My week began with a 13-year-old boy, struggling to find the motivation to do his homework. He flat-out asked me, “How do I make the commitment to do my homework?” Next was a 22-year-old marijuana smoker who constantly makes excuses for not stopping, even though he knows it’s putting his life on pause. Finally there was the 28 year old who wanted to lose the weight she’d gained, but could not consistently find her way to the treadmill. The recurring theme at my private counseling practice last week—commitment.
What prompted me to write about the topic of commitment was my client who wanted to lose weight. She knew she needed to exercise more consistently, but just couldn’t get herself to do it. At the beginning of our session, we were talking about good habits versus bad habits, and she mentioned that it takes 66 days to form a new habit. That comment got me thinking, so towards the end of our session I revisited it. It got me thinking about my own level of exercise consistency.
Here was my issue. For the last fifteen years, I’ve been waking up at 5 a.m. and going to the gym five days a week. Over the last year something changed in me; I started hitting the snooze button and sleeping in more than I ever have, bringing my gym attendance down to four d
ays a week. So here’s what I did. I made a deal with my client. I told her that if she agrees to exercise for 66 straight days that I would do the same. She took the deal and we are now both committed to getting on track. And more importantly, we are both motivated.
What is a commitment?
In a nutshell, a commitment is a promise that you make to another person or to yourself. The good news is that most of us are excellent at keeping the promises we make to our friends, colleagues and family members but we are lousy at keeping the promises we make to ourselves. So how do you become good at staying committed to your goals, your personal promises? Here are a few tips:
- Make a deal: Let’s say you want to get into yoga, but you’ve been making excuses and still haven’t started. A good way to get going is to find a friend that also wants to start yoga. If you sign up together, you are more likely to attend, because you will feel obligated not to ditch your friend. The same holds true with starting a new diet or joining a gym.
- Look in the mirror: Look at yourself in the mirror and make a legitimate commitment to yourself as if you were making an important promise to your best friend. It’s as simple as that. It has to be real, though. In order for you to stay committed, you have to pack a big punch.
- Post It: Take a packet of post-its and write your specific goal on a bunch of them. Then stick them in places that you frequent, like the dashboard of your car, or the bathroom mirror, or the refrigerator. This is a good way of keeping your goal — your commitment — fresh in your mind. You are now more likely to act on that goal.
- Visualize: Practice 5- or 10-minute mediations each day for a week. The meditations must relate to your goal. For example, if you want to get on the exercise bike five times a week, visualize yourself doing so. The key to effective visualization is to attach a feeling to the things you’re visualizing. If weight loss is your goal, imagine the feeling you’d feel after you have lost the amount of weight you desire to lose. Really feel it. If doing your homework is your goal, imagine the feeling you’ll feel when your report card reads all A’s and B’s. Really feel it.
As of today, I have gone to the gym eight straight days. I plan on attaining the goal of 66 straight days.
Talk to me anytime about the power of personal commitment.