The Importance of Honoring Commitments

According to Dictionary.com, commitment is defined as:

  1. The act of committing (I loathe it when a word is defined using a configuration of the word).
  2. The state of being committed (and here we go again).
  3. The act of committing, pledging, or engaging oneself (finally, something beyond the word commitment).
  4. A pledge or promise; obligation.
  5. Engagement; involvement.
  6. Perpetration or commission, as of crime (well that’s got negative connotations wrapped all around it).
  7. Consignment; as to prison.
  8. Confinement to a mental institution or hospital. (I think you get the point with this list)

img_3665

At the start of the calendar year, I purchased a journal. Not that I needed one considering I pick up journals at Barnes and Noble and Marshalls like they are packs of gum for my purse—in danger and running low and needing to be steadily replenished. Nevertheless, this wasn’t any run of the mill journal, it was one I’d found on Facebook. Yes, the social media platform that I do my best to stay away from on most days. At any rate, I was fascinated with this journal because it focused on commitments thirty days at a time. That’s right, I clicked on the ad for the 30 Commit Journal. As someone who’s struggled with commitments (financial, relational, and personal—to name just a few), I believed that I could use this journal to help me be more successful. With little hesitation, I purchased the journal and eagerly waited for it to arrive.

img_3667

When I opened up the journal to the first page, I was graced with a myriad things to which I could commit. I scanned the list and started circling the items that resonated with me. Item number one: 30 days of yoga—no brainer. Item number four: 30 days of clearing clutter—but of course. Item number eleven: 30 days of no sugar—God give me strength. And has the universe infiltrated my thoughts because these are things I could likely get behind; things I NEED to get behind like decluttering? Long story short, that page included over twenty-five items that one could commit to for a minimum of thirty days at a time.

Why thirty days? Perhaps because popular science believes it takes twenty-one days to form a habit. If we stretch that out to thirty days, then maybe we’ve latched onto a deeper level of success. I really couldn’t tell you the science behind thirty days, but I can tell you that I jumped right in.

About 30 Commit

Step 1: Is all about thinking through one’s vision. There were two questions at the top of the page to get me started: What do I want this year to look like? To feel like? This two-page spread consisted of circles, each with a different focus or theme. The prompt at the top of the page read: “Within each circle ask yourself what is most important to you and what you can do to improve upon these areas for a more balanced life. The headings in the twelve circles included: physical health, mental health, marriage/partner, family/friends, pure joy/fun, adventure/travel, spiritual health, personal growth, career, home, community, and finances.

img_3668

For example, in the personal growth circle I wrote that I wanted to read at least one book a month. Six and a half months later I’ve been able to keep that commitment. It’s likely due to the fact that I LOVE to read. Really, I could have challenged myself with something more daunting, but I’m trying not to judge my own actions (curtesy of reading Gabrielle Bernstein’s Judgment Detox: Release the Beliefs That Hold You Back from Living a Better Life) and maintain an internal dialogue that is positive and nurturing (curtesy of having recently finished Cynthia Kane’s Talk to Yourself Like a Buddhist: Five Mindful Practices to Silence Negative Self-Talk). Clearly, reading is something to which I can easily commit. So let’s look at something that doesn’t come naturally to me, the mental health circle. In this circle I wrote that I wanted to meditate daily and to also focus on the positive.

A few days ago I received a text from the owner of the yoga studio where I instruct. Immediately, my brain went to it’s default setting: something’s wrong and/or bad. Not to say that I told you so, but the information she shared with me wasn’t positive. She shared with me a screenshot from a review that was recently posted from a new client. img_3679-2After reading the review, my heart sank. I was saddened by the information. But what was more disheartening, was how my mind ruminated only on the negative pieces of the text thread for hours, no, days later. And that got me thinking about the Negativity Bias. I’d first heard/read about the concept from author and psychologist Rick Hanson. In his book, Buddha’s Brain: the practical neuroscience of happiness, love, & wisdom, he explained the concept of the negativity bias.

“…your brain is built more for avoiding than for approaching. That’s because it’s the negative experiences, not the positive ones, that have generally had the most impact on survival…The brain is drawn to bad news…[what’s more] This bias makes you suffer in a variety of ways. For starters, it generates an unpleasant background of anxiety…the negativity bias fosters or intensifies other unpleasant emotions, such as anger, sorrow, depression, guilt, and shame. It highlights past losses and failures, it downplays present abilities, and it exaggerates future obstacles. Consequently, the mind continually tends to render unfair verdicts about a person’s character, conduct, and possibilities. The weight of those judgments can really wear you down” (Hanson, 2009)

I know that was a lengthy way to get to the gist of the circle, my goal of meditating daily and focusing on the positive, but I wanted to be transparent about my struggles. Identifying the positive doesn’t come natural to me. When I’m scoring student essays, I sometimes find it difficult to identify just one thing that they’ve done well. More often than not, my mind immediately goes to jot something down on the assessment chart under the heading “Areas of Improvement/Growth”. So, long story short, I am determined to meet that goal of meditating for five minutes EVERY day during the month of August. Also, I’m determined to re-train my brain in an effort to change that default setting of the negativity bias. I know it will take time and constant practice and awareness, but I’m committed to the challenge.

Step 2: This page consisted of twelve circles, one for each month of the year. This is where I listed out the focus of each monthly commitment. I numbered each of the circle and tentatively planned out the commitment for each month of the year. Yes, some of those monthly focuses have changed or been replaced with something else, but what matters most to me is that I am challenging myself with something new one month at a time.

Step 3: A diagram of how to use daily action steps to successfully commit to reaching your goals donned this step. The idea was to create detailed action steps. Here one is advised to plan out the days and nights beforehand and to set realistic, achievable goals. I have to admit that this has been the one section that I’ve not been fully invested in completing. I started strong during the month of January, but have neglected to fill it out since then.

 

 

 

Step 4: Here was where one would track their success each day of the month. I have enjoyed this area the most. There is nothing like adding a sticker or a check mark to a page to encourage yourself along. Side note (aka, honesty alert): During a conference with a parent and student this past year I shared this truth about me and stickers. I’d told the father and his son (who at the time was struggling to complete his assigned work) that when it comes time for me to have to grade 120+ essays, I plan out how many I’ll assess daily, and then when I achieve my goal, I place a sticker next to that item on my To-Do list. It may seem juvenile for a forty-two year old woman to use stickers as a form of positive reinforcement, but I’m telling you it works (and I really don’t care if you’re judging me—remember, I’m trying to release that from my own life).

Step 5: Share your goals. And this is where my own self-judgment has led me to sit quietly on this journal and my progress (and lack thereof) for the past seven months. The limiting belief that I’m a mediocre writer rears it’s judgmental head and the anxiety consumes me. What will people think? Will they comment negatively? And just like before with the feedback from the yoga class, I tell myself that it’s best to keep it to yourself—no one can say/write anything negative when they have no knowledge of what you are doing/writing. And so I’m going to rise above the fear of negative feedback and put myself out there anyway; I’m going to get comfortable with being uncomfortable (check out last week’s post if you missed it).

My 30 Commit Journey Thus Far…

A Month of Success

Back in January when the year was fresh, I committed to thirty days of exercise (for a minimum of ten minutes each day). For me, this was easy to do as I enjoy exercising. However, I am keenly aware that this may not be the case for someone who doesn’t like to work out. Nevertheless, for someone who may be working out for the first time in a long time or even for the first time EVER, ten minutes is a commitment that you may be able to get behind—especially when you get to decide how you work your body for those ten minutes. Stephen Guise, author of Mini Habits: Smaller Habits, Bigger Results and How to Be An Imperfectionist stated that, “…mini habits are too small to fail; and so they lack the common destructive feelings of guilt and inadequacy that come with goal failure.” If we use Guise’s logic, it is impossible to fail to meet the commitment of a ten-minute work out. The key for me was diversifying my exercises and writing them into my weekly calendar. It was like a date I was having with myself. Each day I looked forward to the opportunity to add another sticker or check mark to my monthly commitment chart. It also helped that we had a step challenge at work where the winner got to spend $75 on fitness items through Amazon.com. Right!? Yes. With my 30 Commit journal in hand, I planned out each week and used stickers and a to-do list to honor those daily commitments, which in turn became weekly commitments.

img_3671

However, the Struggle is Real!

I don’t want you to think that I’m invincible when it comes to commitments. Remember, I didn’t start my July commitments until the 9th day of the month. So let’s take a quick step back to March when my monthly commitment was to “Drink more water; relinquish soda!” Yep. You probably already know how the chart for this month looked. It certainly wasn’t as pretty as January. Seven of the thirty-one days of the month I fell from grace and indulged in drinking soda. img_3673

Here’s how my house of cards started to collapse. I was doing good until I got on a plane en route to Dubai from New York. Yep, I’m blaming my fall on turbulence and my penchant for motion sickness. Sure, you might be wondering whether or not I planned for this and brought some medicine. I hear you in my head, “Where was your Dramamine, Linai?” It had been ingested and my Pepto Bismol tablet had been chewed, but they were supplying me with zero relief. I’d been okay during the seven hour flight from JFK to Heathrow. But something in those seven and a half hours from Heathrow to Dubai had pushed my body beyond its limit. Seemingly out of nowhere, I got REAL hot. Sweat began to collect on my forehead and the back of my neck felt like a small fire had sprung up. And that’s when I buzzed the flight attendant. Every fiber in my body felt like it was about to spew out that delicious in-flight Virgin Atlantic meal, and so I bit the bullet and asked for a ginger ale. Never before had ginger-ale (especially a brand that wasn’t my beloved Canada Dry) tasted so good. Finally, the sweat building up on my forehead and temples started to recede and I finally leaned my head back and closed my eyes. I’d managed to keep my food down for the remainder of the flight. But the next seven days of that trip I continued to drink soda. It wasn’t until March twentieth that I regained my composure and re-honored my commitment.

All that being said, I was only partially successful with my April commitment of de-cluttering when I planned out the categories and reading for Marie Kondo’s books, the life-changing magic of tidying up: the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing and spark joy: an illustrated master class on the art of organizing and tidying up. Side Note: (aka, honesty alert): I breezed through Kondo’s first book and inhaled her show on Netflix. However, when it came time to tidy up, there were only fifteen days on the calendar when I honored my commitment to decluttering. It wasn’t until late June when I picked that mantle back up. And yes, the book mark is still on page 199 of 279 pages. And NO, I have NOT completed the second book or the remaining decluttering categories. However, I do hope to re-honor that commitment before the year ends. And yes, I am a major work in progress.

I hope my words have helped you to see why I believe honoring commitments is so vitally important. When I consider the word commitment, the words pledge; promise; and obligation immediately resonate within me. As I try and wrap this up, I am reminded of the impetus behind this post. It began with a conversation I had with my boyfriend several days ago. The sky had turned an eerie color gray and the radar was calling for thunderstorms in the area. Hesitant as I was about the possibility of walking in a thunderstorm (again), I desperately wanted to honor my commitment since I’d fallen short the day before (I met the walking goal but not the writing goal). First I got on the mini-trampoline and started “walking”. Yes, it is possible to walk (more like march) two miles worth of steps on a mini-trampoline—especially since you were able to acquire it with that step challenge win back in January, but I just wasn’t feeling it after seven minutes and only a quarter mile to show for. This is how I recall the conversation that encouraged me to honor that walking commitment.

Sometime around five in the evening…

Me: I really want to get my two miles in.

Charles: (gazing out the window between the blinds) It looks like it’s about to get nasty out there.

Me: I know. I think I’m going to chance it.

Charles: What’s wrong with the mini-trampoline?

Me: (trying to speak over the squeaky springs) I’m just not feeling it. If I’m going to walk, I might as well be outside where I can get some fresh air.

Charles: Oh. Well, if it clears up later, I’ll go for a walk with you.

And that’s when I threw caution to the wind (literally and figuratively) by changing my clothes and grabbing my wireless earbuds. Shortly after getting outside, I started to think about this idea of commitment. I began to analyze the previously referenced conversation as words from Rachel Hollis’s book, Girl, Stop Apologizing, encouraged me to honor who I was, A Goal Digger—her words, not mine. But I’m giving her a metaphoric high-five at this very moment.

This idea of commitment is important. When we keep our commitments, we honor ourselves and anyone or anything to whom we’ve made a promise—most especially ourselves. On July 9th, I’d made a commitment to myself to walk two miles every day. I also committed to writing fifteen minutes every day (because one day I want to prove to myself that I can author an entire book). And lastly, I committed to completing three or more thirty-minute strength training exercises every week. This was the commitment that I’d made for the month of July. You may be thinking: July, just like every other month, begins on the first. You’re absolutely correct. July did begin on the first, but I had dropped my metaphoric commitment ball back in April and didn’t pick it back up until the 9th. But I have been determined to honor my commitments because I’ll never be able to achieve the goals I have for my life if I take a lax approach to the idea of what it means to commit.

#commit30

So tell me; what are you committed to and how are you honoring the commitment?

Advertisements

The Value of Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

In 2011, one of my favorite celebrity fitness trainers, Jillian Michaels, changed my world with her Extreme Shed & Shred workout video.  No.  I din’t become a lean, mean muscle machine after struggling through her workout video.  It’s what she said that caused a shift in my mindset.

As a self-professed at-home workout junky, I am always on the lookout for a new DVD (now streaming service) where I can “feel the burn”—cliché, I know.  Anyway, as a frugal woman, at-home workouts are also cheaper than a gym membership, and I can workout whenever I want.  All that being said, my girl Jillian planted a seed in my heart and mind all those years ago when she said, “…sit in that uncomfortable place, and get comfortable with being uncomfortable.”  There I was holding a five-pound weight in triangle pose when her words shifted something within me.  Immediately, I took her words to heart.  No, it wasn’t mind-blowing in the sense that I sprang out of triangle pose and immediately started chasing after my dreams (it would take another three years for me to muster up the courage to even start blogging).  For a time the message lay dormant, but later came back to me in a way that has recently caused me to almost use her words as a mantra in my personal life as well as my professional life—in my classroom as a middle school teacher.

This past year I started incorporating yoga and meditation into my classroom.  And at the start of the second semester, I used Jillian’s words to inspire my students (and myself).  It started with the quote and image of Jillian Michaels in one of my least favorite yoga poses, wheel—and a variation of wheel at that, with one leg in the air (she’s such a bad ass—and I absolutely LOVE that about her).  Actually, the PowerPoint presentation for my students led with a quote from motivational speaker Lou Ryan.  It read, “Most people condition themselves to avoid problems, rather than facing them positively and using them as an opportunity to grow.”  The next slide was the image of Jillian and the words that shifted my mindset, words that I was hoping would also shift my students’ mindsets.  Later that week, I added an additional reminder of this message to my classroom when I copied those words onto a mini-chalkboard that I then hung from my classroom door.

Why, you ask?  I was on a mission to help eradicate an epidemic—limited mobility and flexibility in youth.  I wish I could tell you that nearly all of my 124 students could touch their toes.  But that would be a lie.  In my humble opinion, too many of them cannot touch their toes.  These are thirteen and fourteen year old kids who SHOULD be able to reach their toes when they bend over.  But many of them couldn’t and that bothered me. Aside from that, I’ve been on a mission to incorporate yogic elements into my classroom. So each week we focused on a different pose for two reasons.  One, obviously because I wanted to increase my students’ physical flexibility.  But more than that, I wanted to increase their mental flexibility.  Each pose that was chosen was also chosen because of what it is believed to cultivate within us.  For instance, we started with Chair Pose.  It is believed to cultivate strength and endurance.  Who can’t use more strength and endurance in their lives?  I personally, need more.  Later, we practiced Pyramid Pose.  It is believed to cultivate a calm mind and body.  Yes, two things I REALLY need given my profession.  And on and on we went from one pose to the next.

It’s simple; we all need to get comfortable with being uncomfortableDiscomfort is the impetus for change.  It’s when we find ourselves in uncomfortable situations that we start to change (psychologically, physically, spiritually, etc).  No, I don’t think that change happens immediately.  Nevertheless, over time, the discomfort we experience causes something within us to change.  It begins with a shift in our mindset and that shift grows within us until our actions match up with that mindset.

Okay, maybe some of you are apprehensive to believe me, perhaps you’re like me–a natural skeptic.  If that’s the case, let me share some recent experiences with you, instances where I got a taste of my own uncomfortable medicine.

#1: Working Out in SMedium Shorts

I’ve been trying to lose excess weight for what seems like FOREVER!  Seriously though, there is an extra twenty pounds that isn’t serving my body at the present moment.  And no, I haven’t been real strict about limiting what I eat.  Let’s face it.  If I deprive myself of those things that I love: cookies, and brownies, and pie, and cake, I’d likely fall off the proverbial wagon at some point after slimming down and then end up right back where I am—or worse (this isn’t my first rodeo).  So, rather than going commando with regards to what I eat, I’ve made a pact with myself about reintroducing weight/resistance training back into my life.  Lately, I’d been more into jogging and thought that it would do the trick.  It hasn’t.  For one, I’ve been cautioned away from jogging since my knee surgery.  And two, before the surgery, I’d been jogging fairly regularly and hand’t seen much in the way of results.  Thirdly, since beginning the ascent of Mount Forty, I’ve noticed that my body isn’t as toned as it once was.  Giving these facts, I figured I should at least make an effort to bring resistance training back.  Ergo, after my knee surgery, I slowly started to reintroduce weights back into my life.

A few days ago, while in the midst of a grueling sixty minute workout with Bob Harper (another one of my favorite celebrity fitness trainers), I experienced an epiphany: I am so uncomfortable in these shorts.  Yep!  I was serving myself a dose of my own medicine; I was getting comfortable within being uncomfortable.  My SMedium sized Walmart shorts were tight.  That was no typo; I meant to write it like that.  You see, SMedium is when the garment(s) you’re wearing looks and/or feels like a small and you know you wear a large.  So yes, my SMedium shorts felt like suction cups around my thighs.  And not in that form-fitting flattering kind of way.  My thighs felt like they were going to rip the seems of those shorts apart with each and every squat I completed.  I literally felt like I was having a real-life Hulk experience without turning green and/or becoming a more buff version of myself (remember, I am currently working to get muscle back into my body).  And rather than rush to find something else that was more comfortable, I persevered through the workout with a profound appreciation for the discomfort I was feeling.  Sure, I wanted to jump in my car and go to Walmart to purchase another pair of shorts that weren’t cutting off the blood flow in my thighs.  I wanted so bad for the once lose-fitting shorts to feel like they once did—comfortable.  But I knew that purchasing another pair, one’s that were comfortable, wouldn’t teach me the lesson that I needed to be taught—get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  I absolutely felt like those shorts were about to split right down the back seem and expose my big butt for what it was—enlarged.  I desperately wanted out of the shorts.  But I kept them on.  One, because the exercise clothes that were moderately comfortable were in the dryer, and two, because I’d just continue to behave in a manner that wouldn’t allow me to change.  Again, discomfort is the impetus for change.  If we never place ourselves, or find ourselves, in uncomfortable situations, were are NEVER going to change.  Change is good and change is necessary.

#2: The Steamy Sunny Snake Surprise

I HATE snakes!  Yes, since childhood I have not been a fan of the creatures that slither. Perhaps it has to do with too many run-ins during my youth.  Perhaps it’s because I’ve never given myself an opportunity to get over my fear.  Perhaps there is a deep-seated Eve complex I’m subconsciously carrying around.  Who knows?  Whatever the reason, I just want you to know that I do not like snakes.  But we’ll get back to that in a second.

I have to ask: who goes for a walk at one in the afternoon (in July) when it’s ninety-one degrees outside, when, according to the Weather Channel, it feels like 101 degrees?  A lunatic?  Nope.  Just someone who isn’t convinced that she’s getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.  That’s right; me, of course.  After my suicidal workout with Bob Harper, I made the conscious decision to go out in the heat and humidity of Florida for a walk.  Again, you’re asking “why?”  Well, I told you I made a commitment.  I am committed to walking at least two miles EVERY day until I have to go back to work at the beginning of August.  So, that basically means that I cannot make excuses.  And that’s why I mustered up the mental fortitude to go outside at the peak of heat, humidity, the sun, and walk.  Was I comfortable?  As comfortable as one can be despite the temperature.  But I was determined to get in my two miles so that I could check off another circle in my Commit-30 Journal–this month is about bringing my metabolism back to life.

Just when I thought the universe was on my side.  I returned from my walk to find a snake in the bushes just outside the front door.  Yep.  Just when I was about to smile at myself for doing what was necessary for change, the universe balled up its fist and landed a metaphoric blow to my gut.  Let me remind you: I HATE snakes.  It’s not a HATE like the one I have for peas.  It’s a HATE tinged with fear.  I don’t care how many times someone, especially Charles, tells me that a snake isn’t poisonous.  I don’t care if it’s a few inches long.  I DON’T LIKE SNAKES!  And I especially don’t like having to see them that close to my home.  I hear you; you’re saying that it’s no big deal.  I’m going to run into snakes since I live in Florida.  Yes.  You’re right; that is true.  But I prefer to see them from afar if I have to see them at all.  I don’t want to see them sunning themselves just inches away from the front door.  So what did I do?

Did I stand there is the heat, humidity and sun waiting for it to slither off?  Did I take an alternate route into the house?  Did I find a WMD and kill it?  Nope.  I did none of those things.  I jumped past it and dashed into the house like a crazy person.  Did that experience make me uncomfortable?  Hell yes!  Do I want more tests with that particular form of discomfort?  In the words of Miss Sophia (played by Oprah Winfrey) in the film adaptation of Alice Walker’s Color Purple, “I said, hell naw!”

#3 Questioning My Negative Self-Talk

Disclaimer: the following is an exercise I completed while reading Cynthia Kane’s Talk To Yourself Like a Buddhist—a book that explores Mindfulness practices that help to shift/silence our negative self-talk.

After reading the chapter where this activity, The Practice of Questioning, was introduced, I looked up the definition for the word judgment.  For me, it was necessary so that I could really examine the way I was internally speaking to myself.  Because yes, I constantly find myself judging my words and actions all too often, and I seek to break free of the negative judgments I speak to myself.  All that being said, what follows is one of six charts I worked through to question my negative self-talk.  More than the previous two examples, this one makes me the most uncomfortable as it a sarcasm-free peek into my heart and mind—pure transparency.

Judgment: to form an opinion, estimate, notion, or conclusion—from circumstances presented to the mind.

Negative Self-Talk: I am not as attractive as other women.

Screenshot 2019-07-19 18.53.15

 

So there you have it, three examples of my getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.  Despite the run in with the snake, the heat and humidity of a summer afternoon in Florida, an extremely tight pair of shorts, and my opening up about a limiting belief I’ve held about myself for years, I can earnestly say that I understand and appreciate the value of being uncomfortable.  Will this be the last of my Herculean tests of discomfort?  I highly doubt it.  But I know I’m one step closer to appreciating the value in getting comfortable with being uncomfortable.

I’m curious, when have you allowed yourself to get comfortable with being uncomfortable?  I’d love to hear about your experiences!