The Root of all Change

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I think a lot about philosophy. One specific area that fascinates me more and more is personal development and achievement. How do people achieve greatness? What drives them? What separates amazing performance from standard performance, and why is it that some people are able to reach such unprecedented levels of success?

In my quest to continually learn more about this phenomena, I’ve read numerous books and blogs on the subject. Some of the greater ones have been (in no particular order):

And this is just to name a few. In the past 6 months alone, I’ve read well over 20 books on the topic, searching for answers and similarities between them. I suppose you could say that my quest for knowledge has become a bit of an obsession.

What I’ve come to believe after so much research is that the root of all change is consistency. I’ve discussed this before, in various other articles and various other manners–but at the core of all change lies consistency. Let me explain.

In order to achieve your goals, whatever they may be, you need to change something about yourself. Let’s say you want to become the strongest man in the world, you’ll need to change your diet, training, schedule, and many other self traits. But this is not enough on its own. Even if you change your training schedule, it brings you no closer to your goal if you don’t consistently execute it.

The only way that true change can be manifested is through consistent effort, over and over again. In the book, Talent Is Overrated, the author describes several scientific studies which track musicians for long periods of time. Without exception, the best players are the ones who consistently practice playing over and over again, longer than their peers.

The conclusion the study comes to is that talent (as we know it) is nonexistent. The only thing that separates amazing performers from standard or sub-par performers is the amount of effort (e.g. consistency) they put into it. Study after study referenced in the book draws the same conclusions. The most successful, powerful, and top-performers in their fields always have one thing in common: consistency.

So what does this mean for us? I know that for me, it means that in order to achieve the goals I’ve set for myself, and to develop into the person I someday hope to become, I need to continuously make small changes in my daily life, and consistently execute them, day after day. Of course, consistency is not easy to achieve. It requires willpower, motivation, and desire. If you’ve ever tried to start a new exercise or diet regiment, you likely know what I’m talking about. It can be really, REALLY hard to make the right choices every day. For me, everyday is a battle to continue improving, bit by bit.

When I started making my own life changes, I decided to look for ways to get help building consistency into my daily routine. The best tool I found was HabitForge (check it out). HabitForge is a great web app that helps you build *consistency*¬†through habits. Their approach is this: you create a new habit (exercise 30 minutes a day, read for 30 minutes a day, write 1 page of text each day, etc.), and if you consistently execute this habit for 21 days in a row, then you’ll have overcome the psychological hardships associated with starting a new habit (life change). HabitForge emails you every day, asking if you completed your daily habit, and requests your input (in yes/no format). If you answer no to any of the daily emails, then your completion counter resets to 1 (out of 21), and you’ve got to consistently execute your habit for another 20 days in a row in order to engrain it into your person.

The way HabitForge helps you develop consistency in whatever you want to do is by providing you with extra motivation: you want to see that completion counter show that you’ve “mastered” a habit–so you are less likely to avoid your task and more likely to complete it every day in a consistent fashion.

I’ve been using HabitForge for months now, and it’s been a great tool. I’ve used it to:

  • Lose 80lbs.
  • Read for 30 minutes a day.
  • Exercise 6 days a week.
  • Adjust my sleep schedule.
  • And other things I won’t get into here.

As I continue working towards my goals, I try to constantly remind myself that consistency is key. Even when you don’t feel like putting in the time towards your daily goal–do it anyway, it adds up over time. And that is the core way to make change. Consistency.