I’ve thought about going in gently with this topic. It’s one we tend to pretend doesn’t exist, but this issue needs to be exposed.
Like the festering sore that it is, it requires the swift removal of a sticky long worn out band-aid. So I’m just going to say the word …..Commitment (Rip!)
Why is it so hard?
Yup, commitment; dedication, a pledge or personal promise, sticking-to- the-plan, call it what you will, is hard even when we know it’s good for us! WHY?
I’m not talking relationship type commitment, I’m speaking in general terms here folks.
Whether it’s a need for a lifestyle change, a shift in diet, completing a course of study, a new exercise regime, a will to work at anything and stick with it, especially when we know we would naturally benefit from it in the long run, has proven time and time again to be tricky.
The Righteous Struggle
How is it we know what’s right for us but we struggle commiting to it all the same?
Let’s just say this seems to be an ongoing issue I have with commitment and I’m guessing I’m not alone.
The idea that anything we willingly commit too, naturally benefits us in some way, goes without saying. It doesn’t mean we’re overtly selfish, just interested in bettering our lives and those around us.
So in nearly all cases then, you could argue that commitment should be easy, a sinch, seeing as we get something back in return.
A healthy body, a new skill, kicking an old habit and just as importantly, that awesome sense of satisfaction at actually achieving it.
A dear friend of mine knew he needed to give up smoking, not least because it was slowly killing him. Despite major health scares related to this habit, and several attempts at committing to do away with the cigarettes, he just couldn’t.
He knew it was a simple choice, but the act of committing to it, was the challenge.
Likewise, I have this addiction to bakery treats and coffee. Hardly life threatening I know, but without a doubt, my body and emotional stability would greatly benefit from less of a sugar and caffeine roller coaster ride.
For years now I’ve tried to commit to avoiding these ‘treats’ (which incidentally aren’t really ‘treats’ precisely because of their everyday consumption) and struggled time and time again.
Yes, I could and have easily some up with any number of reasons/ excuses for why they’re ok, but at the end of the day, I KNOW I would be better without them.
I found myself willing on some dietary ‘intolerance’ in the vague hope that this might finally put a definite stop to such an addiction. What was wrong with me?!
I tried going cold turkey….. Ugh! That wasn’t pretty. I’ve tried simply pairing back; a coffee 2 days a week, a bakery treat 1 day a week. But those days began to bur into one another and the habit to continue on as before was more powerful than my will to commit to change.
The Norm of Commitment
There are moments when we have all committed whole-heartedly to a project; made a mental pack with ourselves, set up the parameters for success to flourish, and yes ….told friends or the world, signing up for what psychologists call ‘The Norm of Commitment’.
This is that great idea we all have to broadcast our latest attempts at commitment in the hope that social and internal pressures hold us accountable. Well in theory.
But despite all this, the fumbling fizz of failure often prevails. WHY is that?
I feel this constant tug-o-war type struggle with commitment; reason facing it off against irrationality; sensibility versus impulsiveness. ‘I don’t need that cheeky chocolate cupcake BUT why the heck not’.
But does it have to be ALL or NOTHING? Right or wrong? Black or white? Can there be a little grey, a happy medium, some balance?
I think it’s fair to say that consistency, motivation, dedication, are a given when making a commitment of any kind, but are easier said than done.
According to Maneesh Sethi ‘Hack The System’, the number one reason people fail and don’t stick to their commitments is because ..
‘We can’t change our behaviors by thinking about them. Willpower doesn’t work. The answer is habit change. To get better results, you must become a better you. And you have to AUTOMATE this process.’
A study published in 2009 in the European Journal of Social Psychology, researchers found it takes more than two months for a habit to become just that.
So in reality, trying to build a new behaviour or routine in our lives requires a two to eight month level of commitment.
Interestingly, the researchers also found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behavior did not materially affect the habit formation process.”
So I reckon this means it’s ok to fall off the wagon every now and again. It doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing process.
A comforting thought for a throw-in-the-towel gal like me.
So where does that leave us with commitment?
Firstly it’s clear we’re all in this together at least.
Commitment is hard; not least because it takes a significant amount of time to make any worthwhile change in our lives. But more so because we’re so keen to set ourselves up for failure it would seem.
So I’m going to use the KISS principle here and Keep It Simple Stupid:
- Just take ACTION
- Remain where possible on the straight-and-narrow confident in the knowledge that it’s ok to mess up occasionally
- Remind myself regularly of the reasons for why I’m choosing to commit to this change or direction
- and HOPE like hell that I break in a new Habit…..eventually.