We all know that change and personal growth can be challenging. If you have ever used the phrase 'uphill battle' to describe your relationship with change- you know this to be true.
Why is change so difficult? Let's break it down.
A Theory Of Change
Picture this: You are sitting up in bed at 2 AM. It's a weeknight. You have work the next day. A blue glow lights up your face from yet another Netflix binge. Tomorrow, you will be exhausted and you know this. Yet, the comfort and familiarity of a Netflix marathon always seems to get the better of your more responsible instincts.
There is a good reason for this!
How we perceive the process of change is everything
Behavioural change is not an all-or-nothing event. In other words, it is not discrete. Rather, change is almost always incremental.
YET, we perceive it to be discrete. We expect ourselves to change drastically and thoroughly in a way that is simply not realistic.
Many of us cycle through different elements of the stages of change, moving back and forth, visiting and re-visiting them. The progression is so rarely linear!
When we insist on having a discrete (all-or-nothing) and linear (no flexibility) change experience, the task feels monumental and sometimes even impossible.
Returning to our example, quitting Netflix entirely altogether is not a realistic expectation. Gradually reducing screen time before bed and also replacing those minutes with a proper bed time routine will also get you to the same goal- in a slower, yet more effective AND lasting manner.
And THIS is where consistency comes in. Doing something consistently ensures that gradual momentum forward.
Why Is Consistency So Important?
Consistency is the act of doing something in the same way. It involves applying yourself persistently to something.
And you know what? It is neither easy nor glamorous. Getting up 40 minutes early to work out or winding down for the night when you would much rather watch one more episode takes a certain amount of mental gymnastics.
Consistency also involves setting up non-negotiables. A non-negotiable is a commitment to yourself that you will not break. It’s quite literally something you avoid negotiating on- with others and with yourself too!
Being consistent with our non-negotiables is part of the long game. We don’t always see the results of sticking to them right away. However, over time, these habits can have exponential, life-changing effects.
Consistency Is Central To Change
Consistency might just be the unglamorous change hack you are looking for. Doing something in a similar way over several days/weeks/months helps us overcome the mental fallacy that change is all-or-nothing.
Consistency breaks down the process of change into daily increments that accumulate and create lasting momentum. It may seem overwhelming to do one thing every single day. However, we would argue that it is much more overwhelming to expect yourself to transform overnight! That kind of pressure is exactly what prevents us from embarking on the process of change.
We know that with consistency, certain tasks feel easier over time. The underlying reason is that doing something consistency helps that process become automatic for us! In other words, we spend less mental energy on those tasks.
When the points of change feel fluid and easy, we are more likely to stick to them! In this way, consistency counters our internal resistance to change by making what was once difficult achievable and automatic.
Use consistency as a hack to remove a single brick from your mental wall every single day. Soon, you will notice light pouring in through the missing pieces. And eventually, you WILL be able to see over the wall onto the other side.
Wrapping Up- Leave Room For Self-Compassion
Let's circle back for a moment- change is hard. Words like consistency, persistence, and non-negotiables can make us feel uneasy when we are struggling to ignite change in our lives. This is especially true for those of us stuck in cycles of procrastination or shame spirals.
As you pursue any change in your life, leave room for self-compassion. Self-compassion is not 'letting yourself off the hook'. Instead, it is giving yourself the flexibility to make mistakes and learn from them (and grow through them). Self-compassion is understanding that you may falter, and that does not make you any less worthy of accomplishing what you set out to do.
I want to hear from you: Has consistency helped you accomplish any major or minor changes in life?
Until next time!
Mental Health Content Specialist