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How To Be Consistent (If You're Like Me)

Shenandoah

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If you're anything like me, you probably get distracted easily. It's not that you lose motivation out of nowhere per se, but something else captures your attention, and your focus shifts to that new thing, and before you know it, you've completely moved on from what you were supposed to be doing consistently. I've been struggling with this all my life, and only recently (a few months ago) have I really begun to make significant progress in this area of my life. The area of consistency. I'll share what I've realized these past few months on how to improve your ability to stay consistent, if you're anything like me. Throughout this thread I'll be using the example of writing a book to illustrate my ideas intuitively.

I'll start with what I consider to be THE most important thing you need to realize. If you're trying to do something consistently and you're struggling with it, that's a hint and a half that your environment around you is incongruent with what it is you want to do. What do I mean by this? Let's go with the book writing example.

Writing an entire book is a tough challenge, and consistency is the engine that will drive you all the way to the end. Let's assume that this is your goal now. You want to write an entire book about, say, a science fiction scenario. The details don't matter. Let me ask you this: what is your environment like? Who are you hanging out with the most? Which communities are you a part of? If you use any news aggregators (like Reddit for instance), what are you subscribed to? In the case of Reddit, which subreddits do you follow?

If your environment is in any way incongruent with your goal to write the book, and you're like me, it's almost a guarantee that you will fail at being consistent after a while. How long depends on how well you've developed your self-discipline. Needless to say, it probably won't be much fun either because staying consistent will involve a lot of struggle. Alright, so what do I mean by having an environment that in incongruent with your goal?

This can be anything. If you have no friends who are interested in writing a book themselves, you've already got one incompatibility right there. Just this alone will probably cause you to fail. Having friends who have similar goals will be crucial to you achieving your goal. And I'm not even talking about the concept of having you and your friends keeping each other accountable. That can definitely help, but I'm talking about something more than that. It's a little hard to put in words, but I'm sure you've heard the saying: "You are the average of the 5 people you hang out with the most". I've found that this is true. If it's 5 people or 3 people, I wouldn't know. But the saying is generally true.

Another example of an incongruent environmental factor would be what communities you're in. If you want to make friends with similar goals to yours, you'll have to join one or several communities that contain the kinds of people you'd like to connect with. If you want to write a book, you join an author community. If you have Discord, finding communities is really easy through websites like Disboard. Joining a subreddit is another alternative. You're smart, you can figure it out.

Both of these examples of environmental incongruencies are probably the two most important ones because they control where your attention goes. When you've made it into a habit to talk to your author friends and to engage in conversation with other authors, it's going to be really hard to ignore that part of your life. Your friends will message you, you'll get notified left and right, and you can't help but read what they say. Having these different things in your life to keep drawing your attention back towards your goal or the topic of your goal even, will help you immensely. When you have this working for you, you can even take breaks, and you'll find yourself easily returning to your project at hand without much of a struggle. A little bit of a struggle is always expected because every time you take a break from a project, you'll lose momentum and you'll find yourself a little demotivated. This is when having a social circle around you that can motivate you and help you will be really helpful. I feel like a lot of people could benefit from just understanding this simple concept, however obvious it may sound.

Let me share something interesting about me which illustrates this concept even further. Personally, I find producing music and making videos, and even acting, to be more fun than programming. I really do. And yet, I find myself working on programming projects way more than my music and video projects. I can give them some time now and then, but I always seem to return to programming for some strange reason. As you probably might've guessed, it's because I'm surrounded by programmer friends. A friend and I are working on a new project together which we're both very excited about, but it's got nothing to do with music production or videos. I've made it a priority to focus on working on these programming projects for now because I believe they can provide a lot of value to others, and they're generally interesting projects. Sorry for rambling, but the idea here is to illustrate just how effective having very few environmental incongruencies can be.

Alright. You want to write a book. What do you do if you have no author friends, you're not in any author communities, and so on? Well, personally, the first thing I'd do is look around on Reddit and Disboard for author communities. I'd also consider joining NaNoWriMo (google it). I'd start engaging with the other authors in there, but try to engage most with the ones who seem to be the most serious about their pursuits. Remember, you are the average of the 5 people or so that you hang out with the most.

In addition to this, I'd also suggest filling your physical environment with things that have to do with writing. It could be books on how to write great stories, or even just fiction books that serve as a constant reminder of what it is that you're supposed to be doing. Whatever you can put in your physical environment which draws your attention towards the act of writing a book will help.

One tool I love using is the news notifications you get from Google based on what your interests are. I'm fascinated by AI and I've been studying AI a lot of the past few months (consistently, hehe), and every day or so I receive notifications about interesting news articles related to progress within the field of AI (Artificial Intelligence), and Machine Learning.

Along with molding your environment, there are other things you should do as well to really make sure you've got this. If you're really serious about writing a book, I suggest telling your friends and family that you will write one. Make it painful for yourself to quit, like the humiliation of admitting to your friends and family that you couldn't achieve your goal of writing an entire book. You can also consider having an accountability partner. This should be a friend of yours who has the same goal as you (writing a book or manuscript, or something along those lines). This can also really help.

With all of these tools outlined in this thread, you should be well equipped to tackle hard problems that require consistent effort over a long period of time. Oh, and remember that breaks are important too!
 
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