What do you do in order to get a task done? Write yourself a note? Keep reminding yourself every day? If it's a lifestyle choice that you've habituated over a long period, you will likely have a hard time breaking the routine you've created and keeping yourself accountable.
Robert Cialdini, a professor of both marketing and psychology at the Arizona State University, and the author of today's book nugget, informs us that there is a common desire in people to appear consistent with what the have already said or done.
"Whenever one takes a stand that is visible to others, there arises a drive to maintain that stand in order to look like a consistent person."
If I were to tell you that I am a vegetarian, and then the next night we get together, and I am eating a steak, you would naturally be confused, and probably you would feel as if you'd been lied to. If you see me at the gym and say that you come every Wednesday at 2pm, and then for the next month I come every Wednesday at 2pm and see you're not there, this will give me the impression that you are an inconsistent person.
Cialdini says that nobody wants to appear this way, and that it will serve us to great lengths to use this fact to our advantage. If we commit publicly to one or many people, we are more likely to follow through. So, perhaps this is an instance where you really can fake it till you make it, as the idiom goes.
Perhaps it's not even fake. I tell people I am a songwriter. This is why I moved to New York at the beginning of this year. I tell people that I am a performer. A series of questions ensues afterwords: "when is your next gig? Where can I hear your music? Are you in a band?" If I don't have an answer for them, it appears to the person that I am not actively pursuing what I say I do, but it also begins to appear that way to myself. Needing consistency is as much about social impressions as it is about self-image.
So, the next time you really want grow in some way, try committing to it out loud or in writing to another person, say, "I am going to the gym every Wednesday at this time until it's nice enough to run outside again," or "I am never going to smoke another cigarette," (an example from the book).