When my brother became a math teacher, he told me that there were three types of students in his class.
The first kind of student did less than 40% of the homework, crammed for the big test the week before, and ended up failing the test.
The second kind of student did about 60-80% of the homework, studied a bit for the big test, and ended up skating by with an average grade.
The third kind of student did 100% of the homework, didn’t study very much for the big test — and no matter what their ability or talent level — usually passed the test with a high B or better.
So what made the students who did 100% of the homework more successful when it finally came time for the test? It’s not that they were necessarily smarter or more talented…it’s that they didn’t see the homework as optional. By putting in a little bit of effort over an extended period of time, they saw better results.
That’s because nothing beats consistency. Nothing beats showing up everyday, doing the work, and putting in the time.
So if you want to achieve your goals, you have to master consistency. You have to see your goals as mandatory — not optional. And you have to do the “homework” for your goals in order to accomplish them.
But how can we master consistency? How can we follow through on our “homework”? Here are 8 ways to help you start mastering consistency to achieve your goals, so you can ace the big test we call life…
Make a Plan!
Just like a teacher creates a lesson plan with mini-homework assignments throughout the semester, you can create a plan for reaching your goals.
Write down a timeline that includes your start date, end date, and exactly what actions you’re going to take to reach your goal. If your goal is to lose 20 pounds, decide what kind of exercise routine you’re going to do, what kind of nutrition plan you’re going to follow, and so on!
Milestones are small goals within your larger goal that help you see how much progress you’re making. Because the little things really do matter when it comes to goals — so celebrate them!
If your goal is to save a thousand dollars, keep track of when you reach one hundred dollars, two hundred dollars, and so on. Make it feel like an event — because it is! Every step forward is a success. By celebrating your milestones, you’ll feel like you’re making progress and won’t lose steam as easily.
Actually Make Time for Your Goals
One mistake a lot of people make when setting goals is forgetting to block out time to actually work on them.
Let’s say your goal is to start selling landscape art online. You’ll need to paint a large body of work to sell, so you might plan to spend two hours painting every day from 8 am to 10 am. Now, those two hours can not be used for anything else — 8 to 10 is only for painting. So you have no excuse not to do it!
Only Worry About the Present Moment
If you’ve set an ambitious goal for yourself, it can be easy to think about how you’ll work on your goal tomorrow, or the next day, or the next week, or the next month! But don’t let yourself get caught up thinking about the future. Thinking too much about the future can get overwhelming and make it more likely for you to quit. The only moment that actually matters is right now, and what you’re going to do with it. How are you going to be consistent right now? How are you going to show up today?
Stop Negotiating with Yourself
The students who did best in my brother’s math class simply did not negotiate with themselves. They didn’t see the homework as optional — they just did it.
If you find yourself thinking thoughts like “Oh, I’ll just do half my workout today…” or “Oh, I’ll only write for 20 minutes instead of an hour…” STOP and recognize that this is your brain trying to negotiate out of work. We instinctively try to avoid pain, which causes us to procrastinate or negotiate with ourselves. But remember that you’ve committed to this goal and have to see it through right now. Don’t let your inner negotiator win.
Revisit Your Goals Often
Journal about your goals every day. Write them down on sticky notes and put them on your bathroom mirror. Set a repeating alarm on your phone and title it “Work on Goal NOW!”
Keep thinking about your goal as much as possible so you don’t lose motivation. But don’t just think about the goal itself, think about WHY you chose to pursue this goal in the first place. Ask yourself questions about your motivation to pursue your goal. Is it to be happier? Is it to feel more accomplished? Really dig into your emotions!
Because a huge part of consistency is having consistent feelings. When you consistently feel like your goal is worthy and important, you’re more likely to work on it. So don’t let yourself forget the emotions that caused you to set the goal in the first place.
Another way to revisit your goals often is to imagine what it will feel like when you accomplish your goal. Write in your journal about what you’re life will be like when you reach the finish line: how it will feel, taste, or smell! Get detailed in your descriptions to really motivate yourself.
Forgive Your Failures (And then Keep Going)
The reality is, you’re probably going to make some mistakes along the way. We all do. It’s nothing to be ashamed of.
The thing to actually be ashamed of is not trying to do better next time.
When you miss a day of healthy eating, or forget to work on a project, or drop the ball on your exercise routine, give yourself some grace. If you beat yourself up too much, you may demoralize yourself and stop altogether!
If you trip up on your way to your goal, learn from it. Ask yourself: “what happened that day to make me lose my consistency? How can I make sure it doesn’t happen again?”
Then, and this is the important part — keep going. Pick yourself up and go out there again tomorrow. Don’t dwell on the past mistake, just worry about your present self.
Better to mess up a thousand times but keep trying, than to mess up once and give up. The person who messes up a thousand times but keeps trying gets much closer to their goal than the person who messes up once and gives up. That person never gets anywhere!
Do it Anyway
Goals are tough — that’s why we want to achieve them in the first place! If they were easy we wouldn’t care so much about them.
This is where your cultivation of inner resolve comes into play. Are you the type of person who gives up just as things get difficult? Or are you the type of person who pushes through anyway and keeps promises to themselves?
On the days where you’re dreading working towards your goal — just. do. it. anyway. Force yourself to put your head down and do the work. Write the words. Practice the instrument. Lift the weights.
It’s nice to be motivated, but you don’t have to be excited — you just have to do it.
Becoming consistent is the key to unlocking your goals. And mastering consistency is about mastering ourselves, taking charge of our own lives and developing habits and routines that lead to success.
You may have heard the story of the stone mason who hits a large boulder with a hammer. The boulder does not change at all on his first, second, or hundredth hit. However, after hitting the boulder a thousand times, the boulder suddenly splits in half.
Working towards your goal may sometimes feel like you’re the stone mason. Nothing is happening. Or it may feel like working towards your goal is just another unimportant homework assignment.
But remember to keep going, because eventually that boulder will split in half. Eventually, test day will arrive. And if you’ve done your homework? You’ll pass with flying colors.