, acknowledging myself, and more (all practices that I’ve integrated into the Courageous Living Program), and he was suggesting spending just a minute or two on each of them. Total time to complete: 30 minutes, sometimes less.
I kept up with this practice of ticking off practices in the back of my Moleskine for the better part of a year. After a year, I no longer needed to visit the checklist to keep myself accountable. It was part of my life, now, to turn to gratitude, or to ask myself how I might step into more integrity, or to deliberately find laughter in my day.
Sometimes I’d joke with my coach: So this stuff really works, and it was available to me, the whole time?
Yes, it was.
Consistency, thou art a virtue
Sometimes people think of personal growth as a perfectionistic end-point: you do the work, you never again have the…fear, the triggers, take it personally, doubt yourself.
That’s never been my experience.
My experience is that we need to water our personal selves much like we water plants. You might think you’ll get the a-ha moment where you’re forever changed, but in my experience, it’s like AA: It works when you work it!
So checklists, vision boards, accountability partners, whatever–however you want to do it, make it consistent.
It’s not about whether or not you have time (if you want it badly enough, you’ll find a way to make the time). It’s not about whether or not you know what to do (if you get honest with yourself, you really do know what you want and how to get there). It’s not about whether or not consistency works (because if you get real, you KNOW that consistency works).
It’s about a choice to step into consistently practicing the things that make your life feel better.
Consistency isn’t a shackle; it’s a pathway to feeling goooood.
I’ve been #RockingMyTools (that’s the hashtag I’ve been using) and feeling a shit-ton more joy. I’m humming as I walk, rolling with it when a challenge arises, and saying “no” to the things that I don’t want to do, without fear.
This is what consistency creates. It nurtures. It creates a container for something to grow.
It’s only fear that would push the illusion of waiting for it to be perfect, waiting for the big A-ha!
If you want life to feel better now, choose to start a set of tools that make it feel better–now. If you want to start consistently feeling happy , then you’ve got to do the things that consistently bring about happiness.
It doesn’t get any more straightforward than that.