Getting Yourself to Act: 3 Ways Commitments Give You Power

BurningShip

Are you having trouble getting yourself to act on your goals? Is your motivation, shall we say, pathetic? I was experiencing this recently until I did one thing: I made a commitment.

When I say I made a commitment, I don’t mean I made a decision. A decision is good but it lacks power. A commitment is something you do that is more tangible and real.

The commitment I made was to sign up for my 10th marathon. I spent the $80 and registered. Now I am committed.

Making that small commitment has had a great effect on my daily exercise program. I was having trouble getting out every morning to run or exercise. My motivation was anemic at best. I knew I needed something to motivate me to get out there every day. That’s when I decided to run another marathon. But that was just a decision. The commitment came when I actually put my non-refundable money where my mouth was.

I’m reminded of the story of General Cortez when he landed his armies in Mexico to fight the Aztecs. To insure victory, he ordered the burning of their ships so there would be no means of retreat. By burning the ships it gave the soldiers only two options: win the war or perish. Now that is what I call commitment!

There is great power in making commitments. Here are three ways commitments can help:

1. You have a goal to work towards.

When I was getting up each morning to simply go out running I had no real reason to do it. Sure, I wanted to be healthy but sometimes that’s not enough. When I committed to run a marathon it gave me a very clear-cut and definable goal to shoot for.

2. You will experience pain if you don’t follow through.

Let’s face it, we are all motivated to avoid pain. When I was trying to exercise each morning without a commitment, failure to do it wasn’t too painful. Now that I’ve made a commitment, failure to exercise each morning will result in a very painful failure, the pain and humiliation of not completing a marathon.

3. The decision is already made.

When you make a commitment, it locks you into a decision. There is no wondering for me each morning whether I should go running or not. The decision is made. (See article Decide to Decide).

My challenge for you is to examine your goals and find ways that you can make a real commitment to do them. Burn your ships, so to speak. Put your money where your mouth is. Commit!

Thank you.

I Have Quit!

quit

Recently I read of a man who had tried for years to overcome his drinking habit. He knew his drinking was taking a toll on his life and was costing him many opportunities. He tried every way he could think of to quit and failed each time. Finally he developed a habit, whenever he was offered a drink or when temptation arose, to say firmly, “I have quit.”

It wasn’t “I’m trying to quit” or “I’m going to quit.” It was “I have quit.” End of discussion. There was no more deliberation or debate after that. The decision was already made that “I have quit drinking.” He didn’t have to think about whether he should take the drink or not. He simply said, “I have quit” as if it were a simple, ordinary fact of life. As a result of using this method, the man hasn’t taken another drink in twenty years.

You can use the same technique for a number of obstacles in your life that you are trying to overcome, whether it’s smoking, overeating, lack of exercise, cutting out fat in your diet, overcoming pornography or drugs or any challenge you are dealing with. You don’t have to deliberate or debate it any more. You can simply say, “I have quit!”

Addictions – Fighting the Fire Within

FIREMillions of people all over the world struggle with addictions every day. There are many kinds of addictions such as drugs, alcohol, smoking, pornography, or food. In this article I share a simple concept that can help in dealing with addictions.

Fire Analogy

When I was a kid I liked to play with matches. It was fun. I loved to watch things burn. But as you know, playing with matches can be very dangerous. Maybe it wasn’t a coincidence that my family had two homes burn down during my growing up years. (I have solid alibis!)

I like to compare addictions to fire. Think about a match. You can strike a match and how hard is it to put out a match? One little puff of your breath and you can blow it out. No problem. Another match lights, puff, blow it out. No problem. However, when you let a fire go, it can quickly rage out of control where there is nothing you can do about it. At that point you’re basically lost, it’s out of control, and it’s beyond anything you can do about it.

I know about this concept personally. Let me share with you two stories from my life.

Out of Control Campfire Number 1

The first story took place when I was probably in kindergarten. My older brother Kurt and I built a campfire in our back yard. We had planned to melt some lead in a tin can over the fire. Our back yard was fairly large and there was a big lawn. But on the side of the yard there was a garden area that was full of dry weeds and grass. This is where we chose to build our fire. Well my brother made the mistake of leaving me alone by the fire.

We had some newspapers there that we used to start the fire with and I decided to take a page from the newspaper and lay it over our little campfire. The first thing it did was burst into flames. Then because heat rises, this flaming newspaper floated up into the air and drifted right over into the dry weeds and grass which immediately burst into flames.

Now I must have been around six years old or something and I didn’t know what to do. I tried to put it out by stamping on it but that didn’t work. I could not get it out and it was beyond my control. The fire grew bigger and bigger and was racing toward the fence, the new fence that my dad built, and proceeded to catch the fence on fire.

The fire department was called and they came and put out the fire. Luckily I didn’t get into too much trouble but my brother Kurt did.

Out of Control Campfire Number 2

The second story happened when I was older, probably about eleven years old. Across the highway from our house, about a mile away, there was a thickly wooded area that surrounded several ponds where turtles and carp lived. I loved to go over there and catch them and play around. There was thick brush and trees all around the ponds and in the hot Arizona climate a lot of those trees had dried out and died.

My older brothers and I decided to go camping there one summer afternoon. We each had our own little camping spots, as I recall, and my older brother Russell even built a little campfire.

Well, he began to play with his little fire. He took a stick and would poke the end of it into his campfire and catch it on fire. Then he would take the flaming stick and use it to light some dry brush nearby and watch it burn. Then he would quickly put it out. He did this several times, letting the flames get larger each time. (Can you see here where I’m going with this!)

Well, one time he let it go too far and when he tried to put it out he couldn’t. He started screaming at the rest of us to come help him. We all ran over to his campsite and started stamping and throwing dirt on the fire but it was too late. In moments the fire roared into a huge inferno.

We snatched our sleeping bags and got the heck out of there. We ran back across the highway and hid on the other side. From there we watched that whole place go up in gigantic, fifty-foot flames. Farmers from all around drove up in their pickup trucks to see what was going on and to try and put the fire out but they couldn’t do it. The whole place went up in smoke and flames all because my brother was playing around with fire.

Don’t Play With Fire

Now sometimes we want to play figuratively with fire, to look at that image on the internet, to take just one puff of the cigarette, to eat just one more donut. We think, “I’m stressed out today and I just don’t feel so good. I’ll do it just this once and that’s it. Then I’ll stop.” Well that’s kind of like lighting a match, but instead of blowing the match out when that first thought comes into our mind we touch it to some dry grass and say, “I’ll let it go for a little bit and then I’ll put it out.” So we watch it grow and it gets bigger and bigger and before we know it, it’s gotten so large that we try stamping it out but it’s going in all directions and try as we might we cannot put it out and it rages out of control until it consumes us.

This is the way addictions work. They are very similar to these examples in that if you play around with it and you don’t put it out right away when that flame first starts it becomes so much harder. It grows out of control to the point where you’re had, you’re done, you’re ashes, you’re toast.

The point I’m trying to make here is that when the flame is tiny, put it out. When the match strikes, put it out. Don’t dwell on it, don’t play with it or you’ll get burned. It’s so much easier to control these desires, appetites and cravings when they are but a tiny spark than when we let them grow into a huge inferno. So, that’s my simple lesson for today.

Thank you.
Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

Sheep Thief or Saint?

Sheep

I once heard a story about two brothers who lived in a small town in the country. The story goes that both of these brothers were caught stealing sheep. For their punishment they were branded on the forehead with the letters “ST,” for “Sheep Thief.”

One brother was so ashamed that he left the community. Everywhere he went he had to constantly explain the letters on his forehead. He remained bitter about the whole thing and always felt he had been treated unfairly. He eventually died a lonely man and was buried in an unknown grave.

His brother, on the other hand, stayed in the community and tried to win back his neighbors’ trust. He did everything he could to show the people of the town that he was a changed man. He volunteered for community service projects, helped his neighbors when he saw the need, and did all he could to become the kind of man that he knew he ought to be.

Many years later a visitor came to town. He asked a local resident about the strange letters on the old man’s forehead. The resident replied that he had forgotten exactly why the letters were there, but that he thought “ST” most likely was an abbreviation for the word “Saint.”

Like the brothers in this story, each of us makes mistakes in our lives – sometimes big ones and sometimes little ones. And like the brothers in this story we can choose what we do about the mistakes we make. We are the ones that decide how our mistakes are going to affect us.

May each of us choose the good path and become the person we know we ought to be so that perhaps someday we may be known as a “Saint” and not a “Sheep Thief.” Thank you.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

Decide to Decide

Fork in the Road

Fork in the road

What if there was a key behavior that if you could master, would save you untold pain, worry, effort and time? What if this behavior could make your efforts to achieve total self-mastery ten times easier? Today I’m going to teach you a simple concept that seems to elude most people, yet is so simple.

One thing you share in common with nearly every one else is that your day is full of decisions. Dozens of times a day you are faced with a fork in the road and must decide which way to go. Humans are naturally lazy creatures so when you are faced with two choices you tend to gravitate toward the easiest path. Why choose the long, hard road when you can take the short, easy one? Or why do something when you just don’t feel like it? As you stand there at the fork in the road and evaluate the situation, the pull to the easy road becomes powerfully strong. More often than not, if you are like the average person, you are sucked into the easy road.

The problem here is that the easy road is not always the best road to follow in the long run. In our minds we know which road is the best road but somehow we end up going the wrong way. What I am explaining here is the answer to a long held question. It is:

“Why do we do what we do when we know what we know?”

In other words, why do people do things they know aren’t good for them? The answer is because we are making our decisions at the wrong time. We are making our decisions when we are standing at the fork in the road.

Let me give you an example. If every morning you make the decision of whether to get up or not at the time your alarm clock goes off, you are making that decision at the fork in the road. In your mind you are deliberating, “Should I get up? Should I sleep for ten more minutes? I’m so tired! Just a few more minutes of sleep.” And back to bed you go.

Do you see the problem here? The time to make the decision of when to get up in the morning is not at 6:00 in the morning!

“Right decisions are easiest to make when we make them well in advance, having ultimate objectives in mind; this saves a lot of anguish at the fork, when we’re tired and sorely tempted.” – Spencer W. Kimball

There are dozens of decisions we face every day that should already have been decided long ago. We shouldn’t have to agonize and re-decide the same decisions a hundred times! Many of these decisions only need to be made once. This statement by William James describes it so well:

“There is no more miserable person than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work are subjects of deliberation. Half the time of such a man goes to deciding or regretting matters which ought to be so ingrained in him as practically not to exist for his consciousness at all.” — William James

The whole point we are trying to make is to determine early on what things you will and will not do and be done with it. Look at your long-term objectives and make the decisions now that will lead you in that direction. You only need to make those decisions once.

For example, my wife made the decision long ago that she will go out running every morning, no matter what. There is no deciding each morning as to whether she is going running or not. That decision has already been made. There is no painful deliberation and analyzing that takes place. It is as automatic for her as the rising of the sun each day.

Now I want you to think about the decisions you make on a daily basis. Aren’t there a number of them you could make once and for all and be done with them? Aren’t there decisions about what you will eat or not eat, decisions about exercising, decisions about daily habits, decisions about all kinds of things that you can make once and forever be done with them?

I challenge you to consciously examine your life and make this one key behavior change. Examine each fork in the road you come across on a daily basis and see which ones you can decide once and for all. You will be so much further along the road to self-mastery.

“We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over.” — Aneurin Bevan

What are your thoughts about making decisions once and for all? What are the ones you have the biggest challenges with? Have you found ways to make this process easier? Please share with us in the comments below.

Thank you.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

Snap Decisions

Power Line TowerIt was a sad day in my community. Several years ago a funeral was being held for a young man who was well known and loved by many people. His name was Scott. He was 15 years old. He was electrocuted after he climbed a power line tower. This hits close to home for me because that power line tower was within sight of a trail that I hiked every morning. I didn’t know him personally but many teenagers that I knew also knew him. This tragedy affected many people.

My message is simple. Be careful of Snap Decisions.

What is a snap decision? It is simply one of those quick decisions we make without thinking. We make them all the time and for the most part things turn out okay. But I’m sure you can think of some snap decisions you have made in your life that you wish you hadn’t. I can think of several in my life that if I could go back in time I would certainly do things differently.

Because of a snap decision made by Scott, he is no longer with us. Now his family and friends grieve for his loss and struggle with trying to understand why these things happen.

It was almost exactly one year earlier that another snap decision was made that affected our community. It was made by the girl next door. Her name is Julia. She is my daughter Kimberly’s best friend.

Julia’s Accident Scene

Julia and her friend Holly were crossing the highway that is directly behind our home. They were going to a volleyball game at the local church. The two crossed the southbound lanes safely and stopped on the raised median, waiting for traffic to clear. They saw a minivan coming and thought it was going to make a left turn. It wasn’t. As Julia stepped out onto the highway she was struck by the minivan. A simple snap decision and her life hung by a thread.

At the hospital with Julia

She suffered head injuries, two broken legs and a torn heart valve. She was rushed to the hospital and into emergency surgery to repair her heart. It has been a long road of recovery for her and I’m glad to report she is doing remarkably well today. Again, a snap decision with major consequences.

As we go about our lives, let us be aware of and be careful of the Snap Decisions we sometimes make. Stop and think it through. Think twice about what you are doing. What may seem like a small decision could have lifelong consequences for you or even cut your life short.

Master Yourself, Master Your Life

Thank you.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson