The Theory of Consistent Discomfort

Do you procrastinate?

As I did my own series or reflections, I realised how important consistent action was important. Now, as much as I would love to admit how impossibly consistent I am, I’m also human. I procrastinate too! But I am on a quest to help people arrive at an elevated version of themselves through personal mastery.

So consistency to me is a formula that starts off like this:

CONSISTENCY = Willpower x Habit

The obvious trouble is that many people will find themselves lacking in willpower. Others lacking in habit.

So let me break down this formula for those of you who are seeking to develop better consistency for sanity in your business.

The Willpower Paradox

You might have the “do whatever it takes” attitude. I think to be fair this is an incomplete piece of a useful formula. When you take it to the extreme, it smacks of a lack of self-care. So, you need to understand the issue with willpower.

The American Psychological Association defines willpower as:

I think what strikes most people is that you need to do quite a fair bit to develop this muscle, but eventually, this muscle fatigues and is depleted.

So, obviously the first order of business is to know how to train that muscle. I believe there are at least 2 components to this.

Component 1 – Your Desired Outcome (O). For a lot of people, the idea of an outcome is equivalent to a goal. But this is not true. A goal is a statement representing the outcome. This makes your outcome clarification the singular most important starting point in your journey.

The outcome is categorized by several conditions, among which include:

  • It is controllable or executed by you;
  • You can use sensory representations to specifically define the outcome;
  • It is stated in the positive (the brain cannot process a negative);
  • It is ecological;
  • It is contextually appropriate

Component 2 – Propulsion, (P = r – i)

Propulsion is comprised of the difference between resourcefulness (r) and interference (i). So for instance, if my resources are greater than my interference, you would say that you are going to be more likely to move toward achieving your outcome.

Resources are made up of the ability to understand toward (positive) as well as away-from (negative) motivators in your life.

Interferences are limiting factors that block you from moving toward your intended outcome. They come from (i) lacking availability or awareness of resources, strengths and skills, (ii) limiting beliefs, values and identity

For instance, when we talk about delayed gratification, it is often that we cannot take our mind off an immediately desired action such as lazing around. This is likely because an interference is creating a leakage in your willpower.

The Habit Formation Paradigm

One of the things I mention in my trainings is that willpower tends to be less important than habit. If you have an unconscious habit, willpower will not factor into ensuring that the habit is effective. I mean, look at your bad habits, and you won’t need willpower to sustain them, right? They happen automatically!

The converse is true. You want good habits that happen automatically? Then you need a function of intensity and repetition to grow the habit. The Mastery Triangle therefore helps us to determine how we are pushing our edges of the comfort zone. It comprises:

I think intuitively, people understand the power of repetition (rr) and intensity (in). It’s like the gym analogy where you are consistently building muscle through repetitive mechanical action, with intensity techniques that help you to arrive at hypertrophy or strength.

But most people may not understand the linguistics (L) component. Why don’t we call it thought. In my more technical understanding of the world of linguistics (I did my honors thesis in the linguistics of psychological discourse), thought is a series of symbols of meaning which is part of the overall structure of language. I would therefore assimilate “learning” and “growth” as a part of this linguistic component. The average person, just to illustrate, will not recognize the difference between the words “you can” and “you must”. Both words affect the individual’s motivation very drastically.

Hence, there needs to be a program to build intensity by using iterative repetitions. As examples, if you can do only 5 minutes of meditation this week, you will then attept to raise it to 10 minutes next week. If you took 1 hour to calm down from bad news, then you aim to take 15 minutes the next time. I treat this as an increment over time (i.e. +(t)) because I believe that challenging oneself by exponential jumps is unlikely to be ecological (e.g. trying to lift a 30kg dumbbell by doing whatever it takes, instead of programming a 8kg to 15kg growth direction over time).

Furthermore, using neurolinguistic programming, we can amplify the intensity of said linguistic components that we can say/behavior inside our mind to change the level of emotional drive in our minds.

The time element should be sustained incrementally over a period of 7 days x 24 weeks, which is what I think is a useful benchmark to transform new behaviors into habits.


So, if you want to arrive at the peak of your consistency behaviors, you will have to work on the variables in version 1.0 of the Theory of Consistent Discomfort so that you can build your consistency in a sustained and improved manner.

CONSISTENCY = f(O, P(r-i)) x f[L(in x rr)+(t)]

Of course, the theory is nice to think about, but where you can apply this often requires far more practical implementation.

For now, I am mindful that it may not account for well-being (or does it) and the need for self-care in the larger scheme of things because this may be an important factor where the five dimensions of energy is concerned.

I invite you to test this out and to let me know what loopholes you feel this has. I’ll be happy to consider and expand the theory behind this.

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See also  Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace: Overcome Challenges

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