"We are what we repeatedly do, therefore, excellence is not an act, but a habit." -Aristotle
There is something that you are tip-toe-ing around right now. Something that will probably change your life for the better. If only you could do it. If only you would do it. What is it and how will you commit?
There are two speeds of commitments: short and long. The short commitments can be compared to fad diets. They are all promises and only half delivery, at best. Sure, you drop 20 or 30 pounds in the beginning, but how long do you keep it off? Success that comes too easily is too easily forgotten, not to mention the unintended consequences and loss of time that may result.
Short commitments need to be approached like medicine. Take the right dose at the right time, but don't plan to stay on it indefinitely. A better approach is to address the root problem that the intervention is short-circuiting. You can't diet yourself into adequate exercise just like you can't exercise yourself out of a crappy diet, or poor sleep, or chronic stress, or fill in the blank.
The long type of commitment is the domain of lasting change. These are habits that we consistently do to the point that they become part of our identity. Healthy eater, weightlifter, runner, solid sleeper, devoted spouse, committed parent, conscientious business person, community leader, giving friend, etc. We learn to cherish our commitments instead of despising them.
A little while ago I used to think of exercise as a kind of obligation-something I had to will myself to do for fear of consequence. That was before I became incapacitated for a period of a few months due to an accident. During recovery and onward I came to view exercise differently. It was something that I was now privileged to do-that I got to do-and the negative talk all but dropped away. It is still there, no doubt, but my former despair is easily drowned out by a chorus of appreciation.
We all have an innate sense of what we need in order to grow as humans-the habits and influences that will make us better. Indecently, growth always requires commitment, and long-term growth requires long-term commitment. The universe (including our own lives) will always move to a more disordered state unless we actively work to make things different. Beginning a long commitment may at first feel daunting, but each successive effort should be easier if we prioritize learning.
The key to forming more long commitments is to go into each challenging activity with a sense of curiosity. Instead of looking to gauge whether something pleases you or displeases you (this is an unhelpful binary during habit formation), look to see how engaged you can be in the process of doing it. And express gratitude for the mere opportunity of beginning a habit that will enrich you. Curiosity and gratitude are the seed and soil from which love grows.
That thing that you have been avoiding is still waiting on you to make the first move. But sometimes adding a new habit is not always the best way forward. Next week we'll talk about quitting instead.