Oct 13, 2020

Why do we fail at being consistent with a habit?


  A few weeks back, I ran a Q&A on Insta Stories - "What are the challenges/obstacles you face in achieving your health goals?".  One of the common challenges mentioned was laziness. I had written a detailed post on 20 ways to overcome laziness.

The other important challenge that many had mentioned was "Lack of consistency".

Whenever we fail at being consistent with a habit, we perceive it to be a lack of motivation at a surface level.

Yes, motivation is extremely important, especially the intrinsic one, where you feel a strong urge/desire from within to pursue the habit.

Apart from intrinsic motivation, there are deeper factors to think about.

(1) Not enough clarity on the Why
Why do we want to wake up early?
Why do we want to work out in the morning hours?
Why do we want to quit junk food?
Why do we want to sleep on time?

The answer is not simply about staying fit and healthy. Go deeper and figure out your reasons. I wrote about my reasons on why I want to wake up early in this post.

(2) Higher opportunity cost
We place a higher value on the alternate activities that we would typically end up doing in place of the habits we want to do.

Some of us might feel that morning sleep hours are so blissful, it feels nice to snuggle inside a warm blanket and continue our sleep.
Some of us might feel that after a long day of work, it feels more relaxing to binge-watch a few episodes of our favorite series than to hit the bed on time.

Are you placing a higher value on such activities that compete with your habits? Be honest and figure out the answer.

(3) Expecting immediate results
Instant gratification is on the rise in every aspect of our lives. Our patience levels have reduced drastically. We no longer wait for the results that require prolonged effort. Our attention spans are dwindling.

In your journey of weight loss, do you weigh yourself every single day? Do you measure your waist and hip circumference once every few days?

(4) Not enjoying the process
Whatever be our goal, enjoying the process or journey towards reaching the goal is essential. If our minds are only focused on the goal, the process would feel like torture.

Do you enjoy the brisk walk or do you keep checking your step counter often to see whether you have reached the target number of steps?
Do you enjoy eating healthy meals or do you force yourself to eat healthy, so that you can shed a few kilos?

(5) Comparison with others' progress
Comparison with others might give a perception that it is motivating us to perform better. But it can easily grow into a sequence of obsession and disappointments. Whatever parameters you use to evaluate your performance, use them to compare with yourself.

Are you able to brisk walk comfortably for more time now than it was, say 2 months earlier?
Are you able to hold your Vrikshasana pose for more counts now than say 3 months earlier?

(6) Challenging either too much or too little
The new habits we adopt and the goals we set for ourselves might end up either too challenging or too comfortable. After a few days, we don't feel like continuing the activity.

If you are someone who wakes up every day at 8 AM, expecting yourself to wake up at 5 AM all of a sudden will only end up with disappointment.

(7) When the alternative is more attractive
This is more of a mindset we have acquired after many years of conditioning and habits.

Many of us find eating simple and healthy foods as boring and junk and packaged foods as more tasty and attractive.
Many of us find scrolling mindlessly through social media or binge-watching Netflix to be more relaxing as compared to doing nothing.

This mindset can self-sabotage our efforts of adopting a new habit. The classic example is the idea of a "cheat day" when we are super strict about our eating habits 5 days a week and then binge eat anything we like during weekends.

If this applies to you, ponder more on why you find the alternatives more attractive. What does this attraction mean to you? What do you value in them? You might be able to figure out the root cause.

For any new habit that you fail to be consistent at, think of these 7 reasons and see if one or more of them resonates with you.

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