How do we coach consistency?
I just find it SO hard to be consistent… said your client, for the twentieth time this year.
As a coach, you’re pulling your hair out, trying to figure out how you can help them be consistent.
What is it about this person that makes consistency so hard?
How is it possible… that there are some clients who are just able to follow a plan, day in, day out?
How is possible… that some clients seemingly do NOT struggle with rigidity and structure?
Imagine if every person in the world could just follow their health plan. Wouldn’t it be easy to deal with? Wouldn’t SO many health problems just disappear?
Wouldn’t it be easy to broadcast across television – ‘IF YOU WANT TO BE HEALTHY, JUST DO THIS…?’
And the world would follow suit, diligently applying themselves to these health plans. The world would be healthier and people would be happier.
But it just doesn’t work that way… does it?
So now you might ask – how DO we coach consistency out of our clients?
I say, perhaps the question is incomplete.
It is not simply about coaching consistency out of our clients.
It’s also about whether consistency is applicable to our clients.
Consistent behaviour is simple enough, right? Just move ‘x’ amount. Stick to ‘y’ foods. Sleep ‘z’ hours on a consistent basis. Easy to talk about. But seemingly hard to do.
What about consistent people? The question we might ask is… is this person in front of me a consistent person? That is, does this person in front of me display consistent behaviour in other areas of their life?
Are they consistent in their disposition? Or are they volatile? Are there many different shades to their emotions? Do they jump jobs consistently?
Sometimes we forget that individual differences exist – certain personalities just don’t suit consistent behaviour. It’s almost like they see the world in a different way. Some people are just much better suited for inconsistent behaviour, and that’s okay.
So now we have two questions to address, right?
The first – how do we coach consistency?
And two, is this person actually a consistent person in general?
Let’s tackle the first question. I believe consistency can be achieved by setting tasks that are so miniscule and mundane that it doesn’t seem like much at all.
One reason why behaviours can appear difficult to people is because they are at the time of consideration. In order for people to perform behaviours consistently, there has to be a certain ease, AS WELL AS a reward for it (more on that later).
For example, asking someone to track their food everyday is more challenging mentally then simply asking someone to eat a handful of greens. Or a piece of fruit. Asking someone to run 1km everyday is probably harder than asking them to walk for 10 minutes. Just try imagining what would be easier for your clients and start there.
Secondly, there HAS to be a reward. There needs to be a positive experience that makes them WANT to do it again. For some individuals, they’re very intrinsically motivated. They’ll do it for themselves. But for others, not so much. They need something from you that tells them they’ve done a good job. Does this mean you give them a gift every time? No! Not at all. What it could mean though, is just a couple words of encouragement, a few words of ‘GREAT EFFORT!’ or ‘YOU CAN DO THIS!’ Tiny positively reinforcing moments like this go a long way.
The next point we have to address is whether the individual in front of you is actually predisposed to be ‘consistent.’ We all know that one person who is hyper organised, who seems to have their life planned down to the hour. Are they are able to stick to it, day in and day out.
But we also know the person who is ‘everywhere.’ They’re always trying new things. They’re jumping from job to job. They’re always reinventing themselves. And they’ve been that way for many years of their life. Do you think these people CAN be consistent with something like fitness if… they’re not even consistent in their behaviour with other areas of their life?
I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
I bet you just had a brain-explosion moment.
Because the answer you just came to was most likely… no.
So what do we do with these people? If we can’t expect consistent behaviour, how do we help them improve their health when consistent behaviour is what’s needed?
The answer will probably surprise you.
It’s by being inconsistent in the short term, but consistent in the long term.
This means your training programs need to have enough variety on a short-term basis that your client doesn’t find it boring. But it still needs to be centred on a long-term goal such that your client still reaps benefits.
This means encouraging your client to try a variety of foods, to keep their palate interested, but having the long-term view that all these foods should be centred around improving their health. By introducing a variety of options that can keep them entertained, your client does not have to stick to certain foods to a long period of time.
Consistency is a tricky thing to teach to any client, but it’s not impossible. Set small goals and tasks to begin with. Make sure they’re easy for the client. On the individual level, remember that everyone is different. Allow inconsistencies in the short term but overall consistency in the long term.