The importance of clarity in getting consistent results
written by Philip Stefanov | NOVEMBER 24, 2020
Doing something for a while and achieving some results is possible for all of us. But, staying consistent and achieving great long-term results is where most people fail. But why does this happen?
The Missing Link - Clarity
Making specific plans for when, where, and how we want to do something increases the likelihood of following through. An overwhelming body of research seems to suggest that, and I’ve found this to be the case for myself and people I know (1, 2, 3, 4).
For example, whenever I’d have made a generic statement along the lines of, “I need to read more.” or “I should start eating healthier.” I never follow through. At least, not for long. I’d effectively be leaving the decision to follow through to my future self, hoping that I remember or feel motivated later.
But whenever I dedicate myself to something and make specific plans, my success rate would shoot up dramatically. Rather than telling myself that I should improve my diet, I come up with sample meals for morning, lunch, and dinner. Rather than tell myself I need to read more, I carve out half an hour before bed and know what I’ll read.
Think of any great athlete out there. No matter who that is for you, they all have one common trait - incredible consistency.
Do you think they wait for motivation to strike? I’d imagine that motivation is the last thing on their mind. Nobody can be motivated to train every time for years on end.
A popular example of this is Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. He has repeatedly stated that he wakes up around 4 am so he has enough time to do his cardio and strength training before the day begins. He doesn’t wait to feel motivated. He doesn’t wait for the perfect time. He doesn’t rely on remembering to hit the gym later in the day. He has a specific plan - the time, the place, and the specific workout.
Now, I’m not saying that we need to wake up at 4 am to hit the gym. That’s just an example of a dedicated person who has put together an actionable plan for something important for them.
Use Implementation Intentions to Become More Consistent
The next time you fail to follow through with something, ask yourself, “Have I made clear plans for these actions I want to take, or have I made generic statements?”
More often than not, we don’t lack time, motivation, or willpower - we lack clarity. Sure, you want to train consistently, but on which days, what sort of training/where would it take place, and how long will each workout be?
When you’ve formulated an implementation intention, you don’t have to worry about the details. You have to wait for the time to arrive and get to work. To quote Peter M. Gollwitzer - a renowned professor of psychology and researcher:
“When situation x arises, I will perform response y!"
- When I finish work, I’ll drive to the gym for a 30-minute workout.
- When I get home, I’ll have a salad with chicken and some ice cream for dessert.
- When I go to bed each night, I’ll read for 30 minutes.
- When I wake up in the morning, I’ll meditate for 5 minutes.
This is a similar concept to the one about environment design with the only difference being the specific plan of action. Make good choices obvious and easy to execute.
There have been times when I didn’t feel like training for one reason or the other. I wasn’t always pumped to lift, but I did it anyway. Looking back, if there is one thing that contributed to my consistency the most, it had to be my scheduling.
I knew that, at a specific time of the day, I had to be at the gym for a predetermined amount of time to complete my pre-written workout. I didn’t go in guessing. There weren’t any ifs and buts about it. Had I said, “I need to hit the gym more.” I would have probably missed a lot of workouts over the years.
If you want to learn more about this topic, here is a more in-depth piece I wrote on it.
Until next week,
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