Actually, that wasn’t true. I can finish things, I just needed to learn how. Here’s what I have learned:
- Start small. Choose a commitment that is not earth shattering in its importance, but at the same time is something that you want, rather than something you want to quit. First things first. Over the years, I have chosen to commit to a daily practice of things like yoga, meditation and writing – things that are only important to me. Within that process, you will learn how to keep much bigger commitments, which quitting something counts as.
- Break it down. If you are like me, large projects overwhelm you, and result in procrastination and avoidance. But, if you break that large project down into lots of little projects, it all appears so much more doable. I use lists, index cards, my calendar and spreadsheets to whip big projects into manageable chunks. What do you use?
- Learn to recognise your fear. Much like the wolf in sheep’s clothing, it can often be disguised as lack of enthusiasm, resistance, excuses, boredom, self-sabotage, self-criticism, perfectionism and distraction – the list is endless. You have your very own brand of fear, and you should be aware of what it looks like, because wherever you go, it will be there. What does your fear look and feel like? Describe it, so that you can know it for what it is.
- Choose a length of time for your commitment. You need to find that fine balance between achievable and challenging, and only you will know what that is. I remember the first commitment of this type that I made was a three month commitment to morning pages while doing The Artist’s Way. That was awesome, and definitely life changing, but it wasn’t until I read Forty Days of Yoga that I really grasped what making and keeping a commitment was all about.
- Be prepared to be surprised. On my first 40 days, I had all kinds of ideas about why I would lose interest in commitments half way through – maybe I had a short attention span, or not enough time/support/space, or more likely I was just one of those people that is great out of the gates but not much for stamina. Actually, no. It was none of those things. There were a couple of factors – one, I was committing to the wrong things out of misguided urges, and two, fear and lack of self-worth (I don’t deserve to have…). You will find out many interesting things about yourself during these commitments. Take note :).
- Processes are good. Strangely, there are things that we just expect to know how to do without instruction. For some reason we (I) have made the mistake of thinking that writing a book, meditating, and even learning how to keep commitments is something that can just be embarked upon with little or no knowledge. When we (I) inevitably fail, we then take it as confirmation that we are no good at that particular thing. No. Take meditation for instance. Who knew that there are processes that prime your mind for meditation, which if learned and practiced, make meditation soooo much easier? Fancy. Thank you Andy from Headspace <3.
- There will be hard days. There will be days you want to quit, where it’s too hard, you don’t have enough time, and where everything is way too much for one person to bear. Yes. But let’s get some perspective – it’s just one bad day. Acknowledge that today, adulting is hard, things are tough, and you may need a warm bath, a cuddle, a massage, wine and chocolate to get through it. And then keep your commitment anyway.
- Use your tools to keep you on track. Depending upon what kind of person you are, you might need to bring in the support of friends and family, make a public commitment, journal, blog, reward yourself for goals achieved, make spreadsheets or lists, or keep to a particular time or routine. Know thyself.
- Don’t believe your mind. It’s full of it, seriously. Take this morning for instance: I woke early and sat up in bed to do my daily meditation practice. Immediately my mind went into resistance. I don’t WANT to meditate. Oh come on, we meditated last night remember? We don’t need to do it again this morning. Hey, wasn’t Vikings good last night? MUCH more interesting than this. BORING! I kid you not. I observed it all, felt the resistance rising up…and then did it anyway.
- Be prepared for everything to change. What I found, and what you will find too, is that by learning how to honour commitments, you are learning how to honour yourself. And when you learn how to honour yourself, your self-worth and trust will increase to the point where you can step into a much more powerful version of yourself. You know you can stick big projects out, because now you know how to persevere. You also take commitments very seriously, only committing to projects that light some kind of fire within you, because you know that on the bad days, the fire is what gets you through.
So if you, like me, look back and see a life littered with unfinished projects, don’t despair. Perhaps you were choosing the wrong things, or maybe nobody taught you how to battle through the obstacles of a long project. Maybe you have given up on yourself. Have another go, but this time be mindful and set yourself up to succeed.