Goals require discipline and focus, but, if you’re not committed, you won’t have either.
Goal achievement is not an easy process. If it were, you wouldn’t be reading this article.
It’s okay that our goals are difficult to achieve. In fact, difficult goals keep us engaged (https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/mar/27/think-big-tasks-ambitions-creativity-smarter-faster-better-charles-duhigg).
When you stop to think about how goals work, it makes sense that they’re not easy to achieve.
Generally, we choose goals that improve an area we feel is a weakness. With any area of weakness comes layers of habits that have kept that weakness from becoming a strength.
Take dieting as an example.
Particularly if you’re overweight, you have spent the majority of your life doing things that got you to where you are now.
Depending on your age, you’re battling habits that have been your norm for 20 or more years. These are not the type of things you overcome in a day.
On the Joe Rogan podcast, Layne Norton talked about how your body keeps a specific weight in mind. When you start feeding yourself less, your body thinks you’re starving and activates survival mode. Whatever weight you are currently is the weight survival mode will try to maintain.
He said that, in his experience, it takes at least a year for the body to decide that a different weight is the “ideal” number.
As if this goal wasn’t hard enough, most of us don’t want to just “lose weight.” No, we want to look like Dwayne Johnson or some other celebrity, while also being a “normal” person.
What we don’t take into account is that these celebrities stay the way they are physically, because it’s their job. They have committed to a certain lifestyle that is conducive to maintaining their nutrition and fitness. Part of this commitment is the fact that they’re getting paid to keep doing this.
I’m not saying that this means we should give up. Rather, I’m saying that the key component of achieving our goal is committing to it.
Maybe you’ve already realized that this is the first step, but don’t know what committing looks like. You probably think you do, but let’s dive into an example.
We’ll stick with the Rock.
I’ve read quite a few articles about his diet and workouts. He talks about waking up at 4 AM and doing fasted cardio — every. single. morning.
After his hour long run, which he completes on only a cup of black coffee, he eats breakfast. But he doesn’t reward himself with donuts or a bagel. He eats steak and oatmeal (https://www.bodybuilding.com/content/train-like-dwayne-the-rock-johnson.html).
Once he’s finished with breakfast, he gets dressed, and then goes to the gym.
So, to recap, he wakes up before anyone else and runs — AKA works out. Then, he eats breakfast, still before anyone is up, and then he works out AGAIN.
While you’re still asleep, the man has already worked out twice.
If that’s not commitment, I don’t know what is.
The point here isn’t that you need to workout like the Rock. The point is he wants to be fit, insanely fit is probably a better description, so he makes this his priority.
On a daily basis, he works out FIRST. Everything else comes after.
com·mit·ment | \kə-ˈmit-mənt \
Definition of commitment
1a : an agreement or pledge to do something in the future
especially : an engagement to assume a financial obligation at a future date
b : something pledged
c : the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled
“Commitment.” Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 21 Oct. 2018.
Read the different definitions related to commitment, above.
Does that define how you tackle your goals?
My point is not to make you feel bad. Far from it.
My point is that we haven’t been thinking deep enough about our goals, which has caused us not to fully commit.
A few things to follow up on this:
If you want to do something that you’re currently not doing, it’s going to take sacrifice.
If you’re going to sacrifice, you need a reason to keep making that sacrifice everyday.
If you’re going to listen to that reason each time you’re about to falter, it had better be one meaningful reason.
If it’s not meaningful, then you’re not going to change.
How do you we truly commit?
Commitment requires more than just a verbal acknowledgement that we’re going to do something. It requires a reason why we are committing to our goal. Additionally, we must take the time to think about what the commitment we’re making requires. Finally, since we’re committing, we must put this goal first.
As a bonus, but really it’s a fourth requirement/sub-requirement of all the others, we need to recommit each day. It can’t just be a one-time thing.
Find your reason
Before we move forward with any goal, we must find the reason for our commitment.
Goals are the end product of tons of tiny successes that we accomplish daily. If we move forward without identifying our reason, we’ll find it easier to leave some of these daily accomplishments incomplete. This is the classic moment in the diet where we say, “Screw it. I’m ordering pizza! One time won’t hurt.”
If you have a reason to stay committed to your goal, you are able to remind yourself why you chose this goal. In turn, you can win more of these small battles with that devil on your shoulder.
If you’ve ever read, watched, or listened to Simon Sinek, you might think that finding your “why” is this involved process that requires soul searching.
Truthfully, to find your deepest why takes time and a continuous loop of self-awareness. But, don’t start there.
Start by picking the first reason that comes to mind. Most of us have a reason top of mind already. It’s the reason we chose this goal in the first place.
Personally, my weight loss goal became readily apparent after I put on an old shirt that suddenly felt like it was giving me a bear hug. In this example, my first reason for committing would be to fit into that specific shirt.
The first reason you choose might not be meaningful enough, but that’s ok. This is trial and error. If you don’t feel like your reason is strong enough, take the time to dig at it a bit.
Before fully committing, play the why game. Keep asking yourself why, until you can’t answer it anymore.
Here is an example from a technical/business perspective:
Although this focuses on “why” from a business/technical perspective, it is still a good example how to get down to the actual issue (or root cause), so that you’re fixing the deeper issue.
Pay attention to the times you’re successful without needing to try.
For example, in my article about getting up early, I talk about night owls focusing on their bed time. This is because, whenever I’ve successfully been waking up early, I’ve made the time I went to bed a priority.Stop sleeping and actually have a successful morning.In a world setup for morning people, how can night owls become successful?hackernoon.com
Writing about your goal helps with all of this. I highly recommend writing your reason down. If you’d like, you can post it somewhere you’ll see often. You can also try writing your reason down every morning.
Just do something that will remind you of why you’re doing what you’re doing.
What does commitment look like.
Once you’ve made the decision to commit to a goal, you’ll come to realize that you’re actually committing to completing a process.
Goals are just the big picture off on the horizon we’re chasing. But, reaching those goals requires sacrifice, discipline, focus, and consistency.
Take the time now to identify what you need to complete daily, weekly, etc. Additionally, come to terms with the things you’ll be giving up.
Again, it’s better to write these out, so you can see what’s required.
If we go back to the example of the Rock, he eats the same meals each and every day. He only allows himself the occasional cheat day, on which he goes all out. But, after the cheat day ends, he goes right back to his standard diet.
So, if looking like the Rock is your goal, the process is to eat healthy for as many days as possible. The obvious sacrifices are pizza, Cheeseburgers, milkshakes, etc.
But, you’ll also be sacrificing beer, which in turn means going out for happy hour everyday will be sacrificed. You might see some of your friends less.
When you come to sacrifices like this one, you need to decide a few things:
- Are you willing to make this sacrifice?
- If not, can you adjust your goal to avoid making this sacrifice, while still achieving a similar result?
If you’re dead set on looking like the Rock, then you have a few options. You can still attend happy hour, but drink only water/diet soda. Or, you can adjust your goal from looking like the Rock to simply losing 20 lbs, or looking like a different celebrity who isn’t a ripped mass of muscle and veins.
If you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
– Benjamin Franklin
By deciding this now, you’re setting yourself up for success in either situation. Because, if you are willing to make the sacrifice, you’ve already decided how to handle this tricky situation, thus, making it a bit easier to stick to this sacrifice. However, if you decide not to make this sacrifice, you’re lowering your expectations, so when you don’t have abs, but lose 5 lbs, you’ll consider this a success and continue moving forward with your goal.
All we’re doing in this step is looking at the potential obstacles ahead and planning for them.
If we can identify the sacrifices we’ll have to make and decide how to handle times when we want to “cheat” now, we’re more likely to overcome these hurdles when they arrive.
Prioritize your goal.
Stephen Covey talked about putting first things first.
He was primarily talking about scheduling your most important tasks (i.e., your “big rocks”). Doing this ensures that you are able to get the important things done before the day gets away from you.
While this is an important step, you should expand on this idea.
Make your goal the priority in your life.
There are numerous examples of people doing this. I like to use Lebron James, because of the articles written about how much he spends on nutrition each year.
Realistically, you could use any elite athlete as an example and most any business person.
Yes, they focus on their main goal and complete tasks to propel them toward that goal. But, what we’re missing is the fact that everything else they do is in service to that goal.
Most business people talk about working out, because it keeps their brain sharp, so they can be better in their decisions than the competition. Same goes for nutrition.
The best example is the story of, “Will it make the boat go faster?”
If you haven’t heard it, here is a quick video explanation.
For those who don’t want to watch it, the story is this:
An Olympic rowing team, in preparation for the next Olympic games, asked themselves this question before they were about to take any action.
If the answer was “yes,” they would do whatever was in question. Conversely, if the answer was “no,” they would not.
So, daily training. Will it make the boat go faster? Training will make them better rowers. Yes, being better rowers will make the boat go faster. Therefore, train daily.
Should I go out to the bar with friends? If I go to the bar, I will consume alcohol, which will dehydrate me. Dehydration itself will not make the boat go faster. Furthermore, drinking could give me a hangover, which could cause me to miss training. There could be more reasons in this example that will not make the boat go faster, but I think you get the point.
The answer to this one would be that it will not make the boat go faster. Thus, the decision would be to not go out to the bar with friends.
You can create a question like this for your goals too.
“Will this help me get abs?” — “Will this help me lose 10 lbs?”
Extreme — Less extreme.
“Will this help me write a book?”
“Will this help me get a promotion?”
Some of these questions are temporary, so keep in mind that skipping the bar to train for the Olympics is pretty much a 1–3 time goal.
With goals like that one that have a limited window, there is another underlying question: Will I regret doing this instead of my goal later?
After you win gold, you can go out to the bar with friends.
The point to all of this is to achieve your goal, you have to make it the first factor in your decision making.
The more you keep your goal first, the more likely you are to achieve your goal. Moreover, you’re more likely to achieve it fast.
Commitment as a habit.
As you go through this process, you will find committing becomes easier.
At first, your reason might not be deep enough. If so, change it and keep going.
You might have overlooked a few sacrifices the first time around. Once you encounter them, you can create a plan to handle them the next time around.
Maybe you find it difficult to prioritize your goal. Just keep prioritizing where you can. Eventually, it will become easier to prioritize it everywhere.
Typically, goals have a cascade effect.
Once you find one small success in one area of the process, that makes you feel good and you carry it over to another part of the process, which makes you feel even better, etc.
Keep adjusting the process until you get it right.
Remember, until you quit trying, you have not failed.
It’s a learning process.
Your reason for going after this goal might change, but this is completely natural. Even more so once you see progress.
If you lose that 10 lbs, you will probably be excited to take it another step and try to get abs.
Think about athletes. When they’re young, their goal is to have fun with their friends. Then, it’s probably to make a specific team (varsity, AAU, etc.). After they make that team, it’s to get a scholarship. Once they get a scholarship, they want to go pro. Finally, once they’re pros, it’s to win and/or go to the Hall of Fame. The goal evolves as the person does.
Once you reach new heights, you’re going to want to keep reaching.
Let’s be realistic. People talk about wanting to write a book. But, what they really want is to be an author.
If you have that goal, sure right now it’s about writing one book. But, in your head, are you really visualizing yourself finishing one book and then never writing another one?
No, you’re not doing it once, you’re doing it multiple times. You’re not becoming a one book writer. You’re becoming an author with a collection that people keep buying.
Keep reminding yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing and why you’re making these specific sacrifices.
Make sure to regularly take assessment of how you’ve been doing. If today you didn’t do great, it can be motivation for tomorrow. One day, you’ll look up and realize that you don’t even miss the things you’ve sacrificed.
I’ve recently realized that most live TV I watch now is mostly games for the few sports teams I follow closely.
I don’t even miss sitting down every Tuesday at 7 for a specific show.
Achieving your goals requires commitment.
Select the reason for committing to this specific goal. Write it down.
Take to time to write what this commitment looks like. What will you do consistently? What will you sacrifice? What will you do at signs of trouble?
Put your goal first. Keep it top of mind.
Be aware of how your goal is progressing and adjust as needed. Remember changing yourself for the better is a long term game. If you fall, pick yourself back up and try again.
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