How often have you said you were going to do something, and then just dropped it because you were too busy or didn’t have the energy?
How often have you said you were going to change your habits and then didn’t stick to it?
How many times have you said you were going to take a course, read a book, take on a challenge, start a new hobby, write a book, start a business, and then barely even start on it?
For me, this all happens at an alarming rate. My commitments are often not even half commitments, they’re like quarter commitments. And interestingly, I’d say I’m better at it than most people. Maybe not the best in the world, but better at sticking to my commitments than 75 percent of the world.
And I suck at it, in many ways. I start a diet and barely last a couple of days on it. I pick an exercise program and last three weeks. I buy a book and barely get a quarter of the way through. Over and over, my commitments fall like flies.
What would it be like to be so deeply committed that we’d be unshakable? What would it be like to be the person who would walk through walls to meet their purpose in life? How much more would people trust us if we showed up fully every single time we committed to something?
Our lives could be transformed.
I’ve been meditating on commitment lately and experimenting with it in my life. Looking at where I’m only half committed (or less), where I don’t really believe I’ll meet my commitments. And learning how to go deeper into that commitment. Or cut it out, if I can’t commit deeply.
Here’s what I’m learning about being more deeply committed:
- Take away choice. When we’re only half committed, we keep the door open for other options. We think, “Sure, I’m going to stick to this diet, but if I go to a family gathering …” But if we’re going to commit, let’s remove all possibility in our minds of doing anything else. Choose better options at dinners out. Don’t take a second plate at the family dinner. Keeping your commitment is the only option.
- Do it with your entire being. Going through the motions doesn’t count. If you’re going to do it, do it with your entire being. Put your whole heart into it or don’t do it at all. Only half showing up for people is painful to them. Only half showing up for yourself is, too.
- Remember your deeper why. You’re probably not taking your commitments seriously because you’ve forgotten why they are important. It’s just another thing on your endless to-do list. Remember the deeper reason you committed—maybe it’s to serve people you care deeply about. Keep them in your heart. Write out why you care about this commitment and keep it visible.
- If you aren’t fully doing it, ask what’s holding you back. What’s stopping you from fully showing up? There might be fear, or maybe you aren’t giving it the weight and focus it deserves. Pause and be with this resistance or floppiness, and ask yourself what it would take to deepen this commitment.
- Add commitments only slowly. We want to do everything but over-committing leaves us unable to fulfill our commitments. Most of us should reduce our commitments and be very deliberate about adding new commitments. Meditate on a potential commitment for a few days. Commit to it only for a week or two to see if you can fit it in your life. Then don’t add another for a little while, until you’re sure you can handle it.
- Get out of commitments you aren’t going to uphold. Most of us are overcommitted—which means we can’t possibly meet all our commitments. We should see if there’s a way we can meet those commitments for as long as we said we would, but get out of them once we’ve fulfilled that commitment. That should be our first choice—do what we said we would and end it when we can. Next choice is to renegotiate the commitment if necessary—maybe we said we could do it for a year, but we can only do it for the next few months. Maybe we said we could do it every day, but all we’re able to do is three days a week. Let the person know, and apologize to them. Lastly, get out of the commitment if you can’t do either of the above. Apologize, but recognize this is necessary if you’re going to meet more important commitments. This is a matter of prioritizing. If you have to get out of a commitment, let that be a grave lesson in overcommitting yourself.
I write these not so much as advice for everyone else, but as advice for myself. This is what I’m learning, and it’s so important.
Leo Babauta is the author of six books, the writer of “Zen Habits,” a blog with more than 2 million subscribers, and the creator of several online programs to help you master your habits. Visit ZenHabits.net