February 5, 2014
Intentions, Resolutions & Commitments by Joanne Ladley
Did you make New Year’s resolutions? If so, have you broken them yet? I’ve never been a big fan of New Year’s resolutions, mostly because I’ve never stuck to them. Too often, resolutions were statements I made off the cuff with very little real intention of following through. They sure sounded good though. So no surprise when by January 15th I had already broken them.
But then I was introduced to the difference between a resolution and a commitment. Each one has its source in intention. The veracity of the intention behind a resolution is suspect. A commitment is an intention with laser focus.
I don’t make commitments lightly and I imagine that others don’t either.
Sometimes the difference between resolutions and commitments is simply a matter of quantity. When you make a New Year’s resolution is it a list? I’m going to lose weight. I’m going to start exercising. I’m going to visit my parents more often. I’m going to learn to say no. Resolutions often have multiple points of focus.
Commitments have singular focus. Focusing on more than one commitment at a time is ineffective. However, once you’ve changed your behavior to fulfill your commitment and maintained that commitment for a period of time, there’s a good chance you can take on another new commitment.
Here’s a focused, intentional process I discovered to change your behavior:
- Start with an intention. I want to be healthy.
- Add a game plan. I’m going to go the gym on Tuesday afternoons. (save the aspirational four days a week for later – after you’ve successfully completed getting to the gym one afternoon a week)
- Put in some mechanisms that will ensure you won’t find excuses to break the commitment. I’m going to sign up for a class so people will be expecting me. I’m going to pay for it ahead of time so I’ll waste my money if I don’t show up. I’m going to have my gym bag packed Monday night so I can go right from work to the gym.
- Make sure to celebrate milestones. Notice when your clothes are not so tight. Pat yourself on the back for showing up at class. Enjoy a deep breath because you’re not so winded.
- Add a second game plan to fulfill the original intention. I’m going to stop eating fatty foods.
- Start the process all over again with mechanisms and celebrations.
That’s a commitment. You’ve stated your intention. You’ve identified one step toward the end game. You’ve developed a plan to overcome the excuses that might keep you from carrying out the intention by creating mechanisms that won’t allow discouragement to foil your plan. You’ve incorporated celebrations, an indispensable part of solidifying new behaviors. If you’d like, bring in a buddy who will help to hold you accountable, and then celebrate together.
Changing behavior is not for sissies. Old habits die hard. But if something isn’t working for you, there is a way to do things differently. It’s not a quick fix but it can open up a brand new world of possibilities.