As human beings, we are excellent at creating rituals and habits. We do it out of both necessity and desire. There are too many actions to be taken on a daily basis to consciously think about them all. It’s by creating habits that we free up mental and physical space for creativity, fun, and personal growth. The underlying key in making ANY habit — good or bad — is consistency. Taking action on a regular and repeated basis.
However, when we try to consciously make new habits or break old ones, we are run into emotional, skill-based, and perceptual walls. For instance:
- The word “habit” has been tainted with both negativity and responsibility, both things we tend to run from. Its considered either something we do that we shouldn’t — such as smoking or not signaling our turns — or something that we should be doing or aren’t — like exercising or calling our parents weekly.
- The idea that habits and rituals are too restrictive. We like to think of ourselves as unbound, unlimited beings. However, when faced with unlimited choice, we are often paralyzed by indecision or dissatisfied with our choices because we wonder if it was truly the “best” choice. The truth is we crave boundaries. They help us to know where we stand and help us define ourselves. There is a greater chance of creativity and exploration when we have habits and rituals in place.
- We are showered with perfection. Whether its TV shows starring teenagers that speak with felicity and flawless diction, YouTube videos of amazing physical stunts, or images of human beauty, we are surrounded by depictions of perfection. But, what is not realized is that the confusion, stumbling, and burnt toast that you experience on a daily basis is the norm. Despite this lack of perfection, we still find great joy and success in our lives. Perhaps it’s these perceived imperfections, the scars and the trips, that let us laugh and enjoy the surprises of everyday life.
- Taking action is a skill. Some people are virtuosos at taking action, but a Beethoven is an outlier, not a standard. For most people, taking action takes practice. We run into the entropy of our daily lives, the self-limiting beliefs, or any perceptions we’ve mentioned so far. Taking action in consideration of these factors takes effort and practice.
Most of us need practice in taking action. And more importantly, most of us need practice in consistency (taking the same action repeatedly).
Keeping this in mind, I have a challenge for the month of April.
The focus of this consistency challenge is taking action. We are not going to weigh down this challenge with additional meaning or importance. Here are the rules — choose one to three actions that fall within these parameters:
- Action must be specific. If you plan to exercise you will write your action as “I am going to go to do weight training 3x a week” not “I am going to do some exercise 3x a week.” I will read a minimum of 10 pages a night. I will make lunch at home. The more specific you can make your action, the less chance of distraction or confusion when you execute.
- Action must be repeatable multiple times a week. It can’t be a one-off action. No quitting jobs, buying a new car, moving to a new state. (You are more than welcome to do those things, but not part of this challenge). Things like get to the gym three times a week, be in bed by 10 p.m. every night, try a new food twice a week, practice an instrument three times a week.
- The action must be something you want to do. Not something you need to or feel you should do. If exercise is something you want to do, but have trouble getting to do regularly, then it can be on the list. If, however, you hate moving your body, getting stronger, and feeling better, then don’t use it. (Yes, I am biased toward moving, but you get my point.)
- Same time every time. For consistency to be possible, it is best to create as many consistent parts of the action as possible. Time, location, people, and the action itself.
- You must write it down. I have provided you an index card-sized Consistency tracking option in this email. Print it, fill it out, and put it somewhere where you are not the only one that sees it. Color in a circle every time you act. This will give you several things: public declaration, tracking of progress, and reinforcement.
The goal of this challenge is to practice consistency. During the first week, it will feel difficult and you might feel like it’s not worth it, not important enough to make time for “now,” or that you chose the wrong things. If you stick with it into the second week, you will notice less resistance and find that a couple of new automatic actions kick in. In the third week, that ease will continue to grow and what seemed like pushing a car uphill during the first week will feel like you’re pushing the gas pedal and moving faster with less effort.
There may be many concerns, resistances, and beliefs about choosing to act and doing it repeatedly. But realize that these are all thoughts about acting, not the acting itself. Lets take this month to stop over-analyzing our actions and see what consistent action brings about. Click here or the image below to take the challenge and start tracking.