You already know that doing something once, isn’t enough. Creating consistent habits is what you’re after. You want to be able to replicate results, get into a momentum, see real progress over time because you keep coming back to tools that work.
So what keeps us from creating consistent habits? Not dealing with the inner critic.
One of the hallmarks of the inner critic is “all or nothing” thinking, and it’s especially strong when you first begin and are trying to establish consistent habits. The critic tells you things like: If I’m not seeing results right now, it’s not working, or I was able to change that habit three times, but then I messed it up the fourth time, so it must mean that it’s not working. In other words, the critic likes to point out the things that aren’t working, and will use either “It should have happened faster” or “I should be perfect at it, already” as reasons to quit.
I also think of this kind of thinking as “I don’t want to water the plant” syndrome. When we buy a houseplant, we take it home. We fully expect that to keep it alive, we’ll need to, you know, water it. Routinely. On a schedule. Consistently.
We don’t water a plant once and then stand around looking at the plant going, “Why aren’t you growing faster?” We also don’t water the plant one week, but not the next, and then tap our foot and say, “I watered you last week. Why aren’t you staying fully vibrant and alive without watering, this week?”
Your habits need regular watering. They need consistency.
I was talking with a new life coach who had just finished her life coach training and she was feeling discouraged. Six months past graduation she had been doing all kinds of great work, setting up her website and marketing herself across social media and otherwise putting all of the foundational elements in place.
Then she quit her job, so that she could be a full-time coach. The clients came (ish) but not enough clients to cover what her salary had been. She got discouraged. She had been all-in and consistent for six months, but then she completely backed off. “Maybe I wasn’t meant for this,” she told me.
“If that was true, no one would be meant for this,” I replied. I explained that with the exception of a few lucky people (who more often than not have really good connections that they aren’t honest about; the story plays better if they just ‘worked really hard’), no one gets their new business up and running in six months.
If you say you want something, but then you don’t put the time in, that’s like avoiding watering your plants–and then wondering why it is that they’re drooping or dying.
We need to have the simple reckoning that if we don’t water our plants, they get sick, and then they die. Then you gotta start over.
It’s that adult, and that simple.
Creating Consistent Habits
Creating consistent habits relies on the loop of cue-routine-reward. You either set up cues yourself, or you notice what cues are available (e.g., your alarm clock going off in the morning is a cue). Your routine is the response to the cue (turning off the alarm and getting up, or turning off the alarm and going back to bed). Your routine is tied to your reward, and your brain is primed to prefer the short-term rewards over long-term rewards (which is why going back to bed always feels so alluring).
To create consistent habits will require that you are aware of the habits that are already there, whether or not they truly work for you, and alternative behaviors that you’d like to choose so that those behaviors, over time, can become habits.
And otherwise? Give yourself the respect of your consistency.