Goals are wonderful. Without the ambition to achieve your personal desires, life would be dull.
There are many things - significant and minuscule - in your life that you want to accomplish.
You may want to squat 375 pounds.
You might want to learn Spanish.
You might want to start a photography blog.
You may want to write a children's book.
You might want to start meditating for ten minutes a day.
You might want to re-organize and paint your home office.
You may have a goal of visiting The Vatican.
But it seems as though a lot of us pursue these goals with our eyes wide shut. (I know this because I'm guilty of this mistake too).
The issue is that we chase achievement, instead of mastering the process.
I've been lifting weights and training for a decade now, and one of the most influential lessons I've learned in the past ten years is the power of compounded consistency.
More recently, I've noticed that this lesson not only applies to progression in the weight-room, but in most aspects in life.
Before we get into some practical takeaways on how to be consistent in order to achieve your goals, lets look at "the argument of the growing heap."
“If ten coins are not enough to make a man rich, what if you add one coin? What if you add another? Finally, you will have to say that no one can be rich unless one coin can make him so.”
Even though a single coin doesn't make a man rich, a single coin added day after day certainly has the potential to make him wealthy.
This story captures the struggle that I deal with in fitness, which you might relate to as well.
For example, I'll look at a Pro physique athlete and wonder how he achieved such a killer shoulder to waist ratio.
Or, during seasons when I'm focused on strength, I'll look at a powerlifter and wonder how he smoked 505 on the squat and made it look easy.
My first instinct in either case is to focus on their outcomes. And for some reason, my mind wants to believe that one event or single effort produced such amazing results.
My curiosity was grounded in the achievement itself, and not in the mastery of the process.
You and I both know that you don't get ninja-turtle shredded or strong as an ox with one event or single effort.
These kind of results are a by-product of repeated efforts done over a period of time.
When you consider your pursuit of your personal goal, it's obvious that a single effort is pretty insignificant, but at the same time, an accumulation of those single efforts over time is remarkable.
This is the power of compounded consistency.
All goals are achieved by many small, seemingly inconsequential single efforts. Each time you do the work with a single action, you add one coin to your heap. Practiced over time, your heap becomes bigger and bigger.
When it comes to fitness, it's easy to blow off a single effort by thinking "What does it matter if I skip a day?"
And truthfully, one day probably doesn't matter all that much. One workout has a very small impact.
But when you add up enough days where you show up and #dothework, the power of compounded consistency sets in motion.
Stick with it long enough, and soon, others will be asking you how you achieved your goal.
Haruki Murakami is a writer who demonstrates the power of compounded consistency in real time:
When I'm in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m, and work for five to six hours. In the afternoon, I run for ten kilometers or swim fifteen-hundred meters (or do both), then I read a bit and listen to some music.
I go to bed at nine p.m. I keep on this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it's a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.
But to hold to such repetition for so long - six months to a year - requires a good amount of mental and physical strength.
In that sense writing a long novel is like survival training. Physical strength is as necessary as artistic creativity.
On paper, it's easy to understand how the power of compounded consistency works. But how do we actually do it in our lives? I'm still maturing into this concept myself, but over the years, I've gotten better.
And here are three strategies I've learned that will help you leverage the power of compounded consistency into your own life.
1. Use the block method
Being able to delegate 30 minutes of concentrated effort towards your goal is the first step. Don't laugh. This is harder than you think. The next step is to duplicate that effort the next day. And then do it again, and again, until your project is complete.
It is not enough to be busy, we must ask: "What are we busy about?" -Henry David Thoreau
Finding 30 minutes to delegate toward your goal may seem insignificant, considering how busy you are.
But how much of that busy stuff is moving you closer to your goal?
If you're like most people, answering that question honestly can be humbling.
The block method is the solution.
It's a well understood concept birthed from pre-scheduling appointments. It requries you to block off times during the day where you apply concentraied effort towards your goal or most complex tasks. Here are a few examples:
On Monday's, Tuesday's and Friday's I wake up, drink 10g of BCAA's and do a bodyweight workout in my basement from 7 a.m. to 7:45 a.m.
On Tuesday's and Thursday's I go to Starbucks and write from 11 a.m to 1 p.m.
Everyday of the week from 8 a.m., to 11 a.m, I'm on the phone making sales calls.
After I get home from work, I practice my Spanish from 6 p.m., to 6:45 p.m.
The block method is very effective when you focus on ONE task only and eliminate distractions (Facebook, Twitter, text messages, online shopping).
Consider what you're goal is and schedule a block session in your week to dedicate concentrated effort towards your goal.
Start with 30 minutes. This might feel long if you're new to the method. As you get better at sustaining focus for longer periods of time, you can then bump it up to one hour.
2. Let distractions go
Unless you're someone like Bo Jackson and can be extraordinary in multiple mediums, then you're going to have to narrow down your efforts.
Today, with the access to information at our fingertips, we can get caught up in the vortex of wanting to read, do, experience, and test new things.
But if we look at people who consistently perform in their craft, you'll notice they aren't trying to juggle 17 rings.
Haruki Murakami, the writer we referenced earlier, is a great example. He writes in the morning. He does some exercise in the afternoon. Then he winds down with music before he retires for the day. Then, he gets up and does it again the next day.
This repeats until the project is done.
There are hundreds of other things he could do, but he chooses not to do them. He has decided that distracting opportunities must die if he wants to produce his highest and best work.
In your pursuit, you too, must fight like hell to not let yourself become like leaves in the wind, reacting to any breeze that comes along.
3. Focus on process improvement instead outcome achievement
When you get laser-locked on the outcome of your goal, the natural tendency adopt a disposition that regards anything short of perfection as unacceptable.
Basically, everyday you wake up and say, "I"m not good enough or worthy yet, but when I finally reach my goal, I will be."
This is exhausting.
The irony in this mindset is that you're training yourself to delay success until you arrive at the destination. But more often times than not, when you do arrive, it's a lot less heroic feeling than you thought it would be. And then, you're off the the next chase.
The solution is to focus on process improvement instead of outcome achievement. For example:
If you're a writer, focus on your daily writing routine and less on the idea of publishing a book.
If you want to lose 15 pounds of fat, focus on your daily workouts and eating habits, and less on the scale or mirror.
If you want to build a business, focus on building a list by providing great value, and less on making six figures.
If you want to squat 500 pounds, focus on your daily workouts, attack your weaknesses, and less on actually squatting 500 pounds.
Achieving your goal is more about who you become along the way and less on actually achieving the goal.
By focusing on improving your process you forge timeless character traits like commitment, discipline, and integrity.
And regardless of whatever the outcome happens to be, nobody can take those traits away from you.