I run a women’s group every other Sunday called Women Reinventing Themselves. We’ve been meeting, now, for about a year, and each time we get together I find myself energized and excited and full of ideas and intentions for how I want to live my life moving forward.
I like this word. I may have even written about it elsewhere. Intention. It suggests purpose, drive, the promise of a better future,. It sounds so much better than the rather sapless “goal” or “plan,” don’t you think?
Intention is Grand!
Or is it?
This January, at one of my Women Reinventing Themselves Meetings, I set (held? proposed? selected?) several intentions: to have more downtime, to develop stronger community, to live more creatively, to reduce stress . . . I won’t bore you. The list was long. But since then, I have carved out more downtime, I have developed stronger community, but there are still many items on the list–intentions–that remain unfulfilled. Nothing more than wishful thinking.
So what is one to do?
How do I make these things happen for me? Or rather, how do I live each day intentionally? How do I live more creatively? How do I reduce stress? Everyday.
Judging by the chorus of headnods in the room, I think we all struggle with this. Our lives are complicated, and we have the best of intentions, but somehow many (most) of them seem to slip out of our grasp.
Why? What can we do differently, I asked.
Then one solitary hand went up. “You know, I once heard someone say that it isn’t enough to hold an intention, we need to commit to it.”
Commitment. That’s the missing ingredient. Commitment.
In order to live with intention, one has to commit to it. Absent commitment, intention is just a hope.
This is why I have so many un-used yoga session coupons lying in my kitchen drawer. I have every intention of using them. I actually like yoga. Of course, getting there is another matter, but I do like both the during and the after of yoga. It makes me feel centered. Then why don’t I go?
Because I haven’t committed to it.
I haven’t decided that this is important, this is very important, this is the important thing that I am going to do in my life. I don’t put it in the calendar. I don’t prepare my gear in advance. I don’t look forward to it. I don’t wake up in the morning thinking, ah yes, today is Yoga day, what does my day need to look like given that it is yoga day? I just fit it in as and when I can. And if there is so much as a butterfly-flutter of irregularity in my day, the first thing to get dropped is yoga. I don’t even give it a second thought. Last in, first out.
So absolutely no commitment.
Now I don’t like to think of myself as a no-commitment kind of girl. In fact, I am most decidedly not a no-commitment kind of girl. I fulfill my responsibilities, I honor people’s time with punctuality, I do what I say and say what I’ll do, and in general, I’m your average, garden-variety commitment-abiding woman.
So what gives?
I’ve had all of 24 hours to think about this, so it might not be the most well-thought out argument, but I think the problem is too much noise.
We have too many choices, too many hobbies that interest us, too many people that need our attention, too many rabbit holes down which to lose ourselves, too many damn possibilities to commit to!
The result? Analysis paralysis!
We commit (truly commit) to nothing.
Also, the stakes are not high. Or at least not high enough. Or not immediate enough. When I am (non)-committing to yoga, it’s no big deal. I just carry on with my day. There are no consequences. I do not have a flex-o-meter surgically embedded in my body to tell me that in about 72 months I will no longer be able to sit cross-legged or get up off the floor in one go, without having to do a three-point-turn. Life goes on. And as far as I know, the rain forest still stands.
But when I’m late picking up my daughter from school and have to look into those disappointed eyes, then I know something has to change. I have to up my game. I have to commit.
So it was with one of my intentions for the year–downtime. I knew that if I didn’t slow down the frenetic pace at which I was living, I was headed for a breakdown. I could feel it in my body–in the buzzing in my ears, in the exhausted mornings that seemed only slightly less exhausted than the exhausted nights before, in the snappy tone of my voice (okay, that might have been there before), in the forgetfulness, in the apathy.
So I committed.
I didn’t know I was doing it then, but I committed. I was ready. This, above all, was what I wanted the most. Rest. So I committed.
And then it was easy. Because I was ready.
But I could only sustain one (maybe two) of my intentions at a time. Because sometimes they competed for my energy. Downtime or Building Community? Some days I had to choose.
This year I chose downtime. Other years, I’ve spread myself around. But I’ve rarely been successful at that. I’m a one-commitment-wonder.
Which means I might also be a one-intention-wonder. Which means I might need to go back to the drawing board and do some soul searching around what the intention is for the remainder of the year, now that I have manifested more downtime for myself.
So what shall it be this time? What can I commit to? What can you commit to?
Here’s what I’ve learned about commitments:
You have to be ready. I mean really ready. Like, still-water, glass ready. If you are wavering in any way (how will I find time, I can only do 10 reps, maybe I’ll start tomorrow), then you are not ready. So don’t commit. Until you’re ready.
The commitment may be BIG, but the actions have to be SMALL. Too often, we take on something and quickly realize that we have bitten off more than we can chew: I will lose 50 lbs, I will write a book, I will double my income. This is overwhelming. Instead, conceive of smaller actions you can take: I will avoid sugar today, I will write 750 words this morning, I will . . . okay so I have no damn idea how to double my income, but you get the picture. Size matters!
Commitments feel easy. You heard me right. Commitments feel easy. When you are truly committed, you welcome the challenge. The hardest part–deciding to commit–is behind you. Now all that’s left is the doing. You have no more decisions to make. Easy. You know this is true. Just think back to the last commitment you made . . . You see it? Good. Easy.
And finally, we commit only when we are connected to our Why. When we are disconnected, we are living in shoulda-woulda land, and that is hostile territory. When you know your Why, you have already committed.
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I’m finding one of the great upsides to being in my 50s is that I commit! There is not the sense that I have time, plenty of time, to get to that later. I am getting things done with steadfast commitment.
Yes, interesting you should say that. I also just do things more spontaneously. Not only do I have a sense of urgency, but also a sense that so much of my pondering and planning and perseverating is just not necessary. The universe yields when we are on the path.