You start with an exciting goal, you are all pumped up, and you take massive action up front. After a couple of days or weeks and once your motivation faded, sticking to your goal and plan can seem like a daunting and extremely difficult task.
We all want change, but change can be difficult. This is especially true if you don’t know how to deal with it.
Nobody wants to live the same life and do the same thing for the rest of their lives. People desire changes. And we all want to do better, to improve, to adopt positive habits, and to live a successful life.
The problem comes when we have to be consistent over the long-term.
You can set an exciting goal or come up with a great plan, but you fail to stick to your goal or plan, you will never achieve them. You will never get the results you want.
This is why being consistent is extremely important when it comes to achieving your goals and sticking to your plan.
So is there any way that can make us be more consistent with our goals and plans?
Good news, the answer is yes. And you have probably heard about it too. It’s just that you haven’t truly realized the power of it.
The #1 Way to Stick to a Goal or Plan Over the Long Term
So what should you do if you want to stick to your plan and goal? The answer is pretty simple, you START SMALL.
Let’s take two people an example, John, and Scully, where both of them want to lose weight and look good.
Now, John is all motivated and he decided to start BIG by joining a gym membership and engage with a trainer. He’s committed to workout for 2 hours a day, 5 days a week.
After 2 days of hard work, John felt exhausted and his muscles ached. On the 4th day, his meeting dragged and he was late to the gym. And after the first week, John started to lose steam.
As soon as he lost his motivation, he felt that his plan is not going to work out. He thinks, “Maybe I’ll be fine if I workout for just 2 or 3 days a week, rather than 5, hmm.”
On the second week, John skipped a few sessions. And on the third week, he lost interest with his goal and only go to the gym once.
Does what happened to John sounds familiar to you?
Now, let’s talk about Scully…
For Scully, he understands the principle of consistency and starting small. Hence, he decided to start small by exercising for just 15 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for the first 2 weeks.
It’s no big deal, just 15 minutes a day, everyone can do, right?
Thus, Scully followed through and stick to his plan. After 2 weeks gone, Scully felt good because he has built up the momentum. He then increased his workout session to 30 minutes.
Since he has developed the momentum and made it a routine to exercise in the first 2 weeks, it is much easier for him to continue to do so in the third week, for 30 minutes a day.
After a month, Scully felt energetic and his confidence is high. He decided to maintain his routine to exercise for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.
After 3 months, Scully has lost 5 pounds. Not because he started strong, but because he started small and consistent.
On the other hand, John felt like he has failed in his goal. After all, he put in so much effort to make it work, but he didn’t get the result he wanted, right?
So he felt like a failure and then just forget about his goal.
Should You Start Strong? Or Start Small?
Well, I made up the above story. However, in real life, that is what happens to most of us.
Many years ago, when I first started out my internet marketing journey, I experienced the same thing.
During those times when article marketing was hot, almost everyone was talking about article marketing and submitting their articles to websites like EzineArticles and GoArticles, I came up with a big plan.
I decided to write and submit 10 articles per day for a month. I’m so motivated and committed that I thought I was going to make it.
Guess what happened?
Like John, I started strong. But I only managed to write and submit 10 articles for the first few days.
After that, I just stopped and decided that it was not a good plan and I should do something else.
The lesson is clear. Change can be difficult, especially for the marathon-type of goals.
And if you started strong, highly likely, you are going to fail.
You have to consider your goal and whether the action that you are going to take is going to be a long-term plan or a short-term sprint.
For the short-term sprint, yes, you should start strong. Make a big change and take massive action.
However, most people set goals for the months and years, not days or weeks.
Therefore, it is extremely difficult to stick to your plan if you are trying to take massive action on a daily basis.
Just like John, if you are going to workout for 2 hours a day for 5 days straight, you are setting yourself up for failure.
You have to consider the fact that you have to maintain the work for the long-term.
You are not building the habit for just a few days or a few weeks, but you are in it for months and even years.
Thus, it is always better to start small, slow, and make it consistent rather than starting strong and burnout at the end.
Slow and Steady Almost Always Wins the Marathon
In his book, The Compound Effect, Darren Hardy gives a very good example:
“If you and I flew planes from Los Angeles to Manhattan, but you took off and landed in every state in between, while I flew straight through, even if you went 500 hundred miles per hour in the air and I only travelled at a rate of 200 miles per hour, I’d still beat you by a big margin.
The time and energy it takes for you to repeatedly stop and start and get back to momentum make your trip at least 10 times as long.
In fact, most likely you wouldn’t even make it – you’d run out of fuel (energy, motivation, belief, will) at some point. It’s far easier and requires a lot less energy to take off once and maintain a regular speed (even if slower than most everyone else) all along the way.”
Do you get it?
Start small and be consistent. The key is to maintain your consistency.
You have to consider the fact that you have to stick to your goal and plan for the long-term.
You’re not doing this for just a day. If it is a 100m sprint, then yes, by all means, run as fast as possible.
However, what you want to achieve is not going to happen in the short-term. It is in the long-term. And this is where you have to run slowly, build up your momentum, and then maintain it.
You have to be consistent with what you do for the results to come.
why People Fail to be Consistent
We are all typical human. We have dreams and goals to achieve. And we are also affected by our moods and emotions.
But when it comes to achieving our goals and sticking to our plans, we often focus on the end result rather than the progress.
You see, when you set a goal, you set a deadline, right?
For instance, you say things like, “I want to lose 10 pounds within 3 months” or “I want to grow my income to 5 figures this year”.
Well, there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. The problem only arises when you don’t hit the target within the timeframe that you set in the beginning.
When you don’t see yourself able to hit your target, you started to doubt yourself. You started to lose faith in your goals. And you make yourself feel like a failure.
Notice this, even if you have made some progress at the start, but you won’t focus on that. You will only think about the goal at the end, which you are going to fail at.
And this is what kills your motivation.
Not to mention that if you started strong. When you take massive action, you expect to see huge results, fast. And when you don’t see the results you are expecting, you lose interest.
Do you get it?
How to Stick to a Goal or Plan and be Consistent for the Long Term
After reading up to this point, I believe you have a rough idea what you can and should do to maintain your consistency to stick to your goal and plan.
If you need to learn more about being consistent, here are some great techniques that can help.
1. Focus on Your Schedules
It is good to have goals. They are necessary. However, when it comes to taking action on a daily basis, you should focus on your schedules, not so much of your goals.
Let me give you an example.
Since you are reading this blog, you should know that I publish content on quite a consistent basis. And up to date, I have published more than 250 articles.
Of course, sometimes I published good articles, sometimes the so-so articles, and sometimes a few great ones. Overall, I have been quite consistent with my publishing schedule.
Now, imagine that if I set a goal with a deadline, say, “to get 10,000 subscribers in 6 months”, there is no way I will have written every day and published so many articles.
I focus on maintaining my schedule, which is to write 2,000 words a day. And this is the secret that I’m able to publish articles on this blog on a consistent basis.
If I focus on the goal of getting 10,000 subscribers, I may get distracted somewhere when I discovered other opportunities that promise to get me there.
And when I see that there are only 2 or 3 subscribers a day, especially in the beginning, I will definitely lose my motivation, quickly.
Thus, the key is to focus on the schedule.
What you can do:
Decide the small action that you can take on a consistent basis that will lead you to your goal.
If it is to lose weight, create a schedule of consistent exercise. Whatever goal you want to achieve, create a schedule of what you can do and focus on it each day.
If you want to learn more about being consistent, I highly recommend you read this:
2. Adopt the “Reverse Gap” Thinking
Dan Sullivan, the success and strategic coach once said:
“The way to measure your progress is backward against where you started, not against your ideal.”
We have been trained and hard-wired to believe that once we reached our goals, we will be successful. Or something similar like, “Once I’m financially independent, I’ll be happy and successful.”
The problem with this thinking is that we are focusing on “the gap”. There is a gap between where you are now and what you want in the future.
And you are setting conditions for you to feel happy based on the gap.
While it is good to have goals, you don’t have to let them determine your happiness or define your life, right?
Unfortunately, this is what many people do. They set a goal and they also come up with a condition where they only get to feel happy and satisfy once they reached their goals.
This is where the “Reverse Gap” Thinking comes to play.
I first learned this principle from Vishen Lakhiani. Watch this video below:
Basically, the Reverse Gap thinking is where you gauge your accomplishment based on your starting point. Like what this article from LifeHacker.com wrote:
“Rather than constantly focusing on your future, remind yourself regularly of where you were 2 years ago. What did your life look like? What was your career like? How were you? And when you think about that, celebrate how far you’ve come in the last 2 years.
You need to train yourself not to only think about the future but to also celebrate what you’ve accomplished in the past. Pay attention to your “reverse gap” the period during which you had successes but also difficulties that you’ve overcome. That’s how you create happiness and gratitude in the now.”
What you can do:
Focus on the Reverse Gap by comparing where you are now and where you were when you started. You have surely made some progress, don’t you?
As long as you have made progress, celebrate. Make sure you feel good about the effort you have poured in.
You may yet to accomplish your goal, but you have surely made some progress and became much better than who and where you are before.
The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.Oprah Winfrey
3. Start Small and be Consistent
This is exactly what you have learned. Start small and be consistent.
You don’t need to make big changes in your life. This is a marathon, not a sprint, so starting small and being consistent is more important than going big and being inconsistent.
Unless you are aiming to achieve short-term goals, I suggest you start small, build up the habit, and maintain the momentum.
What you can do:
Focus on starting small and make sure you maintain your consistency.
Read these 2 articles:
If you have read up to this point, it only shows that you are serious about making a change in your life and that you want to stick to your goal and plan.
Apply what you have learned from this article:
- Start small and be consistent.
- Being consistent is more important than going big for the long-term.
- Focus on the Reverse Gap and feel good with the progress that you have made.
- Create schedules for the actions that you want to develop into habits.
- I’ll repeat it one more time: Start small and always be consistent.
What do you think about this article?