Are You Ready To Commit?

What does it mean to commit? So many of think about commitment in terms of relationship, but do you ever consider what it means to commit in your everyday life and toward your everyday goals? Today examine your commitments to see if you have taken the steps to actually make them happen and see how this shapes and changes your view point of what commitment means in creating the best life ever. Read more to get ideas on changing your perspective on what it means to commit to yourself and create the life you want.

Many of us think of commitment as a long term concept and maybe even as being “stuck” in our dull routines. 

The dictionary defines commitment as:

“the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc, a pledge or undertaking, and an engagement or obligation that restricts freedom of action”. 

So many people only pay attention to the last one. The restriction part. When we focus on the first two it actually shows us a way to find ourselves at a deeper level. It gives us direction on what to say no to and what to say yes to. It shows us what we care about and how we want to live our lives. Below outlines a few ways to work with commitment in your own life so you are not feeling burdened or stuck in the same old routines. Becker (1960) states:

“The concept of commitment is widely used but has received little formal analysis. It contains an implicit explanation of one mechanism producing consistent human behavior. Commitments come into being when a person, by making a side bet, links extraneous interests with a consistent line of activity. Side bets are often a consequence of the person’s participation in social organizations. To understand commitments fully, an analysis of the system of value within which side bets are made is necessary”. 

Howard Becker

He goes onto define and outline how people work with and need commitment to engage in a variety of activities and to help define the limits of participation in said activities. In addition, he discusses how making your goal social and examining the culture it is made within is crucial to helping make sure you remain committed. So if we think about commitment being an activity we engage in (commitment to do something) or a state of being we are in (being committed) we can use these concepts to help us define and reach our own goals. 

Think about what you would like to have, accomplish, be known for. If you can define your goals then you will know what you need to commit to. These could be activities, people, occupational trainings, etc. They could also be things you need to let go of under the same headings. You might need to let go of not doing something to reach your overall goal. 

These are your side bets. The items you need to consider participating (or not) in are the things that help build your goal. Often people do not do a good job of figuring out the side bets to accomplishing hopes, dreams, and overall goals. They often have a good idea of what they would like to do, have, become but fail to consider what steps to take and how to accomplish them. In effect, they commit to the goal, but not the side bets that will help make it possible. As a result the desire for and commitment to the idea of the goal is alive, but often feels out of reach or unattainable. In order to be successful then, one must commit to the side bets. This is the art of being dedicated to the cause, activity, goal within the social culture. This is their pledge to themselves. This is the piece that actually does the work and gets the goal finished. This is also the part that people tend to focus on negatively because it does limit choices and takes away choice for any and all behaviors and activities. 

When you begin to think about commitment being something much more than just one decision and you are stuck with it forever. You begin to see how much more flexibility is in making a commitment. Within the decision to accomplish something, have something, or be something you actually have a lot of flexibility in your choices to make goals happen. You actually have a number of ways you can go about making them happen, too. From this perspective you have a lot more control in your choices and behaviors. Let’s look at a couple of examples. 

Healthy Eating: 

Commitment is to a particular food/diet choice:

First, you have to determine what you want. Then why. This is a crucial step as it tells us what to really focus on for side bets. Remember those are all the little steps and items you commit to outside the bigger goal. If I want to change my eating to a Keto diet it will look different than a vegetarian diet. If I am choosing a vegetating diet due to ethical reasons it will look different than endurance training options. 

Once you have figured out your what and your why, you must take steps to make it come alive in your life. This is where vision boards happen, meal planning and preparation, learning to deal with eating out, other people’s opinions, and shifts in your regular behavior to take on the small everyday steps to change how you have been eating in the past. This is also where people begin to struggle to remain committed to their personal goals because it gets boring and routine. It becomes very mundane. However, if you can make it through the small decisions and routine commitment choices you will reach your goal

Let’s look at something more abstract – Relationships: 

Commitment is to a particular person, lifestyle choice, social construct. 

For many people they blindly follow their personal cultural norms around relationship commitments. Often these are view points and behaviors we saw our parents and other adults in our lives acting out and we just absorbed them as truth about the way relationships are. BUT … there are many more options and ideas about what it means to be in a long term committed relationship than the options presented to us in childhood. The steps remain the same, but the choice points and side bets look different because of our culture and societal norms of the communities we live within as adults working to form relationships. 

Many people like to blame one gender or the other for the difficulties of remaining in long term intimate relationships, instead of doing the work to determine what it is they really want and figure out ways to get it in healthy co-created side bets and awareness of team building a shared life. Often partners do things “because that’s the way it goes” rather than examine what they would like and commit to creating a life from future visioning rather than past experiences. When it gets mundane and difficult people retreat to their corner licking wounds of vulnerability instead of coming together and discussing what is hurtful, difficult, or unappealing about personal culture expression. 

For example, if one partner believes that men should not show their feelings and have never been taught to speak about or how to show feeling in authentic connection, it will be difficult to maintain a partnership where one person is focused on reciprocated emotional sharing. In this case, it is best to communicate about wants and needs effectively – which is very very difficult when we are talking about blind spots in our culture, especially when they trigger vulnerability. 

To remain committed in a long term relationship we much consistently grow “together” and expand our personal cultures, sometimes abandoning pieces and parts of old cultural norms, to co-create a new shared culture together. We must work together to focus on common goals and negotiate comprise well. Take for example one partner who wants to build a large savings account but the other partner is a spender and sees no point in saving money now. They will continue to have a difficult time reaching the safety needs of the 1st partner (to have savings) if they cannot share ideas, vulnerabilities, reasons, and commitment to the goal. In the conversation there is room for negation around how much and when to spend freely so partner 2 doesn’t feel controlled and loss of enjoyment etc.  

It takes commitment to the larger vision of what it means to be in relationship and then commitment to work together to accomplish those goals to make a relationship work over the long haul. This is what makes remaining in long term committed relationships difficult. The longer you are together the more shared culture you create and the more you examine “the way it is” mentalities you were handed. If you have not committed to grow together the prediction of your relationship is that it will end.

In order to make a long term commitment to yourself or others you must have a clear view of what you want and why it matters. This helps you chose the decision points you must address and gives you clarity to chose wisely to reach your goal. It helps to walk through the steps of determining what you goal(s) are, how you would like your life to look/be, and they type of person you want to be known as. These defining criteria in your life help you determine next steps in what to focus your action on and what to let go of. 

Look at it this way – you are already committed. You may be committed to a lifestyle and value system you love so no need to change. That is great. However, if you are looking around your life and seeing things you want to change, you must determine what you have been committed to: unhealthy eating, too much TV, relationships that are not what you want, people who do not lift you up, old value systems you follow blindly instead of reviewing to determine if it fits you, unexamined vulnerabilities and personhood core wounding that shapes what you believe about yourself, your options in this life, and the world at large to begin the process of committing to yourself and the life you want to lead. Start today.  

Becker, H. S. (1960). Notes on the concept of commitment. The American Journal of Sociology, 66(1). 32-40.

Crush Your Goals!

How are you doing with your vision board and your goal outlines? Did you do it on Monday? If not, why not? What got in your way? How could you work around those obstacles? Are you feeling like you need more help? Then reach out. Make sure you are not swirling in the same stew over an over. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to change and finding yourself stuck at the same place over and over because you are not sure how to move forward, do not have clarity about what you really want, or do not have the support you need to make your dreams come true.

Make sure to ask for help when you need it.

3 Ways to Get Your Goals Back on Track

So many of us have great ideas and goals set at the 1st of the year, only to lose them by February 14th and then beat ourselves up because we can’t seem to stay on track. Some of us are crushing it in some places and not in others. Today take time to reflect on your goals and see where you can up level your life and get back or stay on track with your goals and plans for 2019.

We are into the second quarter of 2019, how are you doing on your goals for the year? Many around the world just finished celebrating Easter, a time for Christians to reflect on new beginnings and creating the life they would like to have, rather than the one they were handed. In the natural world, at least in the northern hemisphere, this is the time of fresh starts, new sprouts, and lots of possibility. Dreams of the garden flowers, harvest foods, and vacationing come to mind. 

As we move further into spring and all its hope, where are you crushing your goals? Where have you lost focus? Take the time to review what is working and what is not. Now is the season to reflect on next steps and make changes if you are recognizing they are needed. 

Successful people know flexibility is part of the success process. Failure happens, and it teaches. If you find that an area is failing it is time to determine if / what needs to change. Revisit your goals and find the places that need an adjustment, then make it. 

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If you have lost focus, it is time to visit what keeps getting in your way and get back in the game. Here are 3 ways to refocus, reflect, make change or get back on track starting right now. 

  1. Revisit your plans. Remember how we looked at setting goals at the start of the year. Re-read your plan. If you did not create a written plan or outline, do it now. It is important to have some representation of your goals you can look at regularly. Otherwise it becomes too easy to slip back into old habits and beliefs. Change takes time and without regular focus on what you would like to see different, you will fall back into old patterns. So today, pull out your yearly goals and revisit them. See yourself doing them. See yourself being successful having accomplished them. See yourself going through the motions to get them done. A little bit of work each day on your goals, goes a very long way. 
  2. Look at your vision board. If you did not create a vision board at the start of the year. Make one now. It does not have to be complicated. Find a few pictures that represent your goals for the year. Then paste them in a place you will see them regularly. I put mine in my daily planner. I took a page in the book I didn’t need and used that to put my vision board on. Then I look at each day as part of my morning meditation. During this time, I do not worry about the work, the steps, the how of accomplishing my bigger goals. I just look at the pictures. This exercise has been shown to help our brains orient to our goals and therefore find more success accomplishing them. When we are “primed” for our goals, we can see the opportunities that once may have been lost in our daily grind. We can see the items we need to say yes to, and the ones we need to say no to. When you have a good vision of where you are going and what you want, the daily to do list gets more clear. Thus, helping you focus on what you need to do next. 
  3. Create a reflection process. It can be in the morning, mid-day, evening the timing does not matter as long as it is your best time to focus, and it needs to be done with regularity. Many people skip this step because it feels like “doing nothing”, however it is very important step in making your dreams a reality. During this time, dream. Just allow yourself to review your vision board, your mission statement, and your overall direction. Let yourself dream whatever you want about your goals. See them big and full, see them in all their colors, vivid details, and possibility. This is not a time to worry about how you are going to make your dreams a reality. It is not a time to worry about greed, materialistic, or grandiose ideas you might have. This is a time for you to really allow yourself to see your dream complete. Your dream is perfectly ok, as long as it is not about harming another as this keeps your stuck in negative patterns rather than growth patterns. It does not matter if others find your dream valid or interesting. It is not theirs it is yours. As long as you are focused on positive aspects, you can have whatever you want in whatever way you want it. It will not be the same as other people’s dreams. It is not theirs … it is yours. Just allow yourself to see it in your mind’s eye in its entirety and feel the wonderful feelings of successfully accomplishing it. 

Today, check back into those goals you created to start 2019. How are you doing on them. If you were to rate yourself on a scale from 1-10, 10 being crushing it, how are you doing? Could you give yourself an 8 or better? If not, why not. What has gotten in your way and how can you find a solution around your obstacle? If yes, what are you doing that is working? Can you create more of that everyday to help you reach your goals with success?

Ground Hog Day in Your Life? The pain of staying the same or the pain of change? 7 Steps to master moving your life forward for the better.

Have you ever thought “I’ve been here before. This thing keeps happening to me. Why am I destined to repeat this experience”? Many people looking to change how they behave in the world experience this. It is the impetus for change. That feeling of being stuck and repetitive. The uncomfortable feeling of doing the same thing over and over hoping for different results is often what drives us to change. Ever heard the saying “the pain of staying the same, must be greater than the pain of change”? That is part of why we find ourselves in repetitive situations we do not like. We are getting ready to change. 

Everyday I deal with people who want their lives to be different, but cannot figure out necessary steps to get where they want to go. We are all like that, and we all have those experiences. Those times when we want our lives to be different and do not know how to make it happen. It can be one of the most maddening feelings – to know we need to do something different and not know what to do next. It can be hard to ask for help or even find the people we need to guide us well. Many of us do not know who to ask or how. Today take a look at your life and note if you want to change. Below outlines some common experiences and then steps for making change happen in your life. 

It can be helpful to understand why we find ourselves in the same sorts of situations over and over. It starts with our culture and our communities. We only know what we are taught and those items come from where we come from (this generation and those past). Everybody’s culture is different. I have road-tripped through most of the lower 48 and although we share the label of being from the United States of America we are so different. We might look alike, but our cultures are different. Within each family system our cultures are different. You might find the family next door does things very different from your family just a house away. Each of us is also influenced by our communities.

Each of us is also influenced by our communities:

  • Who is in our peer group?
  • What do they focus on?
  • What activities do they do?
  • What do they value?

Once we have the lenses of personal culture, it is really hard to take them off. 

Think about having colored glasses on. When you are wearing yellow lenses it is hard to see yellow things. When you wear red glasses, red items are difficult. This is what it is like to wear the lenses of your culture. You do not know what you are missing because you cannot see what your lenses cover up. It is just the way you have always done things. The way your family is, and this translates into the way the world is … even when it is not. The global leap to “this is the way everybody is, … should be, … does it” gets in our way of relating. We think we know what it is like for other people only to find out it is not the same which is hard for our personal identities. 

For example, I like peanuts. I have eaten them many ways throughout my lifetime. Being from the upper midwest I had never encountered boiled peanuts until I was taken to a boiled peanut stand in the backwoods of South Carolina. Everyone raved about how great they were going to be and I had no idea what I was in for. I had no lens to understand boiled peanuts or why you would cook them that way. I had never been exposed to boiling peanuts in the shells and then eating them as though they were a special item. I did not have a lens to understand the reasons, what to expect, or even how to find them – I never would’ve found that shack on my own, even if I did I wouldn’t know why to stop there. I had never tasted boiled peanuts before. 

This is why it is so hard to break free from repetitive situations. You have lenses that shape what you know and what you see, therefore you keep finding the same things over and over with no way of knowing what you do not know. I did not know boiled peanuts existed or what they would taste like because I had never been exposed to them before. I never thought of having boiled peanuts, therefore did not even know to look for them.

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Lets broaden this out to relationships. Ever wonder why you or someone else continues to pick partners that are similar, even when you have sworn off that type of person forever? It is because the lens you are wearing shapes the people you find. Our exposure to relationships begins with our earliest ones, our primary caregivers. The cultural lenses we were handed are the role models we saw in our first years. How they treated each other, how they treated us, ways they communicated, words they chose to express their connection, what they gave value to and what they ignored all create the foundation for our intimate relationships. We often do not know we wear these lenses, it is just “how marriages are”, “how lovers treat each other”, “what men / women are like”, etc. We speak as though it is always the same, because it is all we know. When we encounter a partner opportunity different than our personal lens we think they are weird or we do not even notice them. Their personal style of dress, hair, stature, way of communicating, interacting, or being does not match our lens so we do not see them as options for us, thus we cannot shift our picks. 

Another common area where people struggle is money and work. For many we work in similar jobs and live at a similar social-economic level as our family of origin. We may break out a bit ahead but often we stay stuck at the same levels. This is because the lenses we were shown about work, money, material comforts, location of living, etc. were handed to us by our earliest experiences. Often we are not aware of what those paradigms were or why they existed. We may remember messages about “value of hard work”, “money is the root of all evil”, “poor equals dirty/stupid/lazy/___”, “money equals love” or “nothing easy is worth anything”. We may have been present to arguments or worried conversations our caregivers had about finances and taken information in without awareness. As a result we continue to repeat the patterns with work and money we know. If we felt included in the culture we often find value in being “blue collar”, “redneck”, “high class”, or “well off”and as a result we are likely to repeat them. If we felt discomfort at the lenses we were handed as children we become determined to do it differently, often with gusto. This is the pain of staying the same and it drives us to initiate change. 

It can happen externally, like the above example, or this pain can be driven from internal strife. Take the concept of weight management. If you feel uncomfortable enough in your physical body, you will make necessary lifestyle choices to change your current predicament. You go through the process of shifting your lenses for what your weight should be – this may have come from pictures, physical health issues, family or friends who have made a change – and you find people to help you. You might check out a magazine, buy a book, hire a personal trainer, join a gym, enlist a friend, the list goes on for ways we drop our old lenses. Once we drop them we learn how big the world really is. We begin to see how much the world has to offer us in the particular area of interest. We finally begin to see the possibilities and we go after our goals. This is the pain of change. It takes time and often numerous failures before we get it right, but we are learning and expanding our lenses all the way. 

So if you are looking around your life and saying it’s like ground hog day – happening again and again and I do not like it – it is time to takes steps to make the change. Here’s how to begin:

  1. Determine what you want to be different
  2. Decide what you want it to be like – get specific in your vision of what could be, see it clearly in your head
  3. Create a goal statement & post it where you can see it everyday, multiple times a day. Make a vision board of pictures and sayings that represent your goal. Hang it where you will see it often.
  4. Break your goal into smaller chunks using SMART goals
    1. Specific
    2. Measurable
    3. Attainable
    4. Realistic 
    5. Timed (when will you complete, how long will you work at it). Change is best done in 10% increments. So just make a SMART goal on the 1st 10% change step. When we complete that we’ll make the next and then the next until you reach the big goal. 
  5. Find a helper. Enlist family, friends, trainers, therapists, coaches to help you get to the next level. Find a couple new friends who are mastering what you want to accomplish, watch videos of people succeeding like you would like to, read about them. Get exposed to what they are doing to have what you want as much as you possibly can.
  6. Decide how you will reward yourself. Is it praise, a new item, an experience? What is it you want for accomplishing your goal? Find pictures and post them where you will see them often
  7. Finally, make it social. Tell your family, friends, join a group, hire a coach, see a therapist. Get someone on your side and find support to help you stay on track.