Renegotiating A Non-negotiable Commitment
Back in December I committed to 33 consecutive days of 30 minutes yoga without skipping a single day. Long story short: I did it.
To be honest - it was not difficult. I’ve set the difficulty bar well - right at the edge between feeling easy and feeling challenging to start, and I made it absolutely non-negotiable under any circumstances knowing the importance of delivering on that vow to myself.
Stepping into my 33rd rep on the day of my 34th birthday felt like bliss.
With the original commitment out of the way I simply continued showing up to my practice. I was in the middle of a crazy fast travel, when for over a month I moved every couple of days, and, perhaps paradoxically, it felt easier to just keep on doing my practice every day. It served as a grounding ritual shifting my awareness into the body in the midst of all the changes in the external environment. It was a perfect fit.
Eventually, I came back home and decided to recommit. One hundred days. Actually, make it one hundred and one, because it feels like a good number of unbroken reps.
I did it again, although I admit that I could feel my commitment energy drop significantly. I still kept showing up, but there were more days when I wasn’t showing up fully. “Bad days” are a natural part of the commitment and, in fact, are the most important ones.
It’s when you don’t feel like it, and yet you show up anyway, that the muscles of will grow.
Still - I kept noticing that the frequency of these days increased, which kept draining my motivation further down.
Eventually there was not much left, but then… I hit the 101 mark.
Setting the right time frame is another critical piece of the Art of Commitment. A longer period increases the probability of giving up - either through random life events or, like in my case, motivation dropping down with time. On the other hand, the longer your streak, the more badass you feel so there is definitely immense value in high number of reps. Completing 101 consecutive days of 30 minutes yoga practice without skipping a beat felt very fucking good.
I decided to ride the wave of completion and recommitted to 125 days. Another 24 days felt doable.
On day 119 I quit.
Ending a non-negotiable commitment well is a mission-critical part of the process.
I kept noticing that my motivation is quite low, and the frequency of days when I push through is increasing. And then, one day after the most amazing yoga session I had in a long time, with a glass totally full with recommitment energy, I suffered an injury rendering it impossible to continue in the same format.
I tried to change my practice to a very gentle movement on the yoga mat, and then shifted to moving the energy in my body in a healing process, but the truth is - my heart was not in the original commitment to 125 days of yoga.
I have no time for bullshit. I had two options:
- Recommit immediately and kept pushing through
- Let go
I chose the later knowing well that I didn’t honour my commitment, and yet, quitting was a respectful thing to do. My heart wasn’t there, my body wasn’t fully mobile, and I needed to prioritise healing rather than forcing myself.
In other words, my current life circumstances were not aligned with my commitment, and while I absolutely could have chosen to do it regardless, I made a conscious decision not to.
Instead, I decided to renegotiate my commitment.
And then I weaved it into a card representing my current core practices so I can see it all the time.
Redirecting the commitment energy into a different practice is a fantastic lifeline but also a very tricky ground. Similarly to the original non-negotiable commitment it deserves consideration and respect.
An easy trap to fall into, is to redirect the energy from a place of half-assing - well, that thing didn’t work out, so let me try this other thing. It’s easy to slip into not taking the new commitment seriously, which will most likely backfire - in a form of giving up during one of the first challenging periods.
Building on the first rule of habit building - never skip twice - it’s time to regain trust in myself by honouring my commitment no matter what.
This requires setting the commitment well.
- What is the commitment?
- What is the timeframe?
- Am I ready to make it a non-negotiable vow, knowing well that if I fail to deliver it will harm my feeling of self-worth and trust in myself?
With full awareness of the stakes at play, I decided to commit to a daily swim.
I am in an environment where I can go into the water daily, unless the sea state is completely wild, and even if it is, there is a high chance I can find a spot to get into the water. There is a possibility that external circumstances beyond my control (as in: Nature) will make it impossible, in which case I will accept it and have a long cold shower instead. But I will go out of my way to find a spot to swim.
Respecting that my body is still not fully healed, I set the bar low - All I need to do is to fully submerge in the water. I can then get out immediately. This feels like a good bar of difficulty - no brainer on easy days, and whenever I don’t feel like swimming at all, it’s still easy to drag my ass into the water.
I don’t need to commit to more - once submerged I’ll enjoy it tremendously.
Once my new commitment is crystal clear to me, I ponder on the timeframe that feels good. I’ll set a low bar this time because I want to reduce the risk of failure. Still, I want something that feels like a bit of a challenge and aligns with my natural rhythms.
I choose to commit to a daily swim until the next New Moon. That’s 21 days away from today, and I have a head start of 4 completed days, which is a good start of momentum.
Am I ready to commit?
How about you?