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From Self-Doubt to Success: How Consistency Transforms Your Mindset and Goals

Did you know you can leverage your brain to consistently make progress on your goals? 
In early February I decided to write about consistency—why it matters, how hard it can be, and how to rewire our brains to be our ally.

Many people feel deflated around mid-February when they realize that they have not maintained the new habit or made progress on their new goal since the New Year. 

I thought the timing would be perfect.
Et voila!
The scientific marvel that is my brain went into a tailspin.
Reader, I was totally hijacked by self-judgement.
Setting myself the goal to write about consistency was enough to make me feel:

  • self-doubt—”who am I to tell the world what I think?” and
  • embarrassment—”you can’t even consistently produce a newsletter about consistency, you joke!”

Paradoxically, in trying to avoid the feelings that came up when I thought about how hard it is to be consistent, I fell into a pattern of avoidance and restlessness which only amplified my inconsistency.
After many (so many!) PQ Reps and solid coaching, I was able to get out of the tailspin and regain my equanimity.

I’m sharing this story because consistency matters and yes, it can be hard when a negative self-talk is in the way.
Consistency transforms our brains
It’s true that our brains are marvels. We now know that they adapt and change throughout our lives. This means we have immense potential to shape our brains to achieve our goals.
When we set a goal, our brains undergo a series of transformations. Specific regions, like the prefrontal cortex and hippocampus, become more active and are primed for change.
Consistent repetition, whether it’s practicing a skill or meditating daily, strengthens the neural connections associated with that action. In Mental Fitness, we describe this as strengthening our mental muscles. The stronger your mental muscles, the greater support you’ll have for taking action toward your goals.
The evidence is clear
Studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) have shown increased activation in goal-related brain regions with consistent practice.

For instance, a study on musicians found that consistent practice led to enhanced neural connectivity in areas responsible for motor control and auditory processing.
And, when our goals are associated with positive emotions, our brain releases dopamine, which causes pleasurable feelings and reinforces motivation and learning. This emotional link strengthens the neural pathways associated with the goal, making it more likely we’ll stick with it
The beauty of compounding our efforts
Like interest on a savings account, the magic of consistency is that it has a compounding effect. Each successful action, each small win, strengthens your mental muscles and your belief in your ability to achieve the goal. This snowball effect builds momentum, making future actions easier and more rewarding (more dopamine!)
How to be consistent in the real world
Translating these findings into practical steps is key. Here are some strategies you can use today:

  • Set SMART goals: Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound goals provide clear direction and motivation.
  • Break down large goals into smaller, manageable steps: This makes them less daunting and allows for consistent progress.
  • Schedule your practice: Honour the importance of your goal pursuit by dedicating and protecting time in your calendar to work on your goal.
  • Find a coach or accountability partner: Having someone to share your journey with massively increases the likelihood you’ll reach your goal.
  • Celebrate, celebrate, celebrate: The smallest of wins deserves recognition! Acknowledging your progress reinforces the positive emotional connection to your goal. Did someone say, “dopamine?”

Consistency is a journey
Consistency is a journey, not a destination. There will be setbacks and distractions. Negative self-talk never completely goes away and it can hijack you at surprising moments.
If you practice empathy for yourself, learn from but don’t wallow in mistakes, and get back in the saddle when you fall off, you’ll make progress!
With each consistent effort, you’re transforming your brain and goals, and building mental muscles that create a strong foundation for that success you deserve.