Over the last week, I've spoken to several people specializing in health and wellness who complained about those who don't follow through on their "commitments". Everything from failing to attend exercise classes, personal training sessions, and physical therapy, to failing to modify their diets to eat healthily. And no one could understand why. Reasons (considered excuses) were given, such as it's cold outside, I'm too busy, and it's so difficult. And despite hearing the potential consequences attendant with failing to abide by their "commitments," the behavior changed for some only while they felt guilty. Were these truly commitments? Maybe, maybe not. Only those people know.
Sometimes, what is simply a desire for us--for example, to lose weight, stop smoking, save money, is viewed as a commitment (or something to which we should commit) by others. But a desire is not a commitment. So if we try something and find it's not working for us--for whatever reason--we're done. After all, many things sound appealing until we try them. And once involved, we may find we're not willing to do the work, that it will require more time and effort than we anticipated, etc. Even if it's health related, we sometimes ignore any discussion of consequences related to our refusal or failure to commit to a change in habits, diet or lifestyle. We may not consider the potential consequences to be anything that will happen to us. Sometimes we give up on things because we're not getting immediate results. It can be discouraging not to see the fruits of our labor on our time frame. Regardless of whether that's rational, it may be the determining factor in whether we turn our desire into a commitment. And, sometimes, we may just decide we're comfortable in our present state or circumstances and don't want to be pushed outside our comfort zone. Each person knows the reason/answer for their particular situation.
Webster's Dictionary defines a commitment as "a promise to be loyal to someone or something." In life, we commit to our mates, children, families, jobs, businesses, etc. As a result, it can be very difficult to add anything else to the list--even if it relates to our health/wellness. And this can apply equally to social activities, church, volunteering, taking classes, starting a business, etc. We may want to be involved, and commence involvement. But when it becomes an obligation (or we see it as thus), our enthusiasm may diminish and we may cease to participate.
What I've learned about commitment over the years is that it requires a sacrifice of some kind. Maybe it's a sacrifice of time, money, talent, effort, emotions, a willingness to operate outside ones comfort zone, etc. In order to abide by a commitment, I must: 1) be honest with myself about what I'm willing to do to abide by the commitment. That means I must consider the nature and size of the commitment, whether it's a short- or long-term commitment, what may be required of me to fulfill the commitment, whether I'll be working alone, whether it's outside my comfort zone, the end goal, etc; 2) make the decision to follow through even when it's difficult, inconvenient, and/or I'm unsure whether the intended benefit(s) will materialize; and 3) act in accordance with my decision. To motivate myself--especially when it becomes difficult-- I try to envision the end goal.
For me, a desire is like a good idea sans follow-through. As they say, nothing ventured nothing gained. But I believe commitments bear fruit. That doesn't mean there won't be discouragement and/or disappointments along the way, or that things will work out as we plan or envision. But there are valuable lessons to be learned, especially if we are able to see beauty in the process. And those lessons can serve us when moving on to our next commitment(s).
We are ofttimes myopic in our thinking when we've set a goal(s), and march full force ahead in the pursuit of it. We know what we want, we know when we want it, and we know how we plan to go about accomplishing it. But sometimes in our quest, we overlook the beauty in the process. There's beauty in deciding to do something we've never done; trying something new or different; stepping outside our comfort zone; taking steps to improve ourselves. What about the joy of taking the first step toward reaching your goal? There's beauty there. Did we learn something new? There's beauty there. Did we meet new people who are making the same journey? There's beauty there. Did we learn something about ourselves we never knew? There's beauty there. Did we inspire or encourage someone else by beginning our project/moving towards our goal? There's beauty there. If we take the time to look, there's beauty to be found right there in the midst of our journey. And it's important not to miss it. Because in the event it takes longer than we planned to reach our goal(s), or the goal doesn't fulfill us in the way we thought it would, it just may be the beauty we found in the journey that helps to sustain us.
It's often easiest to pursue a resolution or commitment in the beginning stages. That's when we may have significant enthusiasm thinking about all we want to accomplish. As with many things, however, that enthusiasm may wane when the process of meeting our goal(s) becomes challenging. This is why it's sometimes important to share our goals with someone/others who will help us be accountable. I appreciate having others ask me about my progress on my resolutions and/or commitments. They may be able to provide much needed support, perspective or encouragement if I have a setback or hit a bump in the road. It's also good to have others check our progress because we may be able to inspire them in reaching their goal(s). Some of us have the ability to hold ourselves accountable. But when we need help, it's worth finding someone/others who will check on us from time to time so those resolutions or commitments don't become just something we once thought about doing.
Typically, the beginning of a new year is when many of us resolve to do something--for example, lose weight, save money, volunteer, begin/end a relationship, take a class, pursue a hobby, take a trip, start a business, live a dream, learn a new language, etc. We're often better positioned to achieve at least some of our resolutions if self-improvement is part of the package.
As for me, I make a continuing lifestyle commitment to joy, which includes encouraging others to live joyfully. Because it's important to me to live what I encourage, my commitment requires periodic examinations of my relationships (including my relationship with God); my hope; peace; attitude; outreach efforts; eating habits; professional and extracurricular activities; willingness to forgive, etc., to determine if modifications and/or improvements are necessary. If I fail to perform these periodic checks, I risk my joy being compromised. And since I'm committed, that's not an option. I can either be resolute and do the work required to maintain and increase my joy, or resigned to accepting the status quo or going with the flow. Without a doubt, there will always be circumstances beyond my control, and I love the excitement of going with the flow. But I'm learning to accept what I can't control, and to temper going with the flow. Because if I'm not careful the flow can lead me down a path that's inconsistent with my commitment. So I remain resolute . . . about my joy and the work required.