Why Can't I Just Stay CONSISTENT?!
Alright y'all, let's talk about the C-word.
We hear that word over and over again. "If you want to make progress, you have to be consistent. Practice makes perfect."
It can apply to much more than just your nutrition or your training. Consistency is required to learn any new skill or habit.
If you struggle with staying consistent, please know you're not alone. Not only that but there is an evidence-based reason that has been studied and identified to explain why you have this struggle. Keep reading to find out what it is.
Let me set the scene: You've decided to fully commit to something. To remain on brand, we're going to use your fitness and nutrition goals as the example here.
You've hired a coach, started a new program, received your nutrition and training outline, set up your schedule, prepped your meals, and are ready to go.
Despite starting the week so strong, you find that towards the end of it, you tend to fall off and say "you know what? I'll just try again on Monday." Rinse and repeat every week, week after week, to the point where you feel like you must be doing something wrong. You may feel like this plan isn't sustainable for you or that you're just not able to stick with anything consistently. You feel guilty and like you'll never stop spinning your wheels on this journey.
I'd like to welcome to the party something called "cognitive dissonance" and tell you how it might be playing a role in your lack of consistency or adherence.
Cognitive dissonance is a term used in psychology to describe the mental discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs, values, or attitudes.
Not remaining consistent with the plan is typically due to a disconnect somewhere within your thoughts, values, priorities, words, and behaviors. Because of this disconnect, you're now experiencing those feelings of guilt or inadequacy because you weren't able to follow through with the plan.
You may be thinking, "well cognitive dissonance sounds awful." What if I told you it's a really great tool to use for growth?
OK, but how can something that makes you feel guilty lead to growth?
If you're willing to get a little uncomfortable, cognitive dissonance can be great when used to bring awareness between the goal you're trying to achieve and the actions you're currently taking.
When you're unaware of your cognitive dissonance, it can feel like you're failing which breeds those feelings of guilt. In a coaching relationship, your check-in may read that you don't feel like the best client, or you may participate in comparing yourself to other clients on the team. This isn't an issue with the plan. This is an issue with your mindset.
The guilt you may feel about your inability to remain consistent might be due to a disconnect between your health values and your actions over the week. Instead of marinating in your guilt, lean into that disconnect and discomfort and find out what your takeaways from this experience are.
Instead of comparing yourself to other people working towards their goals, which are going to be different based on their lifestyles, situations, and personal obstacles, what can you do to address your ambivalence to change? How can you turn the previous week into a learning experience that can contribute to your success and consistency for the week ahead?
Identifying those discrepancies, knowing your experience is normal, and having self-empathy is the most important part. Leaning into the disconnect can lead to a lot of feelings of discomfort and this discomfort is necessary if you want to continue to grow and make progress towards your goals.
One of the biggest tools for awareness here is some form of accountability, even when things aren't "perfect." ESPECIALLY when things aren't "perfect." When working with a coach, that accountability is at your fingertips. Having a plan, and a backup plan, if you know your routine for the week is going to be off can be very helpful.
Self-awareness of your actions can't be left out of the puzzle as it's a very important piece. You may not like that your actions aren't identifying with your beliefs and the changes you're trying to make but identifying those that go against the goals you're trying to pursue is what will ultimately lead to your success.
Cognitive dissonance is a theory that has been extensively studied since the 1960s and is experienced by everyone in some shape or form. Identifying yours and leaning into it instead of resisting it can be exactly what you need to start building up that consistency!
If you need some help working through yours, the coaches at Arrow are here to help!