This week I had a great conversation with Mona. We were talking about the power of actually doing those things you have been wanting to do – how wonderful it feels. I told her that I was feeling great because the night before I had gone to the gym after class, and I had really been meaning to do that. She remarked that I should do that more often, and I agreed, saying “Yes, I’m going to try to do that!”
I was feeling pretty good! Big smile on my face! I did what I wanted to do, and I was going to try to do it more often! Go me!
Mona stopped me right in my feel-good tracks. “No! Don’t try!” She explained that just by saying “try” I was already defeating myself. If I say I’m going to try, well, I always have some wiggle room. It gives me the option to explain away the fact that I was choosing not to go to the gym by saying “Oh, I have too much homework to do”, “I really need to get good sleep tonight”, “I forgot my gym clothes”, or some other excuse, and I wouldn’t have to feel badly about it because I only said I would try. I could ignore that I was making a choice not to do something I wanted to do, because I didn’t say I would do it, I just said I would try.
Mona is right, if I actually want to do it, I have to commit to it.
How often do you say you’ll try to do something? Once a week? Once a day? All day long? I think I say it very frequently. I’m going to try to go running. I’m going to try to join friends for dinner. I’m going to try to do my homework tonight (as opposed to the last minute). I’m going to try to find time to read a book just for fun. I’m going to try to make my lunch and bring it to work. I’m going to try to spend less money. Is it any wonder when things don’t get done?! I’m giving myself all these massive outs! And then when it doesn’t work, I get to just say “Oh well”! It isn’t my fault! It just didn’t work out!”
Nope. Nope, nope, nope, nope, NOPE. That’s wrong. I’m fooling myself.
By saying I’ll try to do all these things, I relieve myself of guilt – I’m trying; I haven’t forgotten about these things that are important to me! But by not committing, I’m actually disappointing myself (and potentially others), because I’m not making these things priorities. I’m making it easy for them not to get done AND easy for me to feel ok about that. If I have it both ways, then things will just continue to not get done – and that will frustrate and disappoint me.
So, how can I (and you!) solve this? Well, if I say I’m going to actually do all the things I say “try” to, then I’ll be overcommitted. So, unfortunately, I have to make some decisions. I have to prioritize. And I have to be realistic about what I can actually do. If I say “I am going to run 6 miles tonight”, is that realistic? I’m capable – but will I actually have enough time? Will it be too hot to go out running for that long? If I think out these excuses in advance and set a realistic objective, then I’m way more likely to actually do it. Because otherwise I’ll get home and say “It is too hot to run 6 miles! I’ll just run tomorrow.” And then I won’t run. If I instead say “I will run for at least 30 minutes” that’s more achievable. I can do that even if it is hot.
Being overcommitted is definitely one of the many things that leads us to try rather than do. That’s why I really liked this article from Positivity Blog. It points out that only the very most important tasks should be on your list to do today. The things that answer “If I was just told that I had to go away for a vacation tomorrow and it would last for a whole week then what would I spend today doing?” So, to get myself to do some of the things I want to do tonight, I’m going to try – no wait, do – this list-making. What are the two or three most important things that I will do today? I will run for at least 30 minutes. I will pay my rent. I will start the short paper I have due on Tuesday. And that’s it. Those are my committments. I will do them.
What do you want to do? What will you do? If you would like a partner in deciding how to commit and act, give us a call at Life Skills Resource Group in Orlando at 407-355-7378. Our experienced Orlando counselors, psychologists, and life coaches are here to guide you and give you the support you need.
Go do! ~Krista