I’ve recently committed to the goal of becoming a professional writer.
This is something I know I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but haven’t fully committed to.
In fact, I’ve been procrastinating on it for years.
COVID-19 has given me a lot of time to pause and reflect on what I really want to do in life, and writing is high on my list of priorities.
So, I’ve been thinking a lot about commitment recently.
How do we stop procrastinating and fully commit to the things we know we really want?
And how do we keep commitments once they’re made?
If, like me, you’re procrastinating on something you know you really want to do, the five ideas that follow can help you take the initial leap and accelerate your momentum towards your goal.
#1 — Consider the Cost of Inaction
‘The price of inaction is far greater than the cost of making a mistake.’
– Meister Eckhart
We’re extremely good at considering all of the things that could go wrong if we take the action we’re thinking about.
We worry that we’ll fail.
We worry that people will laugh at us.
We worry that we’ll look stupid.
However, very rarely do we consider the cost and dangers of maintaining the status quo.
In his 2017 TED Talk, entrepreneur Tim Ferriss recommends a thought exercise called ‘ Fear Setting ‘.
The purpose is to clearly define what you’re most afraid of and get your biggest anxieties down on paper. You then figure out what you can do to prevent each fear from happening, or how you can repair the damage, should any of them occur.
The final part of the exercise is to write out a detailed description of the cost of inaction; of not taking steps towards the thing you want to do.
If I avoid taking action on this, what might my life look like (physically, emotionally, and financially) in 6 months, 1 year and 3 years in the future?
The trick is to be as detailed as possible.
When we realise (on an emotional level) that inaction is actually more risky than taking action, it can propel us towards making our commitment.
#2 — Uncover Your Core Motivation
‘He who has a strong enough why to live for, can bear almost any how.’
– Friedrich Nietzsche
A strong sense of purpose is the closest thing human beings have to a superpower.
It can also be a powerful commitment tool.
No matter what you set out to do, you’re going to face obstacles along the way.
The stronger your sense of purpose, the more likely you will be to overcome them when they arise.
Therefore, one of the most effective ways to fully commit is to get crystal clear on your ‘why’ before you start.
‘The 5 Whys’ is a simple thought exercise that allows you to dig deep into your psyche and uncover your core motivation behind anything you want to do.
It involves asking what you want, and then asking ‘why?’ 5 times.
For example, let’s say your goal is to start your own business.
1. Why do you want to do that?
So, I can make more money.
2. Why do you want to make more money?
So I can leave my job and work for myself.
3. Why do you want to leave your job and work for yourself?
Because I feel trapped and limited in my current role.
4. Why do you feel trapped and limited?
Because somebody else is controlling my time and I’m not growing or learning anything new.
5. Why is that important?
Because I want the freedom to live life on my own terms, to control how I spend my time and work on projects that challenge and excite me.
On the surface, this person is saying that they want to start their own business.
But when we dig deeper, we can see that what they really want is the freedom to live life on their own terms and to do work that challenges and excites them.
If you’re procrastinating on your dream, the 5 whys exercise can supercharge your motivation and help you overcome obstacles when they arise.
#3 — Make Your Commitment Time-Based and Sacred
‘80% of success is just showing up.’
– Woody Allen
At one of The Weekend University’s first ever events, I announced that I would organise one ‘lecture day’ each month, where attendees would get a full day of talks from leading psychologists, academics and mental health practitioners.
That was in January 2018.
It’s now two and a half years later, and I’ve managed to keep that promise.
In fact, my whole business has grown out of that one time-based and sacred commitment.
Something powerful happens when we put a stake in the ground and commit ourselves fully to a course of action.
The universe seems to reward those who ‘show up’ consistently towards their dreams.
Taking this into account, my new sacred commitment is to publish one blog post each week for the rest of this year.
I can’t guarantee they’ll be good, but I can guarantee that I will write every day, publish every week and give my best with each new article.
A good way to apply this in your own life can be to use Robin Sharma’s 90 90 1 rule.
Simply put, this involves making the following commitment:
For the next 90 days, I will spend the first 90 minutes of my day working on my ONE most important project.
Momentum is a powerful force.
Once the wheels are in motion, it becomes harder not to do our commitment than it is to do it.
Sharma’s 90 90 1 rule is a great way to get moving.
#4 — Go Public
‘The more we speak in the voice of our most aspirational self, the closer we pull our future into our present.’
– Adam Braun
In ‘Influence’, Professor Robert Cialdini outlines six cognitive biases that have a major influence on human behaviour.
One of the most powerful of these is the ‘ Commitment and Consistency ‘ tendency.
This theory suggests that we need our behaviours to align with our self-image in order to feel psychologically secure.
In other words, when people view us a certain way, then we tend to act in ways that meet their expectations.
Normally this is a bad thing, as it can trap us into limiting patterns of behaviour that keep us fixed into a certain mode of being. For example, if someone views you as a quiet introvert, then that is how you are likely to act around them.
However, for the purposes of making a commitment, it can be a powerful tool.
When you tell others that you are [X], then you will start to perform behaviours that are consistent with [X].
In my case, when I decided that I wanted to fully commit to writing, I changed my profile on my website, my twitter and Linkedin. Since doing so, I’ve been writing every day and publishing every week.
It’s also the reason I opened this blog post with my goal.
When you tell others about what you are committed to achieving, you’re essentially building a new self-image.
You’re making a commitment to your future self.
The more people you tell, the stronger this self-image will become.
And the stronger the self-image, the more motivated you will be to perform behaviours that are consistent with your new identity.
#5 — Leverage the Sunk Cost Fallacy
‘The best investment you can make is in yourself. The more you learn the more you earn.’
– Warren Buffett
I was on the phone to a friend a couple of days ago and he was telling me that he was keen to go on a hiking trip soon.
‘Why?’ I asked.
He explained that he had recently invested in a lot of new hiking gear and feels like it’ll be a waste if he doesn’t start using it.
This is the sunk cost fallacy at work.
In a nutshell, this is a cognitive bias that makes us value things more that we are already invested in — whether it be financially, emotionally or physically.
Sunk cost helps explain why it’s so difficult for an entrepreneur to walk away from a new venture that clearly isn’t going to work out, or why we’ll watch a boring movie to the end, just because we’ve already spent an hour on it.
Normally, it is seen as a negative because it leads us to do irrational things.
But, if you want to get 100% behind your commitment, sunk cost can be a powerful tool.
If you know that the more you invest in something, the more you will value it, then one of the most effective ways to strengthen your commitment is to make a financial investment towards your goal.
It might be purchasing an online course, booking a training course/seminar, or investing in a coach.
When we invest money in something, we are essentially signalling to our brain:
‘This is really important. Pay attention to it.’
Not only that, we feel that the investment will be a huge waste if we don’t follow through — so this strengthens our commitment further.
‘You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.’
– Wayne Gretzky
At the end of life, you’re going to have regrets.
It’s much more likely you’ll regret the things you didn’t do and the chances you didn’t take, than the ones you did.
And this is going to be painful.
Therefore, if you want to minimise the pain and look back on a life well lived, it’s vital to start committing towards the things you really want to do.
Considering the cost of inaction, uncovering your core motivation, making your commitment time-based, going public, and leveraging sunk cost are five powerful ways to do that.
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