Most people need consistency more than they need intensity.

This tweet by James Clear reminds me of one of my coaching clients, whose ongoing challenge is the fostering of habits that support his goals. He would declare a new direction, a new practice to take on, and then quickly flake out. It was disappointing for us both, and eventually reached levels of frustration for him.

It took us a couple of sessions, but two things quickly became clear to him; in his habit-building process, he was aiming for perfection and picturing epic wins.

What that means is: (1) he was expecting not to miss any of his milestones; if he did, he chastised himself hard in his mind, and (2) he expected dramatic changes and when it couldn’t be observed, he lost interest.

This is in direct contrast to what James Clear suggested in his tweet.

Essentially, the idea is to aim low. Not by way of lowering one’s standards, but rather, to make it so easy to win… i.e. so hard to fail.

Instead of aiming to write a book, aim to journal 2 or 3 lines every night. Instead of signing up for a silent meditation retreat, sit in stillness for 5 minutes a day.

In other words, instead of aiming directly for the epic win, aim to fulfil the little steps first – especially if you’ve never attempted anything close to it yet. This might save you from  burnout, discouragement or quitting altogether. 

If you can consistently fulfil the little steps, guess what? You’d have solid footing on the journey towards the epic win.

In one of his articles, James Clear adds another interesting suggestion: never miss twice in a row. So while building the journaling habit, if you for some reason miss or skip it, it’s okay. You’ve got two strikes in a row, not one. You’re still on track.

This is a powerful strategy, as it helps us avoid beating ourselves up over EVERY SINGLE MISS. Think about it; what are the odds that we arrive with a perfect record, in our habit-building process? Not a single miss?

Also, it’ll likely be easier on our emotions. Many people that I know – ESPECIALLY if they are driven, meticulous or have high standards – tend not to take kindly to themselves when they make mistakes. They beat themselves up in their minds when they don’t hit the mark. Hence, allow yourself two marks, i.e. twice in a row.

These strategies may not be the focus of ontological coaching per se, but they certainly are relevant, in how they involve different ways of looking at things; how things ‘should’ be when one is building new habits. What I appreciate most about them is how, like many a times in ontological coaching, all it takes is a small shift. A single step angled just a little differently will have you end up in a very different destination.

If habits is an area you’re interested in strengthening yourself in, also read The Willpower Instinct by Jane McGonigal. It is one of the most practically-useful books I have ever read, and continue to apply the knowledge with my coachees, as well as with myself.

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