consistency

Consistency and Action: The Most Important Habits for Success

Erik Personal Development and Lifestyle, Personal Growth, Self Improvement Leave a Comment

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The most important habits for success are consistency and action.

You may have the right idea, the best game plan, and a fantastic strategy.

But without ACTION and consistent actions, those ideas and plans mean nothing and will not lead you to success.

In this post, I want to share with you a number of thoughts on consistency, the importance of taking action, and how you can become successful through consistency.

First, I’m going to share with you the story of my introverted friend. This story originally was posted as a guest post on this website, and I’ve re-purposed it for this article.

The following is his story and his perspective of how consistency helped him overcome social anxiety and introversion.

How Consistency Helped Me Overcome My Introversion

A bit of backstory, I was painfully shy back in high school. I’m talking next level… having no friends and spending my entire time in the library.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that. Other than the fact that I was miserable.

You see, it’s not that I didn’t want to meet people. It’s just that I didn’t know how. So comes time to go to college and I had enough.

I swore to myself I’d learn how to be social and meet people anywhere. That was my goal.

Now, one of the perks of being a bookworm is that you read a lot. Thinking of a way to get out of my shell, I thought back to a book I had read: The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg.

The idea in the book was simple. Do something enough times so your mind is accustomed to it. You no longer have to exert willpower to do it.

Make it Routine and Don’t Break the Chain

Think to your day to day routine. When you wake up, do you actively have to think about putting on your slippers?

No, you don’t. Do you have to think about brushing your teeth?

Most likely not. You just full on entering zombie mode and waddle yourself across to the good ol’ washroom and start brushing away.

You’ve done these tasks enough time that your mind doesn’t need to think about it anymore. I wanted socializing to be one of those things.

Now I knew what to do. But how long would I have to do it?

After doing a bit of research, I found my answer. A while back there was a trend going on the internet called ‘Don’t break the chain.’ It was pioneered by Jerry Seinfeld, he used it as a way to make sure he practiced his comedy routines.

Look at the calendar below:

consistency is key

What Jerry would do is really basic. Every single day, he would practice and he’d put an X on the calendar.

What happens next is fascinating. When he put down a few X’s it became much harder for him to skip practice. Because he was so used to feeling satisfaction from putting an ‘X’ down, that he just couldn’t do it.

Hence, I also tried to ‘not break the chain’.

Meet a New Person Each Day

I decided on a pretty difficult goal: every single day I would talk to a new person. No matter the situation.

Whether or not I was busy,  had a midterm or wasn’t in school that day,  I would go out and say hi to one new person.

The first few days, every fiber of my body was pulling the other way not to do it. It was painful.

For me, personally, it’s usually the first eight to ten days I decided to take on a new habit. It’s just very painful to go through with it.

Because you leave your comfort zone. I hate to admit it, for most people including me, my comfort zone is laziness.

Not doing is much easier than doing, which usually my mind gravitates towards. But something magical happens after the first ten days.

I started to enjoy talking to people. A lot.

Socializing started to become a part of my life. And I got my X’s, all 30 of them.

And whenever I’d go to parties, be in class or go to a networking event, meeting new people was something I wanted to do.

This seemed too easy to be true. Is talking to one person a day really enough?

Let’s break it down.

Today: I’ve talked to one person.

This week: I’ve talked 7 people.

This month: I’ve talked to 30 – 31 people.

This year: I’ve met 365 people.

Now that’s some networking right there. Imagine how much better your social skills would be if you met 365 new people this year?

Make Excellence a Habit

Aristotle had a great quote to reflect this:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Every single day you wake up, you decide what kind of future you want.

People who amass huge wealth through personal finance and reach tremendous heights don’t do it in a day.

Everyone wants to see the great result at the end of someone’s journey.

They want to see Michael Jordan scoring the game-winning basket.

They want to see the glory when SpaceX has a successful launch on their latest rocket.

But no one thinks about:

How many hours he’s practiced basketball. Doing little drills over and over again just to get them right.

How many failed launches SpaceX has had and how many all-nighters Elon Musk had to pull through to get that one successful launch.

Small disciplines performed over a long period of time will bring you life-changing results.

For me, I want to become a freelance writer and make a living from it. When I first started it was really scary.

I had no idea how to start or what to even do. But I thought about it and came to a conclusion: if I write every single day for an hour a day, I’ll be a good writer. I keep at it day in and day out and make sure I write every single day.

Hey, if you’re reading this far I’m probably doing something right 🙂

And doing this day in and day out has opened doors I never thought would be open for me. For the first time in a while, I finally feel like I’ll be able to make it in the wild west of freelancing!

The only thing I have to thank is consistency.

What a great story!

Now it’s your turn.

What are your goals?

What are your goals? Is there something you are striving to accomplish this year? What is something you are passionate about and want to achieve?

I’d love to know what goals you have.

And if you already have goals, or are just starting on your goals, consider the following:

  • What can I do today to get a bit closer to my goal?
  • Are there any actions I can take this week to get closer to your goal?
  • What can I do this month?
  • What can I do this year?

Big goals are scary.

Breaking them down into mini goals gives you the confidence to achieve them.

With your goals and your game plan, the next step is ACTION and consistency.

The rest of this post will be showing you how consistency and action will bring you success.

Consistent Efforts Daily WILL Result in Massive Success

Things don’t happen over night. Becoming an overnight success takes many years.

That being said, the power of compounding is alive and well in the world.

Start today, and you won’t be sorry. Consistent efforts daily WILL lead to massive success.

A few examples of this in my life has been with my woodworking projects, and also with my exercises and health.

The Importance of Consistency When Becoming Physically Fit

At the end of March 2019, I decided it was time to get back into shape. I wasn’t going to half-do it either, I was going to go all in.

What did all in mean?

Consistent actions with my workouts, my diet, and sleep.

In college, I worked out a ton and was in great shape. However, after college, I let this slip and was not consistent with my efforts.

Starting April 1st, I decided I would work out 3-4 times a week, add a number of supplements to my diet, and look to get 8 hours of sleep a night.

I started out using this 21-day bodyweight bootcamp, and after getting back into the swing of things, have since just been doing different bodyweight exercises (push-ups, squats, planks, pull-ups, etc.).

In addition to these bodyweight exercises, I started rock climbing 1-2 times a week, biking 2-3 times a week, and going on hour long walks 2-4 times a week.

My workouts are fairly intense, but none of this is something the average person couldn’t work up to doing.

My Results From 4 Months of Consistent Exercise and Diet

Writing this in August 2019, it’s been 4 months since I’ve been all-in on my exercise and diet.

I honestly couldn’t be happier with how I’ve progressed, and truly believe this has been the result of consistency and execution.

Here are some pictures from March 31st:

While yes, I didn’t look horrible back in March, I was not physically fit. I could only do 15 push-ups in a row, and struggled with doing 10 minutes in a row of any exercise.

Fast forward 4 months of grinding and here are some pictures I took at the end of July:

Flexing as hard as I can haha

I’ve added a lot of muscle to my chest and back, and have also dropped a couple pounds around my waist.

In terms of strength, I can do 30 push-ups in a row without sweating, and did 65 push-ups in a row at a work competition. I’m able to push through my workouts without getting winded.

I feel great about my progress, and again, I believe this is all due to consistent efforts added up over time.

3-4 exercises a week, a healthy diet, and good sleep has lead to this physique, and I’m so happy with my decision.

Now, I’ll share with you another hobby of mine, and how consistency helped me improve.

My Woodworking Hobby

Back in October 2018, I started a new hobby, woodworking.

One of my thoughts was the fragile nature of having the majority of my skills being “digital”.

Being able to make a killer spreadsheet, design a website just right, and run code on large data sets is great in all, but that’s not the real world.

Humans naturally aren’t supposed to be in front of screens all day. We came from the Earth and will return to the Earth someday.

With this recent thought, I decided it was time to become more handy and work on a tangible skill: woodworking.

After a few runs to Home Depot to get tools and wood, I dove into practicing cuts, trying to figure out how to use a chisel, and blankly staring at the block plane I bought.

Unsurprisingly, after 2 weeks, I sucked at it.

Pictures of My Bad Woodworking Cuts

To give you a picture of what my new hobby looked like up until this point, here are some of the pictures of the cuts I made.

I decided I was going to focus only on using hand tools (saws, chisels, planes, etc.).

For my first project, I decided I would build a joiner’s mallet.

To do this, I needed to cut 2 sides to 3″x7″. The first cut was not straight at all. The second cut was straight in the X and Y dimensions, but not in the Z dimension.

One of my first cuts. Not straight at all (and I cut my losses 60% of the way through – no pun intended – see that little inlet)

bad at woodworking

Second try… not horrible… until you put the level on it.

Going to need to do some work here.

As you can see, I was not good.

I needed to work more on my cuts before starting the project.

Once I figured out how to actually cut straight with my hand saw (I just needed to a few more practice cuts), I then started on the joiner’s mallet.

My First Woodworking Project: a Joiner’s Mallet

When thinking about my first woodworking project, I figured I should start somewhat simple.

Since chisels are in my tool belt, a mallet made sense to make. Also, the cuts and instructions seemed pretty simple to make, as I read online.

I got some oak boards from Home Depot and got to work.

As you saw above, my first cuts were not great.

After practicing some more with my saw, and watching YouTube videos on how to cut straight, I got back to it.

After making some of the initial cuts, I had to figure out how to use my chisels the right way.

On the mallet handle, I wanted to round the edges and smooth it out. That way when I held it, it would be comfortable.

It took a little bit of time, but I finally started to understand out to pare with the chisel.

I was learning!

After spending a bunch of hours, I finally finished the mallet.

Here was the final product:

woodworking mallet

Still have all my fingers!

All in all, this project took me about 8 hours (from start to finish). If I were to do it again, I definitely wouldn’t need to take that much time, and also, now I actually understand how to use my tools.

Again, I started with something, took action, was consistent, and reached my goal.

The Importance of Taking Action: Success Through Failure

We are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. Why then, do most of us settle for a less-than-ideal life?

The answer is simple: Society has taught us to fear failure.

As a consequence, we are hesitant to step out of our comfort zone and dream big. Instead, we take the easy way out and settle with a this-is-good-enough mindset.

I hope that after reading this article, you will embrace failure and start to break down the imaginary wall between you and your goals.

Addressing the Fear of Failure Head-On

From the beginning, society convinces us that failure is not acceptable.

At a preschool soccer game, every team earns a trophy regardless of place to ensure that no player feels like he/she has failed.

This everybody-is-a-winner mentality persists throughout our childhood and into early adulthood. By the time we enter high school or college, we have an innate fear of failure and rejection.

This fear binds us from taking risks and pursuing our passions. It’s a lot easier to go through the motions and follow the crowd than to branch out and try something different.

Despite what society says, you don’t have to sit in misery at the nine-to-five job you settled for!

Remember when you were young and when asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, you’d respond with tremendous goals and dreams?

“I want to be an astronaut.”

or

“I want to be the president.”

Systematically, the conversing adult would respond “That’s great! You can do anything you set your mind to.”

Fast forward to adulthood – what happened to those colossal dreams and desires?

Chances are, society convinced you that these feats were too difficult to achieve. In order to avoid failure, you took an easier route to ensure that you would “succeed”.

I challenge you to reinvigorate the excited little kid from your past and begin to chase your dreams and passions.

The Importance of Taking Action

The reason I mentioned our innate fear of failure was not to demand that we can succeed at everything, but instead, to highlight that dreaming big and failing can cultivate future success.

Let’s look back at the elementary-school student who said: “I want to be the president when I grow up”. In order to prepare for this monumental goal, she would need to practice the necessary presidential skills.

These skills may include public speaking, negotiating, writing, networking, and many more.

For years, the dreamer hones and refines her presidential skill set. Unfortunately, she never makes the presidency.

However, she goes on to become one of the most respected senators in U.S. history.

Did she fail at becoming the president?

Yes.

BUT the skills she gained from her journey to achieve this goal allowed her to become wildly successful in the Senate.

Everything does not always work out in the exact way that we want it to. However, you will never achieve any degree of success if you do not try in the first place. A failure can teach us infinitely more than a success can.

Try, fail, and try again.

The skills and lessons gained from your failures will eventually generate success. Take action and never look back.

Success in Life Requires Making Choices and Being Consistent

Here’s a fact: life is a series of choices. 

Each and every day, we face 100s of choices. You reading this sentence? That’s a choice.

You don’t have to be here. You could be taking a walk. Maybe you could be talking to a friend. You could be driving to visit family. There are so many things you could be doing in this moment, but you chose to read this post.

Thank you for choosing to continue to read on.

I’m choosing in this moment to continue writing and my hope with the rest of the post is to make it enjoyable for you.

Life is a series of choices. Each day, we face 100s of choices. Either these choices can be positive, and lead us to our goals, or negative, and distract us from going towards our goals.

With these choices, there’s a thought and decision to be made.

Are you going to control your life? Are you going to make the right choices leading towards success? Or are you going to decide to not take control and let life happen to you?

Life is a Series of Choices

Starting right now, you have the ability to steer your life in whatever direction you want it to go.

Yes, everyone’s starting point is different. Everyone is unique and has had a different set of circumstances growing up.

However, where you are today is a result of your past choices and where you are going to be tomorrow is a result of your present and future choices.

Compounding is incredibly powerful, and it goes both ways: make positive efforts over time and you’ll see massive results; make negative efforts time and you’ll see poor results.

While in the moment you might feel forced to do something, it is still your choice on whether or not you do it.

Of course, there are consequences with every decision. If I decide to eat go out to eat, instead of eating in, that will result in more money spent. At same time, there will be less effort spent on my part to feed myself.

Controlling what is going on in your life is much better than letting life happen to you.

Where I Am Today is A Series of Choices from Where I Was Yesterday

I met one of my good friends in middle school. Both of us shared a lot of the same interests, and both of us enjoyed math.

Going into high school and looking at colleges, we both had thoughts around getting degrees in math.

Both of us earned a score of 28 on our ACT, and I entered college with 23 credits (from AP and College in the School courses), and he entered college with a slightly higher amount of college credits.

Up until this point, you could say that we had a similar starting point, and many of the same characteristics on our transcript. (28 ACT, 20+ college credits, same high school, similar neighborhood, similar interests).

When I got to college, I decided I was going to graduate in 3 years. A 4 year degree, at the state college I went to, took 120 credits. Each semester, 16 credits was considered a full load (4 classes) and consequently, 32 credits was a full load for the year.

3 years of 32 credits would be 96 credits. 96 + 23 was 119 credits, leaving me one short for graduation in 3 years.

“I can find 1 more credit over 3 years to get to 120 credits”, I told myself.

I wanted to save money, time, and effort.

One Decision Can Have a Huge Effect

I finished my school in three years and saved money, time and effort.

Next, I decided I needed more schooling and went for a Master’s. This was my decision, as if I didn’t go for a Master’s, I would have needed to learn more on my own in programming or math. At the time, I was working in a job paying $12 an hour, and since I had not made enough efforts networking, I didn’t have any salaried job prospects.

Fast forward 2 years, and after my decision to get a Master’s, I landed a job paying $63,000.

I did finance some of my Master’s program with a $15,000 student loan, and understood the consequences if I didn’t land a real job in my field.

5 years after starting college, I had a $63,000 job, and I was in a position to buy a house when I made a ridiculous decision to house hack. I paid off my student loans and now am saving for the future.

My friend, on the other hand, finished in 4 years and struggled to find work for a while, and found a full time job in the 5th year (I’m not sure his salary, but he stayed at home for a while to save up some money).

He is still paying off his student loans, and is smart and I know he will be fine.

It’s just very interesting to see where starting from the same spot can yield different paths and different results.

Every Decision Can Have a Huge Effect

There a compounding which happens over time as well with decision making.

If I didn’t graduate in 3 years, I might not have gone for a Master’s.

I probably won’t have landed a high paying job out of college if I didn’t go for a Master’s.

If I didn’t land a high paying job out of college, I would’t have house hacked at 23 years old.

Not house hacking at 23 years old would have lead to a much lower net worth at age 24, 25, and 26 years old.

One decision to graduate in 3 years lead to a waterfall of great experiences and outcomes.

Not to be dismissive, at each point in this 8 year period (from 18 to 26), there were a number of decisions and experiences which I didn’t talk about: studying, going to class, going out on the weekends and drinking way too much, having fun, traveling, getting into and getting out of relationships, learning on my own and side projects, networking, going golfing with my classmates, hanging out with family.

Each one of these decisions and choices could have gotten me off course. Maybe luckily, or maybe not luckily, I have been able to continue utilizing the power of compounding to continue to succeed with my finances and career.

I can eat cheeseburgers and no greens today, or have a mixed diet. Today, it probably won’t matter, but over time? I’ll become fat or I’ll be healthy. I can make this choice.

Now, what other choices can I make to lead me to success?

Which Decisions Will You Make Today?

Let’s revisit the question from a few paragraphs ago. Are you the owner of your life? What decisions will you make today that will lead you to your goals? Are you going to be consistent and work daily to improve?

Consciously and subconsciously, you will make 100s of decisions today… what to wear, what to eat, who to talk to, where to go, how to walk, what to say, etc.

Are these decisions going to be pushing you in the direction you want to go, or pulling you away from your goals?

I’m making the decision to be the owner of my life. Are you going to make a choice to be the owner of your life and become consistent with your actions and efforts?

Consistency and action are the most important habits for success.

Cultivating a mindset which emphasizes action will lead to great achievement and accomplishment.

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