If you are seeking success in 2019, then the first step is to aim for consistencey.
Mr. Garry and Mr. Veitch have spoken to us recently about the need for consistency in our approach to everything here at school. This is very good advice and should be heeded, but often the challenge is not what we should be doing but how we do it. The following are a few tips to help you develop a more consistent approach and build some great habits to set yourself up for the year.
In our day-to-day lives, habits can often be tough to build, as there are plenty of distractions that can lead us off the “straight and narrow” and right back to our old ways. To alleviate some of those troubles we can examine some academic research on motivation, discipline, and habit building, and find actionable steps that any aspiring habit-builder can put into place.
1. Goals and milestones
It is easy to set the big goal - make the 1st XI, achieve an NCEA endorsement - but it can be hard to maintain focus on goal from February to November or longer. It is important to break your goals down to the minimum amounts of work that you must get done every single day to make the bigger goal a reality - these are your milestones. Go for a run - get fitter for trials. Revise today's classwork - make sure that bit 'sticks'. Milestones make each day approachable, and your goals become achievable because of this.
2. Create behavior chains
This is the idea of if-then planning - it's how you frame the new habit. This tactic involves picking a regular part of your schedule and then building another “link in the chain” by adding a new habit.
For instance, instead of “I will get fitter,” you could aim for, “When I come home, I’ll change my clothes and go for a run.” So the next time you decide to “study harder” instead try “If it is prep time, Then I will only study.”
3. Eliminate excessive options
According to a variety of research on self-control, there is great power in being boring. Take, for instance, Barack Obama’s insistence on never wearing anything but blue and grey suits. According to the president, “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make too many decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
The president’s belief is well supported by the research. A study on self-control found that making repeated choices depletes mental energy, even if those choices were mundane and relatively pleasant. If you want to maintain long term discipline, it’s best to “Identify the aspects of your life that you consider mundane — and then ‘routinize’ those aspects as much as possible. In short, make fewer decisions. Suddenly having a school uniform is not such a bad idea!
4. Process plan (but don’t daydream)
The step that many people skip when they daydream about building a certain habit is they never clearly answer why they want the change to occur. It may seem like a small detail, but it plays a huge role in keeping our motivation up over time.
According to a from UCLA, the mistake is in what we visualize. Researchers found that those participants who engaged in visualisations that included the process of what needed to be done to achieve the goal (ex: daydreaming about learning another language, by visualising themselves practicing every day after school) were more likely to stay consistent than their peers (that visualised themselves speaking French on a trip to Paris).
5. Eliminate “aw man” moments
New habits are often very fragile, and it is for this reason that we must eliminate any source of friction that may lead us astray. These “aw man” moments are the specific moments where you find yourself saying, “Aw man, it’s not worth the effort!”
The solution? Examine your habit and find exactly where things start to break down. Here is a real-life example:
When I sat down to analyze why I wasn’t going to the gym, I realized: my closet was in another room. That meant I had to walk out in the cold [to] put on my clothes. It was easier to just stay in bed. Once I realized this, I folded my clothes and shoes the night before. When I woke up the next morning, I would roll over and see my gym clothes sitting on the floor. The result? My gym attendance soared by over 300%.
You can even incorporate an “if-then” scenario once you find the culprit. For instance, if fatigue is stopping you from playing guitar after school, you could set up a system of “If I’m feeling tired after school, then I will take a 20-minute nap and listen to music for five minutes to get myself motivated.”
So, if you want to be more consistent in 2019 and build positive habits:
- Set goals and milestones
- Create behaviour chains (if...then...)
- Save your energy for the important decisions
- Drop the daydreams
- Eliminate the 'aw man' moments
It's not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, it's what we do consistently. - Tony Robbins
Adapted from the work of Gregory Ciotti.