Creating consistency in a new habit
Something that's really fascinated me over the last couple of years, is the following question
"why don't we do the things we know are good for us, even when we know we should be doing them?"
Why do we hit snooze when we know it will make us late and stressed, just like last time. Why do we eat the chocolate bar instead of the apple, even when we remember how bad we felt after last time. Why do we skip workouts, even when we remember regretting it last time.
So from this, we know there are at least a couple stages to forming a new habit. The first stage, before we even think about being consistent, is to be able to know and point a finger at exactly what we need to do on a daily basis.
This is where we get into outcome and process based goals. Outcomes are the things we want via the process, we can't really control them. Right now I want to achieve the one arm chinup, but that doesn't leave me with a strong idea of what I can do and tick of today.
"Approach each set with clean form, and don't train to failure" is a process goal that I can quantify. Its easy to point a finger and say a hard yes or no to, which allows me to tick it off as part of a process. This makes it as easy as possible for the mind to win at, and we want the mind to learn success. The outcome goal can be hard, and of course, hard things are often meaningful and worth pursuing, but the process to achieve that thing needs to be winnable on a consistent basis for us to ever achieve that outcome.
Once we've identified what daily thing we can do towards our goal, we need to make it easy for the mind to track through time. We're not great at picturing the past and future versions of our self as the same person, hence...
"Tomorrow i'm going to wake up early, workout and not eat any crap" when we said that yesterday.
"Last week I ate rubbish, but this week i'm going to be good." despite saying that same thing the week before. Our minds really have trouble with this, and therefore, we need to make it as easy as possible for the mind to visualise consistency.
For this, simplicity is key. You can see the chart I've used below to track my own. Green is a day where I've completed the habit, red is a day i didn't. The big insight here, is that the feeling of getting 3-4 greens in a row is the first reward, long before I see any benefit of stretching for 3 days. The win is the feeling of being consistent, the results of being consistent are just the outcome of the process. If I didn't complete it, I journal on why, to increase my chances of getting it done the next day.
This is not a comprehensive guide, but it certainly has turned a needle for me in making things consistent, and doing the things I know I need to be doing. Give it a try
For further insight, I would highly recommend the "Understanding myself" test be Dr Jordan Peterson, and the book "Atomic Habits" by James Clear