The Power of Commitment

This week I celebrated my 21st wedding anniversary.  As I’ve ben thinking back on our 21 years, I’m reminded of the power of a commitment.

Being committed to something is far more powerful than simply being “in” something.  When you’re “in” a marriage it implies there’s a way out and that you can give up at any time when things get difficult, boring, or old.  There’s really nothing solid keeping you “in”.

However, when you’re committed to something, you’ve decided in advance that there is no getting out when things get tough.  Commitment means you’ve already decided that instead of looking for exit strategies, you’ll look for solutions and strategies to successfully overcome issues you face.  Difficulty, challenge, or boredom do not signal an upcoming off ramp, but rather remind you it’s time to double-down on your efforts.  Why?  It’s because you’ve made a commitment to do so.

This is true of commitment to a number of situations, including:

  • A marriage
  • Parenting
  • Mastering a challenging new skill
  • Establishing a good habit or replacing a bad one
  • Getting in shape
  • Achieving a worthwhile goal
  • Building a good relationship
  • Becoming a person of character and integrity

When you’re committed to something, it changes your vision.  You start to see opportunities to do better and overcome obstacles, instead of excuses why can’t.  You see the bigger picture you’re striving for instead of the immediate circumstance you may be struggling with.  With the vision of commitment, you know where you’re going and more importantly, why.

Are there any areas in your life you need to be committed to, rather than just being “in”?  Better yet, are there any areas where you need to recommit to do something you’ve let slide?  Spend a few minutes thinking about these questions, and then make, or re-make, any necessary commitments you need to make.  Doing so will enable you to start tapping into the power of commitment today.

Pushing Through Confusion

I love starting something new, whether it’s a hobby, learning a new skill, or any other new endeavor in an area of interest.  There’s so much anticipation, motivation, and momentum at the beginning.  It really is an exciting time.

One of the reasons I think there is so much motivation and excitement at the beginning is because shortly after starting, things get confusing, and we’ll need that motivation to help carry us through the confusion until we start seeing results.

Start Confusion Results

It makes sense that we would become confused soon after we get started, because we are attempting something brand new to us.  Naturally, we don’t have a whole lot of experience in the area, so therefore, we’re going to have a lot of questions and get confused.

This is the point where most people give up on their worthy pursuit, because they can’t see past the confusion of what to do next, or how to do it.  They lose sight of the potential results and give up way too soon.  I know.  I’ve done this.

Perhaps it’s time to change our perception of the confusion phase of this process, and look at what the confusion also holds for us, like:

  • Opportunities to stretch our boundaries and comfort zone
  • New experiences that increase our knowledge and capacity to move ahead
  • The chance to meet new people who are doing what we want to be doing, and who can teach and encourage us along the way
  • The sense of accomplishment we’ll experience when we make a breakthrough and overcome an obstacle that the confusion initially presented

Here’s the cool thing about confusion: it only remains until we take decisive action to move past it.  If we want to remove the confusion, we simply need to seek guidance from people who have already done what we’re attempting.  This can take the form of reading books, watching a YouTube video, or reaching out to someone and asking for assistance.

Where are you struggling with the confusion that occurs between beginning and seeing results?  If you’re feeling overwhelmed and confused, that’s ok.  Take a minute.  Understand what you’re confused about that’s keeping you from moving ahead, and then take specific action to remove that confusion, like seeking guidance through reading, observation, or conversation with someone who can help.

Whatever that next action is, take it today.  You’ll feel great about making progress, and be armed with a new-found confidence to help you tackle the next confusing obstacle you face.  You’ll probably also be amazed at how much you’re learning and experiencing as you become more skilled at pushing through confusion.

What Football Can Teach Us About Goal Setting – Part 2

There was some good college bowl games played on New Year’s Day 2015!  Ohio State and Alabama played a close game in the Sugar Bowl that went down to the last play, and Oregon dismantled Florida State in the Rose Bowl, breaking a Florida State 29 game winning streak in the process.  Despite the differences in each game, there was one aspect that was exactly the same:  Each team knew the significance of the goal line.

I love the name:  “goal line”.  It very clearly states the objective of the entire game for each team, no matter what side of the ball they’re on.  For the offense, the objective is to cross the goal line and score points for your team.  For the defense, the objective is to keep your opponent from crossing the goal line and scoring.

The goal line is a very clearly defined critical reference point that each team is striving to cross or protect.  There is no question from anyone, on either team, as to the objective of the game and the goal they’re working toward.

Imagine if there was no goal line in football.  The game would be confusing and chaotic, with no one really knowing what they were supposed to be doing or what the objective of the game was.  It can be like that in our own lives without clearly defined goals.  If we don’t know what goal lines we want to cross for our lives in 2015, we will be unclear and confused as to our daily direction.  In addition, unless we’re content just drifting through the year like a leaf in a stream, going wherever the current takes us, we’re going to be disappointed on December 31st 2015 when we realize we haven’t made any progress or significant changes in our life.

What goal lines have you defined for yourself for 2015?  Do you know what you’re moving toward achieving throughout 2015?   If so, great!  Begin taking steps every day to move ever closer to crossing your goal line.  If you haven’t determined what your goal lines for 2015 are, it’s not too late.  Spend some time deciding what you’d like to accomplish this year and clearly define what success in those areas looks like for you.  The definitions you create will be your goal lines.  Your objective for the year will be to make incremental progress toward crossing them.

Continue to Dream

What do you dream about?  A better question might be, “Are you still dreaming?”  When you envision your future, do you think of your dreams and all the possibilities that lie before you, or do you have thoughts about opportunities lost, time squandered, or the feeling that it’s too late to pursue your dreams?

 

Here some really great news:  there’s’ no such thing as being too old to dream!  We’re not required to jettison all our unrealized dreams when we reach a certain age.  Nor are we restricted from picking up new dreams after a certain birthday has passed.  We are free to dream and pursue those dreams as long as we have a pulse.  That is so encouraging and inspiring to me!  It’s encouraging because it reminds me that life is an adventure to be lived until our very last days, and inspiring because it causes me to realize that each of us should, at all times, have at least one dream that we are actively pursuing.

Dreams give purpose, excitement, and direction to our lives when we are actively thinking about and pursuing them.  The mere acts of having and pursuing our dreams make us interesting as people both to others and to ourselves.  How boring it would be to just drift along without any dreams or ambitions to help guide and direct our lives?

Perhaps you’ve had dreams at one time that you’ve neglected, or maybe you’ve never really given much thought to a dream you have buried inside of you.  If you’ve been distracted from your dreams, reconnect with them today.  If you don’t have any specific dreams, spend the next several days, or even weeks thinking about what you’d like to accomplish with your life.

Once you’ve reconnected with, or defined your dreams, think about them every day.  See yourself working toward your dream and ultimately achieving them.  Then, with this vision in mind, begin making progress every day toward the pursuit and fulfillment of those dreams.

Begin living an interesting life by identifying, visualizing, and finally pursing your dreams.  Today is the perfect time to start.

Glacier-like Persistence

I love glaciers.  Living in the Pacific Northwest, I have several opportunities to see them throughout the year.  They’re remarkable objects of nature that come in all sorts of sizes and make up some of the most beautiful, striking, and unique landscapes on the planet.  Still, the characteristic of glaciers that I admire most is their persistence.

Glaciers aren’t the fastest moving things in the world.  In reality, they quite slow.  Even so, a glacier’s movement can forever change the landscape it travels crosses.  A huge valley can be left in a glacier’s wake.  Enormous alpine landscapes are reshaped as a glacier makes its slow decent down a mountain’s face.  The results don’t happen quickly, but the evidence of their steady, persistent progress can be staggering.

Have you ever thought of yourself as a glacier?  No, I’m not asking if you move at speeds that would make a tortoise look like Formula 1 race car, but rather have you ever thought of yourself as a powerful force, which is persistent in applying continued effort in the direction of a long term dream or goal?  Our dreams are usually not achieved in a minute, an hour, or a day, (If they are, then we need to dream bigger!)  Their achievement is usually the result of daily effort applied over a long period of time.  If you observe the results of only a few days spent perusing a long-term goal, you’re likely to be left unimpressed and under whelmed.  If, on the other hand, you look at several weeks, months, or even years of consistent daily effort, you’ll likely to see significant results.  That’s the power of glacier-like persistence, and it’s available to each of us.  We only need be willing to apply it.

What areas in your life could uses some glacier-like persistence?  Is there a habit you’d like to start or stop doing?  Perhaps there’s a lifestyle change you’d like to make.  Determine today what that is for you and commit to making small incremental progress every day.  And not just when it’s convenient, or only when you feel like it, or until you’re tired.  No, instead choose to move ahead with long-term glacier-like persistence, knowing that one day you’ll be able to stand back on look at all that you were able to accomplish.

It Feels Good When You’re Done

Some activities that are good for us are a real drag to actually do.  You know what I’m talking about.  Like working in the yard, exercising, making sales calls for your business, cleaning out the garage, studying for a test, and several other just-as-exciting activities.  Getting started on tasks like these can be extremely difficult.  Since we don’t really want to do them, it becomes very easy to procrastinate.  We may be able to get started, only to punch out well before these tasks are completed.  Regardless, we are eager to put off doing these tasks as long as possible, or avoid doing them altogether.

What’s interesting though, is that all of these tasks have something in common.  They make us feel good… when we’re done with them.

Take exercising, for example.  We all know it’s good for us and we should be doing it.  However, I’m sure we can all think of several other things we’d rather be doing than exercising, and come up with several reasons why we should skip exercising today and do it “another day”.

But here’s the thing, when we do decide to exercise and actually see it through to completion, don’t we usually feel better having completed our workout?  Don’t we feel good knowing that we’ve put in the effort to cause something to happen that is good for us?  We may even feel proud of our accomplishment and think, “That wasn’t so bad”.

Just this morning I needed to make some sales calls, but I didn’t feel like doing it.  It’s certainly not my favorite thing to do, so I had to work really hard to keep from talking myself out of making them.  I did, in fact make my calls, and when I was done, I felt GREAT!  It was nice to have that big task checked off my list so early.  In fact, those calls didn’t take nearly as long as I thought they would and there is possibility that they will bear fruit in the future.  I’m glad I made those calls.

So what activity, that you know is beneficial, are you struggling to complete because it isn’t fun to do?  Once you have this activity in mind, think about how good it would feel to actually complete it.  Then, use the anticipation of that feeling to get started on that activity.  Remind yourself how good it will feel when you’re finished.  My guess is that, once you’re finished, you’ll feel better than you thought you would.

Don’t Break the Chain

I heard a podcast recently about how comedian Jerry Seinfeld would set aside time everyday to write jokes for his routine.  He wouldn’t focus on writing the best or the funnies jokes.  His focus was simply to spend time EVERY day writing jokes.  When he first started, he noticed he had strung together a chain of 3 consecutive days where he had carved out time to write jokes.  In an effort to keep this trend going he set a rule for himself.  It was simply, don’t break the chain.

For Jerry, the “don’t break the chain” rule ensured that he would spend some time every day writing jokes, thus causing him to focus daily on becoming better at his craft.  Skipping a day was not an option.

I like that.  I’ve since adopted this rule for my own pursuits to help me focus on making daily progress toward my own goals.  Success rarely happens in one day.  Behind the large majority of successful people you’ll find a long chain of consecutive days of consistent effort.  Rarely are goals attained without such discipline.

Where in your life do you desire to see the results that come from consistent effort?  Determine the answer to this question and then commit to applying effort in that direction on a daily basis.  You don’t need to make huge leaps every day.  In fact, just focus on showing up every day and putting forth effort that moves you closer toward your goal.  Focus on not breaking the chain.

If you want to cause something to happen that is significant and meaningful, nothing will do that quicker than a long chain of consistent effort.

Don’t break the chain.