A common question I get from triathletes relates to “being more consistent and disciplined”.
Not a surprise given the length and volume of training put in over a season. It’s hard to be ‘great’ day in and day out.
Here’s a specific comment I recently received from a 50-year-old female age grouper in New Jersey:
“I want to improve my diet and eat healthier all the time. I know and have felt how intertwined everything is…better diet=better sleep=better weight=better energy level=better performance. I’m just SO inconsistent and undisciplined.”
This is a big challenge for most triathletes (…and people in general). For the most part we know what food is best for us, yet that knowledge doesn’t always translate into consistent action.
I could elaborate on many facets of why this is, but getting down to the core, we need to understand that our decisions are driven by habits, thoughts in the moment and emotions. Not by our intelligence and knowledge.
We make rapid decisions – mostly unconsciously (that is, we don’t actually recognize the thought pattern is happening) – that the food we do eat is the right choice for now. It is better for saving time, for more satisfying hunger, more tasty to satisfy emotions, it’s the only option, etc.
So how do we overcome this, and be more consistent and disciplined?
I have a simple answer for that, and with a bit of work on your part, I know with absolute certainty that you can see swift improvement in your behavior.
Key Approach: To become more consistent = Have a plan in the short term to develop better habits in the longer term
Rather than aiming for ‘more consistency’ you’ve got to aim for changing the specific behavior that’s stopping your consistency, and create a new habit of the action that you really want.
Strong, positive habits will drive your consistency, not willpower.
Here are three ways to make this happen:
- Focus on the plan – don’t leave your actions to chance or impulse. If you want to make better food choices, or manage your time better to get your training in, or simply get your swim catch-and-pull stronger, develop a plan to do that. Do it in writing, design it with precision and specificity to make it absolutely clear how you’re going to do it. What do you need to do, think, or focus on at each step to be able to confidently execute your plan?
- Identify the barriers – don’t just plan what you need to do, identify what you need to stop doing. What is going to prevent you from making the right decision next time? What often derails you in that moment?
- Aim for improvement not perfection – small steps of progress is ALWAYS better than an all-or-nothing approach. Remember, you’re trying to change months or years of old habits that are well engrained, and chipping away at this is a very, very effective approach.
Start putting your efforts into the decisions and actions that lead to consistency and you start to notice you’re being more consistent. Which, of course, will only lead to more rapid improvements in your skills and abilities and ultimately, your race day performance.
Watch out for Part 2 coming next week where I’ll help you to strengthen your discipline. If you want your specific inner game question answered, simply email me here or leave a comment below.