“Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.”
– William Feather
Being consistent at anything is hard. Finding the right balance in life, including your health, can be even harder. So what does it take to see progress? Why do some people give up on all the steps they’ve taken forward? Consistency is most likely the key to your successes.
It’s been quite the start to 2018 for me, having met a handful of new people, working again with familiar faces from the past and creating new connections through friends and other professionals in different areas of business. In speaking with those around me, or just pondering about people’s actions and habits relating to health, physical activity and nutrition, I often wonder what it is that makes people want to get better or, conversely, what makes them abandon the progress they’ve worked so hard to achieve. From an exercise physiology business point of view, this seemed to be a particularly profound thought, and I began focusing on true long-term success stories; all of which shared one major thing in common: consistency. (Some might also say perseverance.)
No matter the circumstance that you find yourself experiencing (health-related or not), consistency is the one thing that allows literally anyone to have success in whatever it is they’re striving for, and something that we all have the power to apply. Being consistent requires you to make the right choices on your actions the majority of the time, whether you want to do them or not. It’s one of the things we humans can fully control, day in and day out. And you know what? It’s damn tough to do.
This obviously relates directly to living a healthy life for both your mind and your body — doing physical work that seems laborious at times…eating the right foods when it’s so tempting to consume copious amounts of unhealthy crap. Doing the right thing is insanely difficult to do on a regular basis, especially in the health and exercise world. We all make mistakes, and we always will make mistakes. In gaining your own successes, it often takes multiple failures to show where you need to make changes, and what may seem like a million different tries to determine the correct solutions. Getting there requires a great deal of resilience and consistency, both of which will determine your prolonged success throughout the duration of your life.
In most aspects of our lives, it’s far easier to be inconsistent, as there are and will always be a thousand things standing in the path to success that we’re able to use as an excuse. And often we’ll feel quite justified in using these things as excuses. Excuses are easy to use. Laziness is easy to fall back on. Whether excuses or laziness (or a combination of both), they require no effort, as you’ll be totally avoiding the things that allow you to achieve your goals, and the places that require you to take on the difficulties that undoubtedly lay ahead of you in order to get to them.
Something I personally struggle with is separating these two concurrent ideas:
- the idea of solely achieving a specific goal
- the idea of continuous progression
Achieving a specific goal is great; it’s more palatable and comprehensible than a broader objective. Most times you know exactly what you’re trying to get and can visualize it in black and white terms. You either eventually succeed, or you fail. You win or you lose. This idea is great, as we all need goals in life to give us satisfaction and to provide us with motivation.
The idea of continuous progression is a bit more abstract. It’s not black and white, and is sort of undefined in the long run, since continuous progression has no end. It’s a lifelong goal, not an instantaneous achievement. Often we humans lose sight of this idea because we are sometimes blind to what we’re working towards — wanting a perfect everything, and wanting it yesterday.
For a very simple example related to health and exercise, I’ll use the idea of running a marathon. You’re a non-runner – never have been, and don’t want to be one for much longer (stay with me; I’m creating a profile to make a point). Running a marathon for you is the idea of solely achieving a specific goal. It takes hard work, a bit of planning and commitment to accomplish that goal. It has a beginning and an end — day 1 of training, and then eventually crossing the finish line. It’s undoubtedly a goal that most would be proud of completing, and they should be. In this example, the marathon isn’t being used for continuous progression. If it were, the marathon would be merely a supplemental method to achieve great cardio success, mental stability, health, etc., on the person’s broader pursuit of seeking new, exciting and creative ways to maximize their performance and potential. It’s not a “one-and-done” deal. The continuous progression mindset doesn’t just stop at the marathon.
To further this point, take for example a typical exercise class – high intensity training, spinning, Pilates. These are all fantastic to use as part of your overall goal, but most of the time they are used as the primary goal. “I want to get in shape so I’ll run.” Three months later, they’re back on the couch. What gives? Or let’s say your immediate goal is to get in better shape for something in the near future – a wedding, a trip with friends, etc. You succeed at getting in better shape and then, boom…nothing, whereas what you could do is use that as a bit of variety to spice up your continuous progression. Not to put down any specific class, as I think any physical activity is a very positive thing, but the success rate always seems to be momentary if you only do that one thing, avoiding the big picture (i.e., the continuous progression). In other words, most people will go to spinning or Pilates, and, after awhile for various reasons, find it’s hard to make time for that activity and end up walking away. Think about that for a second. Spending hundreds of dollars to…..walk……away! (Just for clarity, I myself enjoy certain classes, as they can be a fun way to supplement one of the MANY areas of exercise that we all should be working on; areas that contribute to being fit and obtaining body control, including the combination of balance, cardiovascular training, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility/range of motion, nutrition, and consistency.)
Maximizing your exercise and health through various means is great, but don’t be another fitness yo-yo casualty – the “on again, off again” routine. Consistency is hard. Get creative with it. If you stop going to the gym, find other things to fill that spot! And, hey, if you want or need advice there are people like myself who will help take you in the right direction for the long haul.
Ask yourself some simple questions: Are you more or less fit/healthy since the last time you achieved a specific health-related goal? Are you more or less fit/healthy than you were three months ago? If the answer to either is “less,” you’re probably more goal-oriented at the moment, and if the answer is “more,” you’re probably working on continual progression.
I’m not suggesting not trying achieving personal goals — but rather to use these personal achievements in continuous fashion to build on a more consistent progression. Both mindsets are nothing to sneeze at, as working toward either can make any person proud and create a sense of accomplishment. But here’s my point…true consistency requires both the achievement of specific goals and making continual progress. If you lack either, there’s a strong probability that the expectations you have for optimal life, exercise and health will not be met at the levels you hope for.
Another way to look at it is this: you’re either growing and moving forward, or rotting and going backwards. Nobody cares how amazing you used to be X-number of years ago; the things you did on the high school football field, the debate team or your first job as someone’s boss. What are you doing now? Are you growing in order to improve and succeed, or are you slowly regressing by letting life control you?
Be consistent. Take action where you are now, and for where you are going.
“It isn’t hard to be good from time to time…What’s tough is being good every day.”
– Willie Mays
Final Note: These are my thoughts on health, wellness, diet and exercise in relation to the need for consistency in the pursuit of maximizing your potential and getting the most quality you possible can out of life. Though some have said I’m “quite an interesting fella” (not sure if this is good or bad), I am definitely inconsistent with many things in my own life. The plan is to continue to strive and make correct choices. Along with exercise through movement and nutrition guidance, here at Seva Universal we strive to help each client develop a path to maximize their ability to be consistent with their exercise and health-related goals. In my opinion, one of the most important things you can do is to lead by example, by improving the quality of your own life and health, which often tends to positively affect others around you for the better.