Commitment is hard, harangued by the twin devils of temptation and convenience, hamstrung by lack of preparation, blown back by our general aversion to difficult work.
Undoubtedly, you’ve decided to change something today. You’ve decided to accomplish something. Regardless of its nature, you would do well to commit with more than mind; you’ll need to change your environs and alter patterns, you’ll need to create a world conducive to success.
No one quits drinking in a bar, and there is no dieting in the candy shop. Work is not done via wishes, nor through avoidance. You cannot get new friends by spending time with your old ones, and when seeking an apple a day, you best not plant pine trees.
Take a look around you. Are you surrounded by the things and people you need to accomplish your goal? If so, stop reading and get to work. If not, it’s time to get tactical, to make some hard choices.
The first hard choice: time. The temptation is to add. Instead of making time for your resolution, time to cook, time to exercise, time to write, time to love, you’ll want to do everything you’re already doing AND this new pursuit.
Don’t be silly.
There is only so much time in the day, the week, the month, your life, and there is opportunity cost attached to every second. If you are doing one thing, an important thing, you best not be doing another. Now that you’ve decided to commit to your new, ask what you’ll let go.
Conveniently, you’ll believe that you spend huge chunks of time unproductively, idle, and you’ll think, “if only I didn’t sleep so much, drive so much, watch so much television, spend so much time in repose, I’d have plenty of time for this.”
This thought pattern, borne of logic and midwifed by common sense, is nonetheless ridiculous.
You need that time, the unwind. It keeps you sane. You cannot remove idleness and replace it with resolution. You need to remove productivity, and replace it with other productivity.
This is the nature of commitment, and the reason we fail so often. Commitment involves sacrifice. Something valuable must be exchanged for something valuable, the significant exchanged for the significant. Herein lies the hard choice, and one you must make if you’ll see your resolution through. What are you going to give up in pursuit of your new goal? What exchange will you make?
The second hard choice: environment. Audiobooks are not created at rock concerts. If you’ve made the time for your new pursuit, but failed to alter your surroundings, you’ll fail. Your new diet requires specific food, prepared and available, and will disintegrate the second donuts are available and lean meat is not. Add the things you’ll need, and remove those you don’t.
This is incredibly important. You are weak. Confronted with distraction and temptation, you will cave. Removal is your godsend. If you’re quitting drinking, clean out the liquor cabinet, and don’t go to the bar. If you want to live a life of exercise and dietary commitment, find the people that are living that life, and spend your time with them. Leave your cigar smoking bourbon buddies to their lonesome.
Again, you’ll balk. “Abandon my friends? Throw away my 20-year old scotch? Never.” I don’t blame you. Change is hard, and often runs headlong into other value systems: loyalty, comfort, thrift. Just like time, you’ll need to sacrifice something valuable for something valuable if you’re to see your resolution through. There are no alternatives in the calculus of change.
The third hard choice: work.
We fear failure. Call it societal conditioning, call it a product of a survival instinct, call it what you will. Fear is a reality; it’s the reason we don’t begin, the monster that makes us unsure of our own capacity to succeed.
You have to crush fear with work. Your first actions need not be correct, nor brilliant, but they have to occur. Get to work. Set the alarm for 4:45 in the morning, step onto the cold floor, drive to the gym. Open a file on your laptop, and type any paragraph in the Great American Novel. Turn over a spade of earth, plant a seed, start your organic garden.
Fear will flee before your simple actions, quieted by work. Every step we take dictates the next, and with every additional step, the path becomes more defined.
Your resolution will not be easy. You will sacrifice and you will struggle and you will hurt. Don’t think that success comes any other way. Still, you should begin the slaughter today. Make time by deciding what you won’t do. Create the ideal world by removal. Do the work.
You can beat back complacency, you can become better, and you can change your world.