I’m going to quickly (and rudely) stereotype and categorize you. If you’re reading this post, you fall into one of two categories: You are either a moderator or an abstainer.
A moderator is someone who can easily balance multiple things and doesn’t live to extremes. Hence, moderators can have one glass of wine and be done.
An abstainer, on the other hand, is someone who is generally all or nothing. Hence, when an abstainer falls off the wagon, they crash and burn. Yet, when highly committed and passionate, abstainers can do things no one else can because of their intensely focused passion.
Which are you?
Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you are an abstainer. How do I know? Only an abstainer would be seduced by an article talking about 100 percent commitment.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk about how horrible it is to constantly fail at your commitments. Abstainers tend to be hard on themselves because we are often extremists. Yet, we’re human and fail often. And when we fail, it’s personal because we generally don’t put effort into things we care little about.
This blog is intended to change your life. If you’ve read this far, you must be craving change. Well that’s exactly what I’m going to challenge you to do.
We have three months (approximately 90 days) until 2016. That is the perfect timeline to commit 100 percent to something. Two days ago while talking to my mom (also an abstainer) on the phone, she said she just started a 100-day break from alcohol. Starting this morning, I’m going 100 percent sugar-free.
What one thing will you commit to for the next 90 days?
Here’s what will happen when you do:
You’ll Be Better At Every Other Area Of Your Life
If you try to tackle everything wrong in your life at once, you’ll quickly burn out and quit. It’s happened many times before. Life is super busy. You don’t have time to focus on a thousand different areas of your life to change. That’s exhausting, and frankly, not helpful. More effective than microscopically analyzing your sabotaging behaviors, is nailing down a “keystone” habit — which tightly locks all of your other habits in place. Without the keystone, everything falls apart.
In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg describes keystone habits as, “small changes or habits that people introduce into their routines that unintentionally carry over into other aspects of their lives.”
For example, a person might start exercising once per week and unknowingly begins eating better and being more productive at work. She begins smoking less and showing more patience with her colleagues and loved ones. She uses her credit card less, feels less stressed, and has increased motivation toward her goals. The ingrained patterns in her brain reform and she becomes an entirely different person. All because she started exercising once per week.
Keystone habits spark a chain reaction of other good habits and can rapidly alter every aspect of your life. The cool part is, this process works with any positive change you fully commit to.
Cause you’ll be better.
You’ll Feel More In Control Of Your Life
According to Roy Baumeister, one of the world’s most prominent psychologists, enhancing self-esteem is a waste of time in the pursuit of health and well-being. Rather than focusing on self-esteem, parents, teachers, leaders, and people in general should focus on enhancing self-control, Baumeister argues.
The challenge of being an abstainer is that our sense of self-control is often deflated. When we fail, we fail hard. However, when you focus on just one thing, and succeed at that, you’ll feel more in-control of your life.
When an abstainer feels in-control, there is nothing that can stop them. They become fiercely committed to what they’re doing and experience a sense of limitless power. As an abstainer, this feeling only comes after you’ve kept your own commitments. So, succeed at this one thing and watch as you feel enhanced control over every aspect of your life.
As You Succeed, Your Vision For Your Life Will Expand
A natural consequence of success is an increased vision for what you can do. This is where abstainers often fail. Because we are highly passionate about what we do, we often start at a sprint. But long-term commitments are marathons, so abstainers often burn out.
As an abstainer, you are probably idealistic. Perhaps slightly unrealistic? I don’t like using that word because I believe in achieving the “impossible.” But some pursuits are just unrealistic. Take for example, my recent attempt at not checking email or social media for five weeks. I need email for my job (laugh out loud). What was I thinking?
So, although this may be difficult for you, I challenge you to start at a sustainable speed. Slower than you want to. Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism, explains that this is how he developed the habit of writing in a journal daily. In previous attempts, he would write long entries and burn out after a day or two. So instead, he committed to writing just a few sentences each day. It was uncomfortably short and easy. But, it stuck. And as he developed the habit, he was able to slowly increase his amount over time.
You’ll Feel Absolutely Incredible
Feeling good is so important for a passionate person like you. As your own toughest critic, you often ride a roller coaster of emotions. However, as you succeed at your one thing, and your vision for your life expands, you will naturally feel amazing.
When you feel amazing, you show up to life differently, don’t you? You are more present and attentive to others needs. You’re less focused on your own problems. You’re less worried about the results and worried more about being genuine.
You’ll Gain Insane Motivation And Momentum
As stated previously, when you succeed at your goals, they generally expand. When your goals expand, a gap is created between where you are and where you want to be. This gap ignites in us a psychological process called self-regulation, which is our motivational resources management system that helps us attain our goals.
Specifically, self-regulation works in three ways.
- Self-monitoring determines how well we are currently performing
- Self-evaluation determines how well we are performing against our goals
- Self-reaction determines how we think and feel against our goals. When we feel dissatisfied with our performance, self-reaction pushes us to reallocate our motivational resources
To trigger this self-regulation process, goals need to be highly specific, based on external indicators, deadline-driven, and challenging.
As you succeed in your one thing, and as your vision for your life expands, this process will commence. Thus, as your goals grow, you will naturally alter your behaviors to match your new goals. Your motivation and momentum toward huge things will surge and skyrocket.
People are really good at self-sabotage. We consistently behave in ways that contradict our goals and ideals. This is incongruence. As Mahatma Gandhi has said, “Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” The smaller the gap between what you should do, and what you actually do — the happier you will be.
Hence, Clayton Christensen says 100 percent commitment is easier than 98 percent commitment. When you fully commit to something, the decision has been made. Consequently, regarding that thing, all future decisions have been made.
As you stick with your 100 percent commitment, your life will be far easier. You won’t have to agonize over needless decisions. You’ve already decided. You’re not going to eat the cookie. It’s not even a debate.