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The word “consistent” has always been a big deal for me. I think I am the most inconsistent person you’ve ever met. For all its worth, I am a starter. I love new things and while sometimes they may be scary, I am intrigued by them. But I often lack the motivation to continue doing what I started. My major challenge has always been how to stay consistent when motivation is lacking. How do You stay consistent when you lack motivation?
Staying consistent is still a HUGE struggle for me. I always spend time on Pinterest trying to figure out how to ‘stay motivated’ enough to eat healthy, workout and stick to my daily routine (among many, many other things). I still haven’t figured out how to stay motivated, but somehow I’ve managed to get a hold on how to follow through with my plans regardless of whether or not I ‘feel like it’!
This is a skill I’m learning- how to stay consistent when you lack motivation, how to do what I promised myself I’ll do,; and when to do it.
I thought it might be helpful to write about it.
I’ll be totally honest – I’m not perfect and since this is something I’m currently learning, there are still times I feel completely helpless to my own actions.
But I have made a commitment to most of the time, do what I promised myself I’d do when I promised myself I’d do it.
To honor my commitments to myself, even when no one’s watching. And when my integrity slips, I know how to catch myself and get back on track – a skill I once only dreamed of having!
I know how horrible it is to feel like you’re acting against your own will, so I thought I’d share a few things I recently picked up that is helping me stop abandoning healthy habits. I hope you find it helpful!
Some people call it willpower, others call it self-discipline and lately, I like to call it integrity. But whatever you want to call it – it’s literally life-changing! And there are two people I’m going to talk about who has taught me everything I know about how to stick to a plan.
The first is my dad,
He is insanely good at acting on his decisions regardless of whether or not he ‘feels like it’ and has the most willpower of anyone I know – he’s the kind of person who’d deny himself of luxury and all the things he can afford because he was trying to get us through school or saving up for something else.
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I’ve admired his ability to do this since I began to question and understand why he was doing the things he did at the time and I’ve learned so much by his example. (Only that I didn’t practice them because I thought it was insane)
The second person is Brooke Castillo from The Life Coach School Podcast!
I only just discovered Brooke’s podcasts and I love her already and I’ve learned so much from what she has shared on her podcast about honoring the commitments we make to ourselves.
I’m going to be using the words willpower, discipline and integrity interchangeably.
To me, they’re the same thing – doing what I promised myself I’d do when I promised myself I’d do it.
Following through with my plans. Finishing what I start.
And there are really just two steps to it:
Deciding what I’m going to do and when I’m going to do it
That is basically what this post ‘How to stay consistent when you lack motivation’ is going to be about.
So, let’s get to it…
Step 1 – DECIDE WHAT TO DO AND WHEN TO DO IT
The first step is making strong, specific decisions about what you’re going to do and when you are going to do it. And to be committed to those decisions which means making sure they’re musts, not shoulds.
At this point, I think it might be helpful to tell you about some of the challenges I’ve run into when it comes to planning and decision-making, just in case you can relate!
CHALLENGE 1 – VAGUE PLANS
The first kind of challenge I’ve had with planning has been thinking I’ve made strong, specific decisions when I actually haven’t really made any decisions at all. This can look one of two ways – long to-do lists with no priorities or goals so vague I could never do anything with them.
I’ve been reading a lot about perfectionism and self-sabotage lately and it has made me realize, why I do this (and still find myself doing it every now and again).
Basically, by keeping my to-do lists long and my goals vague, I couldn’t do anything because I had no idea where to start.
And not starting protected me from my fear of failure, judgment and disapproval from others.
Funnily enough, the end result is the same. I still fail and end up judging and disapproving of myself. But somehow it felt better because it was within my control. And I could hold onto the hope that, one day, when I finally did start trying, I would succeed.
CHALLENGE 2 – SUPERHUMAN PLANS
The second kind of challenge was making plans as though I was superhuman.
You might know what I’m talking about. Every second of the day planned and accounted for. No time for rest and absolutely no consideration for the fact that I do not have limitless amounts of energy (which I still struggle to get my head around).
Now that I know more about perfectionism, I can see why this happened (and still sometimes happens).
I thought setting insanely high standards for myself would help me do more, be more and achieve more. Which would then get me approval from others (which I desperately wanted because I didn’t approve of myself).
But the impact of those insanely high standards was not that I achieved more, but that I achieved nothing.
Those standards were so overwhelming that I usually procrastinated, too scared to get started because I was certain I’d fail.
And if I did actually start, I’d abandon my habit as soon as I slipped up and it was no longer perfect – too scared to be seen to be struggling because of what ‘other people would think’.
The two types of planning I’ve described above (vague planning or superhuman planning) are two ends of the spectrum.
And I’ve found I achieve the most when I’m operating somewhere in the middle – making clear, prioritized decisions that take into account the fact that I’m human and will slip up every now and again.
So if you find yourself doing either of those types of planning, here’s what’s helping me:
1. BE SPECIFIC
It’s always easy to stay consistent when I change my goal from something like ‘I’m going to try to workout three times per week’ to ‘I’m committed to going for a run on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 5.30am’
You can already tell which is more likely to happen!
The first goal still leaves lots of decision-making on the table. Decisions require energy and are an amazing opportunity for excuses to creep in, so I always find that the more decisions I can make ahead of time the better!
2. USE EMPOWERING LANGUAGE
Being someone who is inconsistent with habits, I always find myself saying things like ‘I hope I can’, ‘I’ll try’, ‘let’s see how it turns out..’ ‘I’ll see how I feel’, ‘fingers crossed’. I didn’t realize it at the time but using language like this was not doing me any favors – right from the beginning, I was telling myself that it probably wouldn’t happen.
Using empowering languages like ‘I can’, ‘I will’, ‘I must’ and ‘I’m committed’, I am finally starting to follow through with my plans. One small win at a time. It might just sound like it’s just semantics, but it’s not. It has a huge impact!
Our thoughts create our feelings,
our feelings create our actions and
our actions create our results.
If I think that a habit is a nice-to-have, rather than a must-have, I don’t feel committed.
This means I only take action when I ‘feel like it’, which of course means I don’t stay consistent because I rarely ‘feel like’ doing anything that’s uncomfortable or requires a lot of energy and effort (and almost all habits do).
If I think that a habit is a must, I feel committed. And when I feel committed, I take action whether or not I feel like it (more on this shortly!) and I get what I want – a consistent, healthy habit.
It all starts with our thoughts and beliefs, which makes the language we use extremely powerful!
As Tony Robbins says – we get our musts, not our shoulds.
Step 2 – DO IT
There are quite a few things that are seriously helping me stick to habits but the biggest thing that is helping is to stop asking myself whether I ‘feel like it’.
I always thought I had to feel motivated to be able to stick to a habit – that I needed to ‘feel like it’ all the time. So I always asked myself whether or not I ‘felt like it’.
I don’t do this in an obvious way. I don’t literally say ‘do I feel like this?’.
Instead, I just let myself make the decision about whether or not I’d do something in the moment it came to do it.
And to make that decision I would check in with what I felt like doing, what my other options were, what everyone else was doing. So surprise surprise, I usually didn’t end up doing it!
In my experience, the best way to stop relying on motivation is to make strong decisions ahead of time (like I‘ve already talked about) and to practice following through with my plans.
To do this I start small and make decisions about things I’m already guaranteed to do, like making a specific time to get out of bed, shower or brush my teeth, to spend time with God. It might sound a little too simple, but it works!
Everything I’ve talked about in this blog post takes practice! And is something I’m still working on.
Willpower is a muscle.
The more you use it, the stronger it gets – so it won’t always be hard I promise!
What do you think? Let’s talk!
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