It’s never about wanting to do it.
Nobody wants to purposely make themselves feel uncomfortable. The brain knows its job is to keep you safe, so we hunker down (under blankets on the sofa peacefully watching shows instead of heading out into the blistering cold for a run).
It wants to conserve our energy for the moment; the moment the saber tooth tiger comes tapping on our door.
But it rarely ever comes and if it does, it’s more likely the Uber Eats guys than a predator.
Being committed to something (i.e. losing 10 pounds or more, writing the next great American novel, learning how to shoot a 3-pointer, doing homework) are all things that require us to get uncomfortable, and that discomfort is difficult for our pre-historic brain to override.
It becomes the hardest part because we’re not always in the mood. And when we’re not, chances of talking ourselves out of doing the work is easy. Ridiculously easy. And we much prefer doing the things that come easy. Because it’s… easier.
You can say you’re “committed” but do your actions follow suit?
Are you getting out of bed early to find the time to workout? Are you showing up at your desk to write? Are you eating the salad instead of the slice of pizza?
And are you doing those things repeatedly?
Even on the days when you’re not in the mood, you’re frustrated, emotional, your kids have run you into the ground and have left you with nothing?
Those are the hardest days. Those are the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days that test you the most. And those are the very same soul-sucking days you have to dig even deeper and pull out any resource possible to get you to show up and do the work.
There’s going to be a struggle, of course, we’re not perfect. Periodically being committed is easy — yet gnawing, meaning when we’re not doing what needs to be done, we don’t feel good about ourselves. That gnawing feeling eats away at us.
If you’re struggling to repeatedly show up and stay committed, to help make it easier — because we love easy — here are a few suggestions:
Take away your choices.
When there are no other options, the decision is easy.
Don’t think “Well I can either get out of bed, or I can stay here under these nice warm covers for another 30 minutes!”
That’s clearly a no-brainer!
Fun fact: I read in Marcus Aurelius's book Meditations about how even he, this great scholar and philosopher, who lived from 121–180 AD (a time in life I couldn’t imagine navigating!), struggled to get out of his warm bed in the mornings to begin his day. Could you imagine if he decided to stay and not get up?
The fact that even he struggled stuck with me. We are humans and we are wired for ease. And we have to fight against that if we’re committed to making change happen.
So know that you’re in good company if you struggle to get out of bed! And then get out of bed because you left yourself with no other choice.
Be present with whatever you’re doing.
It’s best not to think about all the other things you could be doing while you’re working on your stuff.
Again, it’s about not giving yourself other options. The brain is always looking for other opportunities when doing something strenuous.
If you’re stuck on a word, a sentence, a paragraph, or a blank screen when writing, and that cursor won’t stop blinking at you, impatiently waiting for anything, that’s usually the time your brain opts for a glass of water, maybe a hot shower, or it remembers that the laundry needs to go in the dryer.
Stay focused on the task at hand, get in the moment, the actual moment — hands on the keypad, butt in the seat, shoulders relaxed — and reset. You’re not going to be stuck there forever. Give yourself the time, you have plenty of it when you’re in the moment.
Do what needs to be done, and then go change the laundry over.
If you can’t fully get into it, question your motives.
Are you losing weight for yourself, or because your spouse thinks you need to lose weight?
Are you putting off updating your resume so you can get out of a job you hate because you think you might be up for a promotion, or because you’re scared of trying something new?
When something isn’t happening because you can’t fully commit to it, ask different questions. Coming at it from a different perspective will give you the insight you otherwise would never gain. It can reveal a new path or you may realize that it’s not that important to you right now, and that’s ok.
It’s better to know than to keep trying and feel like you’re failing all the time, wondering what’s wrong with you.
Being committed requires you to be all in. You have to be willing to do what’s not easy, and that’s not easy! But if you can fully immerse yourself in the process because you know it’s what you want, it feels right and it lights you up, and you can keep going even when you think you’re making zero progress, you’re going to gain more than you thought possible.
And you may not end up exactly where you expected, but it’s better than staying exactly the same, where you are now vs where you can be soon.
Commitment isn’t supposed to be easy.
It stretches you, makes you uncomfortable, and has you questioning your abilities. Once you know that, once you know it’s going to be the opposite of easy, then you’re well on your way to achieving something great!