One of the biggest questions when it comes to habit formation is how to be consistent.
A very good strategy is the “high-bar-low-bar” hack that I first learned from the YouTube Channel Improvement Pill.
The Automaticity Line
Firstly, I need to introduce a new concept. Studies show that every routine has what is called an Automaticity Line, a point where if we repeat a routine enough times, it becomes as automatic as it can get. At this point, our routine is now a habit which means very little thought is put into it.
When we repeat a routine, we are essentially progressing to reach the maximum automaticity line. Although the number of repetition required to reach this maximum automaticity line depends on how complicated the routine is, it is important that we be consistent because inconsistency means a loss of progress to reach the maximum automaticity and the worst case scenario, a setback to square one.
Focus on Showing Up
Secondly, we need to understand that CONSISTENCY is the only thing that we need to reach the automaticity line. Yes, that’s right – The only thing.
Someone who works out for 10 minutes every single day will reach the automaticity line way faster than someone who works out for a couple of hours every other day.
When we think “Oh I am so tired. There’s no way I can work out for an hour today,” we skip the gym and miss a day of progress. The problem is that we oftentimes focus too much on how hard we work on our habit when instead we should focus more on just showing up, especially at the early stage of the journey when missing days can quickly set us back to the starting line.
Remember, for building a habit, being consistent is way more important than being perfect.
High Bar, Low Bar
But you might ask, what’s the point of going to the gym for just 10 minutes or meditating for just 1 minute? Good question!
Because to reach the line of automaticity, the only thing that is required is consistency, we need to first and foremost make sure that we reach the line of automaticity as fast as we can so that we are on autopilot and it no longer takes any mental energy or will power for us to make the decision to do the routine.
But to reap the benefit of the habit, we need to put more effort into working on it of course. I suggest a trick: to set a high bar and a low bar. A “low bar” requires us to follow all the steps of our routine but only with the minimum effort. A “high bar” is the maximum effort. For example, to work out in the gym for 2 hours is my high bar and to simply show up and work out for 10 minutes is the low bar. To meditate for 15 minutes is the high bar and to meditate for 1 minute is the low bar.
This has been my secret to staying consistent. It is super effective because, with the low bar, I can no longer make excuses to skip a day. I can always find 10 minutes in a day to work out. Same idea, I can always find 1 minute to meditate. It helps to reach the line of automaticity fast. And the truth is that showing up is actually the hardest part. Once I successfully show up, that’s where the high bar comes in to play. I know that to meditate for 15 minutes is the high bar and I know that even though I cannot do that much, but since I’ve already made that much effort to find a quiet place and sit in the right position, I might as well do more than the bare minimum. Maybe I end up meditating for 3 minutes or 5 minutes, or somewhere in between the high bar and the low bar. Or if I have made it this far to the gym, I might as well work out for 30 minutes although I just intended to work out for 10 minutes.
So it is almost like cheating, only in this case, we are cheating our mind for the better.
Try this hack for yourself and I am confident that it will also help you make your habit stick.
This blog post is based on my video series on HABIT. You can watch them on your preferred social media platform: