Making a Commitment:
I intended to write my ideas for a while now, but it has taken me a long time to actually start typing. In fact, six months or so have passed since I made that initial ‘commitment’ yet I didn’t start until recently. It turns out I did not really make that commitment to write six months ago. I told myself I was committed but it was a lie (at least until now).
We constantly lie to ourselves this way. You can hear this inner dialogue if you really pay attention, but most of the time it slips by us. It’s subconscious. It is our default program. We do this best every January.
How many people do you know that have actually followed through on a New Years resolution? Less than 5% would be my estimate.
Many times our subconscious mind works against us. But as with most things, once we understand it we can use it to our advantage. Our default setting is to do what is comfortable, what is automatic.
For six months my default setting was ‘do anything other than what you said you would do (write) when you have free time’. Read blogs, go running, play guitar but don’t dare do anything that will take us out of our comfort zone!
When something is automatic we don’t spend much energy on it. This is why change is so hard, it takes effort. It requires tremendous amounts of energy to consciously think about the unconscious…to re-write the program so-to-speak.
Think back to learning how to drive a car and how much energy it took to concentrate on which pedal to push, how hard, when to brake, which way to turn the steering wheel when driving in reverse. Now it is effortless. Most of us can do it better half-asleep and drunk today than we could on that first day behind the wheel when we were 15. Insurance companies figured this out years ago.
I didn’t want to write because it is hard and not automatic. Writing is uncomfortable for me. It is work. It forces me to think in different ways. It demands that I articulate my thoughts differently than if I’m just in a casual conversation or thinking alone. It requires spelling, grammar and all sorts of other things I am particularly bad at. I feel like I’m 15 again, learning to drive.
I’m lazy. I admit it. It feels good to fall back on my default program…it is so easy.
What I am really talking about here is habit.
A habit is automatic programming like brushing your teeth, putting on a seat belt, drinking, smoking, watching television, consuming. Habits do not know if they are good or bad, they just know what to do. Many habits are counterproductive to our long term happiness, but we do them because they are the easy way out.
Following our habits feels good in the short term and is quite comfortable, but immediate gratification and comfort is only a small sliver of what it is to be truly happy and fulfilled. Don’t confuse comfort with happiness.
We must break out of this pattern to really thrive, to accomplish greatness and to be free. Habits can enslave us without our knowledge. We become a voluntary prisoner.
To paraphrase Samuel Johnson:
The key to meaningful change is commitment. It’s not the only ingredient necessary but it is essential for lasting change. Without commitment we lack the energy necessary for change and we fall back to our old habits, for better or for worse.
This may seem the same as taking action but there is a difference. Making a commitment is intentional, it is the catalyst for turning thoughts to action. It also requires thoughtful action whereas simply dong may be reaction with little thought involved. Play with these ideas for a while before we take a deeper dive into the realm of habits.