Updated: Aug 5, 2022
What we really want is on the other side of following through with a commitment.
Making a commitment is often more pleasant than the effort of actually following through with that commitment. We’ve all had experiences where we know that what we really want is on the other side of following through with a commitment. Maybe you want to run a marathon. You know that you will need to train for months in advance to gain the strength and endurance finishing the race requires. Only by doing the work - by following through with the training plan - will you be well-prepared to complete the marathon. But, when it’s still months and months away and you just don’t feel like getting up early for your run, it’s easy to put it off. There’s a good reason we don’t follow through with our commitments. Our primitive brain is wired to avoid pain and seek pleasure. When your alarm goes off in the early hours of the morning, telling you it’s time to train, your brain will readily send you the message that you shouldn’t go. It will let you know that staying in bed is much more pleasurable than your plan of pushing your physical limits in a run. Remember, you’re wired to avoid pain and seek pleasure. So, don’t beat yourself up for the times you haven’t followed through. It makes perfect sense why you didn’t. We goal set and make personal commitments with our prefrontal cortex of the brain. This area and the primitive brain have different objectives, so many times they are at odds. The prefrontal cortex recognizes discomfort and pain as the price of growth. And it’s willing to pay the price. The primitive brain wants instant gratification. Following through on a commitment requires the activation of the prefrontal cortex. The primitive area of the brain likes to take charge automatically, so it will entice you to give in to impulses. And that does feel better in the moment, but it feels worse on the back end. Breaking personal commitments damages the relationship you have with yourself, in the same way broken commitments damages relationships that you have with other people. There is a good reason you make commitments to yourself in the first place. The result of following through with it, will improve the quality of your life. Here are some keys to following through: - Don’t make personal commitments lightly. Consider carefully how likely you are to follow through with a commitment. - Start with small commitments that will take less effort for you to follow through on to build up your ability to follow through. - Celebrate the small victories. - Only add on to a commitment once your follow through on the smaller part is strong. When you fail to follow through, don't beat yourself up. Instead use it as a tool to learn from. Use failure to see how you can better support yourself in following through with your commitment. The more you honor commitments to yourself, even small ones, the stronger your ability for follow through will become. Let's Go!