Thursday, January 12, 2012

Staying Committed

source: freefotouk,
A theme that has been roaming through my mind recently is the idea of making a commitment to a goal.  A lot of us embark on the New Year with hopes of finally making that change--of losing weight, going back to school, or saving more money.  Two weeks or two months later, the goal is languishing and we've returned to our previous tendencies.  Why does this happen?  We know that organic broccoli is healthier than french fries.  We do want to earn that degree and have more money.  So why do we end up back to our previous patterns, feeling relieved that the stress of continuing our new habit is gone?

There are different reasons for this: 
  • Fantasizing about the end result instead of realizing the adjustments we'll have to make to achieve that slimmer figure. 
  • Expecting too much, too soon. 
  • Feeling uncomfortable and deprived by our new behavior.
My theory is that before we take the action required to achieve a goal, we first work on strengthening our commitment muscles.  Once that quality is strengthened within us, it's easier to set, live and achieve our goals.

Imagine how much easier it would be for you to fit in that morning workout, if you were sincerely committed to your health.  When your commitment muscles are soft and weak, then you're far likelier to give up on a goal when challenged. 

Often times, we latch onto a goal with excitement and enthusiasm but with flabby commitment muscles.  When our excitement declines and our commitment is required, we perform poorly.  After all, if you're used to lifting 15 lbs, how can you instantly be expected to lift 5 times that amount?  Likewise, with your commitment muscles, if you're used to having a jiggly, "just getting-by" level of commitment in life, then it's going to feel uncomfortable to suddenly have a firm, high-achiever's commitment level. 

Since we you don't yet have that level it's easier for you to give up on your goals.  While you wish to change, you have a stronger commitment to comfort than to growth.  To ease the transition, you can do the commitment workout below and also take small steps so that you gently stretch your comfort zone.

Here's my still-in-the-lab workout on this commitment.  I'm currently in Week 1.  My suggestion is that before you begin your most challenging goals, you do your commitment workout first and then take baby steps with the goal.  Remember to set yourself up for success, not failure.  Please note, if your goal is to end an addictive behavior, be sure to consult with a professional about this.  This post is not an excuse for someone to continue their smoking habit.
The Easy Commitment Workout
Week 1
In the mornings, write the following:
I commit.  (3 times)
I keep my commitments.  (3 times)

When you're tempted to give up on something, remind yourself that you keep your commitments. 
Week 2
Appreciate that you kept Week 1's  commitment.  If you were unable to finish Week 1, appreciate what you did and then go back to Week 1 before moving onto Week 2.

In the mornings, write this phrase:
I keep my commitment to ________. (3 times)
Leave the sentence incomplete.  Do not complete that blank.  I'll explain later why that sentence is unfinished.

Stay posted for Week 3...

Please note that I'm strengthening my commitment muscle, also, so I am not in any way claiming to be a commitment guru.  : )  There are some activities that I've committed to, like flossing my teeth and getting more green veggies and other activities were my commitment has been lagging.  Often times, my posts are inspired by my own experiences or challenges.

To your growth in the New Year!

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