One of the hardest challenges is how to develop consistency, right? Tell me if this sounds familiar. You have a big goal in front of you and you’re eager to reach it. Maybe it’s starting an online course, or writing a book. However, over time your motivation lessens. You sit staring in vain at the calendar. Everyday you see it there on the wall and your heart momentarily sinks as it remains unticked. You already know that, just like the last time, you won’t be making this target. You’ll end up changing it to another date in the distant future, telling yourself, “I’ll make it next time”.
I used to set business and personal goals based on the long term. In 5 years time I want to be this. In 3 years time I want to be doing this. Watching the years tick by without getting what I wanted left me depressed, fed up and feeling like a failure.
Long-term goals are important to have. They serve as guidelines that bring structure and direction to our lives. But they also serve as a distraction from the ‘now’.
The Problem With Long-Term Goals
The issue with long-term goals is two-fold. First, most of us set them with unrealistic outcomes, which makes it hard to develop consistency. Striving for something that’s so big, like a five-year goal, means you don’t see immediate returns — and slowly but surely, your commitment wavers. You get disheartened. You get down, and you give up. Then you resort back to your previous state, and tell yourself it will be different next time.
It won’t be.
Second, we forget that we can’t actually plan for the future, because how it will play out is unknown. Unexpected events will occur, and they will force us to make the decision of whether to stick with our goals or re-evaluate them. In many cases, it’s better to pivot. In The Origin and Evolution of New Businesses, Professor Amar V. Bhide showed that 93% of all successful companies abandoned their original goals because they turned out to be wrong for the company.
It showed that successful companies succeed in spite of their initial plans, not because of them. Take Slack for example. Slack is a chat service for co-working, but it didn’t start that way. The founders of Slack wanted to make a video game called Glitch. While popular, it wasn’t profitable. Rather than stick with their original goals, the team pivoted, and became the success they are today.
One day, I had a heart-to-heart chat with my mentor about my ‘failures’, and he told me I was setting unrealistic goals. He told me I should instead focus on daily, weekly and monthly goals — which he called ‘Progress Points’.
This changed everything for me, and finally taught me how to develop consistency.
Today, the furthest I look into the future is 6 months. My five-year plan has been canned. I set targets and time for evaluation in the summer, and at the end of the year. I look to only set reachable, tangible steps that I believe I can achieve.
When it comes to goal-setting, try this exercise. Rather than putting your goal in the calendar and staring at it with a feeling of dread as it seems immediately impossible, write down the daily, weekly and monthly ‘progress points’ that need to be achieved in order to get to the end point.
The list you now have in front of you is full of smaller tasks that can be done in a short space of time. The more of these you can get done in the day, the more you can chip away at the overall goal. This has a multitude of benefits: it keeps you focused and on target, it builds up momentum, and it improves your positivity. Best of all, it keeps you consistently moving forward, no matter how small the step.
For example, lets take the goal of “I will write a book this year.” The very idea of this for many people sounds daunting and overwhelming. Why not commit to the goal of ‘I will write each day for 30 minutes’ instead? This simple switch lets you achieve your weekly progress points of writing a chapter of your book. By repeating this goal over the month, you can achieve your monthly progress point of writing the first 5 chapters. With the momentum you’ve built, come the year’s end, you’re likely to be closer to the yearly progress point of completing the first draft of your book.
My mentor told me that the difference between those who reach their goals and those who don’t is one thing — consistency. With this superpower, they can produce extraordinary results and outcomes because they take the required actions to follow through on their goals. If you break your goals down into achievable progress points, you too can learn how to develop the superpower of consistency and achieve everything you want.
Your consistency today determines your success tomorrow.