Have you ever wondered what the difference is between people who are good at committing to things and those who are bad?
It’s not what you think.
It’s not that you were born that way.
Nor is it your personality type.
Masters of commitment follow a useful set of guidelines— they know what to do and how to do it.
I used to be so laid back that I could barely plan anything. I kept myself alive in a job and a roof over my head (no small task). Apart from that, I’d put off a lot of useful stuff. It wasn’t until I met my wife and became a Dad that my commitment skills went from novice to Jedi.
It didn’t happen overnight.
Don’t get me wrong; it wasn’t an instant transformation. For years, I’d been a master of procrastination. Why do it today when I can do it tomorrow?
So what changed?
For starters, I’d gotten fed up with my job. It was getting me down, and Sunday evenings were always full of dread.
Instead of going down the same old road, I decided on something drastic. I was going to quit my job and start up a business. Yikes!
The truth is that I was as scared as hell. What if it fell flat on its face, or earn any money? What if I had to crawl back to my old job with my tail between my legs? How horrific!
On balance, my desire for freedom outweighed my fear of failure. I was ready and willing to risk defeat. I desperately wanted the reward, so I took the plunge.
My Wife’s Influence
One thing I quickly discovered about my wife was that she was a ‘task master’. She was chief completer-finisher, and it rubbed off on me.
Not content with resting on her laurels, she is soon thinking about and planning her next project. In the early days, I was trying to keep up. I realised something unexpected by following her lead – I, too, could commit to things and see them through. Who’d have thought?
When children came along and my spare time vapourised, my commitment skills rose to another level. If only I’d had children younger, think of all I could have accomplished by now!
My latest risk of failure
Some time back, I journeyed outside my comfort zone by launching a new product in my business; the ACT Practitioners Community. It brings together counsellors, psychologists, psychotherapists and coaches who want to build their knowledge and skills in Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT).
It feels like a bold ambition. My mind and body are playing havoc with the fear of failure. It’s OK, though, because it’s the price of taking a chance. I’m willing to hold the risks because I want to see the rewards. I want to help more people build better lives.
How to become a master of commitment
Hopefully, my story shows you that people can change. Just because you’ve not been great at committing to things in the past doesn’t mean that is your destiny. You merely need to what to do and how to do it.
Here are my top eight ways to turn you into a master of commitment.
1. Clarify why it’s important.
Having goals is good, but without knowing why they are important, they risk being dull. Before committing, try to clarify why you care about it.
For example, why do you want to lose weight if your goal is to lose weight? Is it to look better in your clothes or to improve your health?
Once you’ve answered that question, go a little deeper. Ask yourself why you want to look better in your clothes or improve your health. Perhaps it’s to feel more attractive or to run around without getting out of breath?
Why not do a little deeper? Why do you want to be more attractive or run around? Is it because you want to start dating or because you can play with your children?
Once you clarify what you want to do, you’ve found something meaningful. You’ll boost your motivation to stick with your new challenge by giving yourself this clarity.
2. Set an intention for the day.
It’s easy to forget your goals because life is busy and unpredictable. You get swept up by the latest expectations from family members and bosses.
Just because you set yourself an intention for today doesn’t mean you’ll repeat it tomorrow. We need to build it up so it becomes a habit. You establish new patterns when you set your intention each day.
In our community course, From the Feet Up, you can use our worksheets and planners to keep you focused and on track.
I am not a fan of big complicated goals. Training yourself to show up each day and ask yourself, what is one small thing I want to do today? It works much better for mastering commitment.
3. Identify the most significant barriers.
The most common excuses people give for not changing their behaviour are insufficient time, money or energy. They’re valid justifications but not always the whole picture.
When we are scared, angry, hurt or ashamed of ourselves, we tend to find self-care more difficult. We run for cover or find a way to sabotage our plans. It’s only human.
You can learn to side-step these urges by identifying your typical barriers, i.e. your thoughts and feelings. Often these exist outside your awareness, so you get to choose by bringing attention and clarity to these experiences. Without self-awareness, there is no choosing; you merely repeat what you’ve always done.
4. Ask for help.
Sometimes, we need a little help from our friends and family. You’d love to go for a walk or read a book, but you’re always busy. You need someone else to step in and hold the fort.
It’s good to ask for help because you’re not superhuman. Please don’t act like it, because other people will think you don’t need it. Show them you need their support by asking for it from time to time.
5. Find a friend so you can do it together.
Many challenges are more comfortable to meet when you do it with a friend or as part of a group. When you know that you are striving for something, building a healthy habit is so much easier when you do it with someone you like.
Too many people believe they should be able to do stuff independently. Where the heck did we learn that? We aren’t tigers or bears; we didn’t evolve to walk the earth alone. We are humans, and we thrive when we work together. Use your lifelines; phone a friend.
6. Turn off distractions.
Twenty-four-hour news and a pocket computer mean you can get information at the click of a button. How amazing! Well, sort of.
The downside is that your phone functions like a drug. If you want to get something done, put it in a draw. Better still, could you turn it off for half an hour?
7. Tell someone what you’re doing.
You can make yourself accountable by sharing your intention. It changes your relationship with your commitment. After you’ve put it out there in the world, you give yourself a new incentive. Take a chance by shouting it out loud and proud. It might give you the boost you need.
8. Plan when you’ll do it.
There is no doubt that behaviour change is hard. I know from experience that they don’t get done unless I plan my commitments. I end the day complaining that there aren’t enough hours. What a crock!
OK. I admit, sometimes there I need a longer day. The more helpful truth is that I didn’t schedule my task. Without a clear plan of what, when, where and for how long, I end up doing what I’ve always done. It’s much more satisfying when a plan comes together; you can tell Hannibal is a hero of mine, right?
That’s it – the eight ways I’ve turned myself into a master of commitment. They are now yours to pick up and take forward.