Consistency is the key to creating change that lasts

I’ve always had a somewhat competitive thing going on with my older brother. It’s not exactly that I am looking to out-do him, but I’m two years younger than him, so I’ve always been following his lead in one way or another. He was interested in music before I was so naturally my first music interests reflected his; he became interested in cycling so for a while I followed suit; he was into computers and had an early Commodore 64 so I thought I should be too (not that I ever really understood them). When he was aged 14 or 15, he was also interested in New Romantic fashion and used to wear an Aran Crios around his waist, flecky trousers, winklepicker boots and a Middle-Eastern style scarf – I drew the line at following his styling suggestions.

Even now, as adults, I find that I’m still following many of his leads. He’s a scientist by training and everything he does is informed by his own research. Many years before keto and low-carb diets were a popular thing, he had decided that this was the way to eat in order to stay trim and healthy – I followed along a few years later having laughed at him when he started.

Over the past few years, around the start of the year, my brother has set himself a New Year challenge. Often these challenges are just done for their own sake – like learning to complete a Rubik’s Cube or memorising Pi to 200 digits. These are what you might call his ‘disinterested challenges’ – there’s really nothing to be gained by overcoming them other than that he knows that he can.  Sometimes however his challenges have a purpose, often around health and fitness: like this year’s week-long fast to investigate the effects that not eating for 336 hours would have on him and his body.

A couple of years ago, he set himself the challenge that by year-end he would be able to do a hand-stand push-up. As you might imagine, this means learning to do a handstand and, while in that position, bending your elbows until your forehead touches the floor and then pushing back up into the handstand position again. Let’s just say it’s an incredibly difficult thing to learn to do when you’re in your prime athletic years – it must be almost impossible to learn when you’re past 50, especially if you’ve allowed yourself to get out of shape.

But he had managed to keep himself largely healthy and fit.  As he would say, there’s really no rocket science to it. You eat well and you exercise regularly. Perhaps you follow a strict eating plan and a daily exercise routine like my brother; or perhaps you are a calorie counter and walk your dogs morning and night. There are lots of things that can work and these can be radically different in many ways. However, in one way they are all the same – benefits only last if you stick with the plan.

Gyms across Ireland are full of people who join in January, go a few times per week and start watching what they eat more closely. These people will likely see great results: feel more energetic and generally be healthier. But of course, if they stop doing the things that were working for them, it’s likely that by April they will lose the benefits and end up back where they started.  Consistency is the key to building all good habits that last.

Since I started working with LIFT, we have seen people transformed by going through the 8-week LIFT roundtable process. One participant said that she felt that because of LIFT she had become ‘a better mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend’. That is of course an amazing thing to be able to say. But how do we make sure that changes like this last? The answer to this reflects one of the questions that we are asked most often in LIFT – what happens after the 8-weeks of LIFT are over? Our answer is that when a LIFT roundtable is finished, and you have built up your ‘inner personal leadership muscle’, you do it again. Reflecting on how we can get better each day isn’t a one-off thing. When we have finished one set of 8 LIFT weeks, maybe take a break of a couple of weeks, but then we start again, perhaps with a new roundtable group or perhaps with the same people. Just like going to the gym for just one month won’t give lasting results, our inner leadership muscle needs to be exercised regularly for us to build our improved behaviour and thinking into a lifelong habit.

ps – I asked my brother a while ago how he was getting on with his handstand push-up experiment. He said he was half-way there – he was able to do a push-up!

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