Try not! Do… or do not. There is no try” – Yoda
You’re probably wondering where this is going… but with me, you must bear.
Many of us set ourselves New Year resolutions. Maybe it was cutting out sugar, to stop wasting time on social media, or spend more time being present with the family. Hopefully 2022 is the year we all stop using the word ‘unpr*cedented’.
Apparently, 80% of these resolutions will fail by February. This sense of failure only creates feelings of disappointment, inadequacy and frustration. After the last two years, do we really need anything else to feel bad about?
There’s a long list of reasons for this so-called failure and even more blog posts on the subject.
Spoiler: it’s not about willpower.
It’s about commitment. Or what I refer to as ‘throwing yourself in the deep end and learning to swim’.
Commitment is often the difference between success and failure in all areas of life.
Commitment is the act of dedicating yourself to a cause or something bigger than us, and following through. You might think of commitment as putting a ring on a finger or buying a house, but it can be as simple as donating to a charity each month, taking a cold shower every morning, or becoming a mentor.
Commitment is also a key part to resilience, as commitment to something bigger than us gives a reason to keep pushing through adversity and get out of bed each morning.
Coming up with ideas is easy. Commitment makes them happen.
So if your 2022 resolutions or goals have already fallen by the wayside, then maybe a lack of strong commitment is to blame. So, how does one become more committed?
1) Burn the bridges
When you’re committed, you remove the safety net. There is no easy retreat. If we have a Plan B, or simply ‘dip a toe in the water’, then we’re not really committed. We’re more likely to quit when things get tough. It sends a signal to our brain that we don’t fully believe in the outcome or our ability to succeed. We allow failure to be a possibility.
We have to be willing to push ourselves to that brink of no return – whilst keeping safety in mind. I’ve had a few vulnerable moments in the mountains when I’ve felt like curling up in a ball and crying. But with no phone signal and worsening weather, my only option has been to keep moving and drag myself down the mountain before hypothermia crept in. Expatriating yourself into a jungle with no supplies might not end too well either (unless you’re Bear Grylls) but when the consequences in our daily lives are rarely more than a damaged ego, then there’s probably little to lose, and a huge amount to learn. Children are never going to be resilient if we don’t let them fall over now and again.
When pursuing my Everest goal many years ago, one of the biggest barriers was going to be getting the funding (about £35,000) to get onto a commercial expedition team. I remember posting a tweet to the tune of “But what if I don’t get the funds?”
A friend simply replied: “Get the funds. #believe”
And it was this simple mindset shift that made it a reality.
2) Promise the world – and yourself
A promise is a commitment made to someone else. Commitment is the declaration of dedicating yourself to achieving the result.
Sometimes telling the world can burn bridges itself. Nobody likes to let others down. Honesty and trust are important values for many of us. Athletes have probably heard the adage “if it ain’t on Strava, it didn’t happen!”. You can imagine the anxiety when my Garmin battery died during my Bob Graham Round run last year… would I have to run the last 20 miles all over again?!
When a goal is kept to ourselves there’s nobody else to hold us accountable. It’s much easier to sweep it under a rug. Nobody will know, right?
If we’re committed to a goal, we’re not afraid to put it out into the world because we don’t need an easy way out, or worry about what others will think if we failed. This fear of failure can even be used as a source of motivation.
However, goals have to be intrinsically motivated. We need to want them for ourselves, not for external rewards or to meet expectations of others, which are fleeting, temporary and mostly beyond our control. You can only generate a strong desire and vision of a goal from within.
3) Keep showing up
“Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.” — Yoda
Committing to anything is hard without knowing exactly will happen. Will the new dream job fathom out? Will this degree create the path I want? Will I be able to finish the marathon?
The most important thing is to accept that you don’t know exactly what will happen. How often do things work out as we planned? Focus on what you can control in the moment and keep repeating the process – showing up to the next day, session or course.
Many New Year habits fail because they try to change too much at once rather than repeating a process consistently. Instead of cutting out sugar completely, try one sugar-free day per week. Two the following week. And so on.
When I embarked on my Everest journey, I could never have anticipated that I would be caught up in the two biggest disasters in Everest history in two consecutive years. But founding a charity, writing two books, running the National Three Peaks and becoming an international motivational speaker with a stammer were never part of the plan either. I just kept showing up and adjusting the flight path with the coaches and mentors around me.
4) Stop waiting, start doing*
We tend to segment our life into chapters, rather than an ongoing narrative, so any division of time creates that feeling of a ‘fresh start’. That’s why starting a new health drive on 1st January seems all shiny and exciting, when really, you should have started six months ago.
However, there’s a lot to argue for creating the right conditions to make the change successful. If you’re starting a new job or moving house it’s perhaps not the best time to commit to taking an evening college course or training for an Ironman. We only have a limited amount of energy to apply to things, so choose wisely.
*There’s another caveat: if we wait for the PERFECT conditions then we will never start at all. There’s no such thing as perfect. Always set a deadline for making the commitment and working with the best information and resources you have available at that moment in time.
Whatever goals or resolutions you’ve set, don’t despair if January hasn’t gone to plan. February is another chance to get committed and achieve your goals in the year ahead.
What commitments will you make in 2022?
And a final adage from our wise old friend…
“Pass on what you have learned” – Yoda
So if you’ve found this helpful, please do share it with others and let me know your ideas in the comments below!
Peter Staniforth says
Great article Alex and so true